Maker’s Mark Uses Their Community To Perfection


A little over a year ago I joined by way of, and was lucky enough to join a newly minted team at AmazonLocal. There’s a great tradition in my group where every new member of the team gets their favorite choice of drink, and you guessed it — as a Maker’s Mark fan, I liked my bourbon. So on the first day, I was excited to find a beautiful bottle of bourbon with the trademark red wax sealing the goodness in. Neat.

Though I was a big fan, I wished I knew more about the Maker’s Mark Ambassadors earlier on. It’s great in a lot of ways — you get a ton of perks and most importantly you get exclusive news. Some news that include new exclusive bottles Ambassadors get first dibs on or sad news like what they delivered on 2/9/13, letting all of the Ambassadors know about diluting their bourbon to meet the increase demand around the world. When I re-read the email, I started to become more skeptical whether this was really true or not. Let’s be real here, this statement alone in the email made me wonder: “We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.” Are you kidding me?

This was clearly simple economics — a supply and demand issue here. In order to meet the demand, they needed the supply but since there’s only a finite amount of bourbon barrels due to the aging process — their proposed solution was to dilute the bourbon to fulfill the demand they were seeing. The other choice, which is the choice I believe they were going to go with from the start, is to increase the price of a bottle of Maker’s Mark and not dilute the bourbon. But how could you increase the price of your product without anything changing with the product? Easy, have your customers want you to increase the price. Brilliant.

Just think about the chain of events here:

  • 02/09/13: Maker’s Mark emails Ambassadors about diluting their bourbon to meet high demand with their low supply.
  • 02/09/13 to 02/17/13: Ambassadors use social media and take it to the web. Pleas from the community to stop them from diluting the product.
  • 02/18/13: Maker’s Mark listens to the community and reverses their decision and communicates this to the Ambassadors first.
  • 02/18/13 to beyond: Ambasssadors and the community feel responsible for the reversal from Maker’s Mark.
  • 02/18/13 to beyond: Maker’s Mark continues with business as usual.

After all of this, Maker’s Mark comes out on top because they were able to do the following:

  • Galvanized their whole community with their Ambassadors leading the charge.
  • Garnered a lot of press around this fiasco. Sometimes any press is good press.
  • Got unsolicited permission from the community to increase prices due to demand.
  • Gain praise in the end from the press and fans about how they handled the situation.

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You can’t get any better than that. This was an absolutely brilliant chain of events, which I believe was all planned. They were able to literally make a huge splash out of a non-event. Don’t be surprised if you see your next bottle of Maker’s Mark a couple bucks more than you’re used to.

Kudos to you Maker’s Mark, job well done.

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