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Is Glenfiddich’s new campaign necessary?

‘When we talk to our consumers,’ says creative agency Space’s Aaron McFeely, ‘we realise these people are already successful’.

Launching first in Mexico, Glenfiddich’s latest campaign follows 2017’s Diver film which launched the ‘Challengers Welcome’ campaign idea. The campaign appears in 16 emerging whiskey markets, including South Africa, Cameroon, Mozambique, Kenya and Nigeria. Kelly Johnson, marketing manager at Glenfiddich and Aaron Mcfeely, senior strategist at creative agency Space talks about the new campaign.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Glenfiddich has called on it competitors to challenge their title as “Most Awarded Single Malt Whisky”. My colleague, Ryk van Niekerk, spoke to Glenfiddich and creative agency Space on why this approach was taken.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Glenfiddich is one of the finest Scottish whiskies in the world, and recently launched a very interesting new marketing campaign. This campaign is based on the film “Diver”, which launched the Challenger campaign last year in Mexico. On the line I have Kelly Johnson of Glenfiddich, as well as Aaron McFeely of the creative agency, Space.

Kelly, this is a very interesting campaign. In your marketing material you state that it aims to attract new whisky drinkers and is aimed at aspirational, successful and influential customers who thrive on a challenge. What exactly is this challenge?

KELLY JOHNSON: Ryk, it’s a good way to kind of start understanding or unpacking the campaign. I think from our side the fact that Glenfiddich is the world’s most awarded single-malt whisky is the underlying message for all of our communication. Challengers Welcome is the campaign, and I’m sure Aaron will touch on a bit more behind the creative rationale behind it.

But for us in our market it was more about understanding that the South African context is it still quite hungry for premium or lifestyle for luxury brands, and understanding that we are quite an important emerging market for whisky brands. Ideally we want to deepen the brand connection with the consumers here in South Africa. Glenfiddich isn’t one of those brands that is a frivolous kind of aspirational brand. It has deep layers, it has this beautiful maverick spirit that underlies everything it does, and it really is an innovative brand that we want to start connecting with consumers on – beyond just the liquid or the whisky that it actually is.

So what we are trying to do with this is creating aspiration. What it means to us is that we are creating this brand that’s more of a lifestyle brand that breaks all the kind of conforms of what is expected with whisky. We see a lot of whisky advertising that’s much of the same – a lot of high-end consumers – just very suave in connecting with individuals. I think what this really does is it breaks through all the clutter and it is substantiated by positioning, where we are the world’s No 1 single-malt whisky. So we have the ability to break the mould and start creating distinctiveness through our messaging. That’s really how it kind of pulls apart.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: You seem to be very proud of the fact that Glenfiddich is the world’s most awarded whisky. You mentioned it seven times in the press release. How important is this to attract new customers? Why not market the excellent taste of the whisky?

KELLY JOHNSON: We often speak about the Sea of Glens, so to speak, and the fact that a there’s a lot of clutter and a lot of things can be said about “intrinsics” about whisky. We are proud of our intrinsic. But I think we are marketers and we want to substantiate that with something that makes us stand ahead of our breast. In our case we do obviously have quite a distinctive taste profile; we’ve got a beautiful range of products. Some are entry level, all the way to our high-age claimed products. That goes without saying. That’s a standard for the category. Good quality is a standard for the category.

I think what we are trying to do is we are trying to give the brand more badge value, and make sure that our consumers understand that we are globally recognised. We have critical claim in terms of our “world’s most awarded” kind of awards, and we want to shout that out.

But I think underlying that is almost saying that what makes us different is our intrinsic, which we are proud of, but we want to let everybody know that “world’s most awarded” is how we differentiate from everyone else.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Aaron, what are your views on this?

AARON MCFEELY: You are right to question what that challenge actually is, when we refer to Challengers Welcome. Being the world’s most awarded single-malt scotch whisky means that you are at the top of your game. So, when you are not actually competing for second or third place, and there is no one ahead of you, you have to start to really look to yourself in terms of how you can re-invent, push your personal boundary, in order to create something better. It becomes a much more introspective challenge, and I think that’s a very personal thing for people. We have to dig deeper. That’s something that we found very common in the South African consumer – that sort of self-motivating idea, that fundamental principle of how we actually got to being the world’s No 1, and how we manage to maintain that position at the same time by pushing ourselves forward.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: I’m a whisky drinker myself, and my perception of whisky brands is that you have excellent whiskies, and then you have not-so-excellent whiskies. Glenfiddich falls into the first category. But I would not expect, say, a Swiss watchmaker like Rolex to market themselves as an ‘aspirational brand”. Does this campaign from Glenfiddich not suggest that you do not believe that Glenfiddich’s perception of quality is instilled in South Africa?

KELLY JOHNSON: Well, my personal take is that the actual single-malt category is still quite underdeveloped. It only makes up 26% of total category. So there is a need to further attach aspiration to the category. It’s not something that we can just take for granted.

But, just to elaborate more on what Aaron was saying, what we know about our consumers is that are mavericks because don’t give up when they are on top. They constantly look for ways to re-invent themselves; they are constantly on this pursuit to become more, never having an exit plan. It’s always about pushing and pushing and pushing.

So I think aspiration is always needed in a category because, if you start defaulting to being a purely functionally driven brand, you lose that emotional connection with consumers – and Glenfiddich is one of those brands that has the ability to transcend categories and become a lifestyle brand.

So that would be my take on it – that our market still calls for more education around “intrinsic”, absolutely, but there need to be deeper connections in order for our brand to be future [proof].

RYK VAN NIEKERK: What is your market share in South Africa?

KELLY JOHNSON: We own 30% of the market, and our next competitor owns about 19%.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: But that’s to my point. My perception of Glenfiddich is exactly that – that it’s the premium brand. And, if you look at many other marketing campaigns for whisky, they also seem to be aspirational, lifestyle-focused.

Aaron, how does this campaign differentiate itself from those other campaigns?

AARON MCFEELY: I think, first of all, it’s really important to remember that any sort of brand that stands still actually risks irrelevance. So it’s always worth us taking a point of view from a lifestyle perspective to make sure that we are not trapped and lost in our own heads, assuming that that the “world’s best” awards – that that’s good enough. We need to make sure that we are pushing the boundaries all the time.

I think in comparison to the competitors in South Africa, we often see a lot of stories being told of rags-to-riches, where people are going through a journey and striving to this sense of success. When we talk to our consumers, we realise these people are already successful. We don’t need people talking about the journey towards the success. This is a world’s most-awarded whisky that got there through unconventional means for already successful people. And that’s what we want people to understand – this is a “trillion” whisky, and it’s trillion because it does things its own way, it pushed its own personal boundaries.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Kelly, did you want to add anything?

KELLY JOHNSON: Just kind of echoing in sentiment there, we also have a kind of new wave of whisky drinkers that we need to appeal to, who are looking for something slightly less conventional. But it’s about really making sure that we inspire the values of this person who is constantly on top of the game, who wants to push further. I think that’s what we are connecting with.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Are you going to focus on print media or other channels as well for this marketing campaign?

KELLY JOHNSON: The second wave of the campaign is going to be marketing in 2019, which is going to focus not just on traditional mediums, but non-traditional as well. So a lot of outdoor and a lot of installations and a lot of TV in which we are going to use the “Diver” ad, which you referred to. And then just making sure that it’s a seamless, through-the-line campaign. That’s very important for us because this is about creating greater awareness of the entire new positioning.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: How do you measure the success of this campaign?

KELLY JOHNSON: We’ve quite a lot of metrics in place, and we measure in terms of effectiveness. But in terms of results we wouldn’t only look at pure volume growth; we look at value growth, as well, because it’s a premium brand, so it’s more important that we are trading people up in our range. That’s quite a key metric. We look at our market share. And then we obviously use social listening tools to understand the consumer sentiment behind this. So that’s how we’ll do a post-campaign analysis. I think we’re already on quite a good wave to set the scene for the next wave of the activation.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Aaron, how long did it take to conceptualise this campaign?

AARON MCFEELY: There was a process initially, trying to really understand what it means to people to be one of these boundary-pushing people. So we had about a year’s worth of work to understand what it means to be one of these mavericks that Kelly refers to – just being very careful to not use the word where people didn’t understand it. But then we had a good four months to develop the “Challengers Welcome” campaign and the “Diver” ad. We built some really good relationships with some people down in South Africa, whom we are still in touch with today, some good friends right now, which is great.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Were any South African agencies involved?

AARON MCFEELY: We had consultancies from a South African research company called CIA [Consumer Insight Agency], who were on the ground in most cities in South Africa. We worked very, very closely with those guys in order to develop our insight, and localised that. And we spent a lot of time on the ground, connecting with those guys to make sure we had a great understanding locally.

NOMPU SIZIBA: X That was my colleague, Ryk van Niekerk, speaking to Glenfiddich and creating advertising Space on their advertising campaign.

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