The Single-Malt Hedge Fund
Combining a Great Strategy with a Strong Brand
There’s a high concentration of Scotch distilleries in Scotland: over 100 fully-licensed operations on an island with a population of < 5.5M people. To put it in perspective, there are more Scotch whisky distilleries than there are McDonald’s outlets in Scotland. On top of that, there are plenty more start-up distilleries entering the fray each year.
Scotch whisky has been around for a long time, with the majority of big-names having existed since the 1800s. It’s not easy for new entrants to penetrate the market.
It’s gone through its fair share of ups and downs (Prohibition, two world wars, economic recessions, sharp declines in sales, etc.).
And, it happens to live in a heavily-regulated industry.
SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING CLOSE TO HOME?
In spite of all of the above, and increased competition from whisky makers in India, Japan, and the USA, Scotch has retained its supremacy as the exceptional form of whisky, and sells three times its nearest rival.
38 bottles of Scotch are shipped overseas each second, and some 20 million casks lie maturing in warehouses in Scotland. (Laid end-to-end that’s longer the distance between Edinburgh and New York.)
Rare bottles that might have previously cost less than $100 10-20 years ago are now fetching several thousand dollars per bottle.
How has the popularity of Scotch increased in the last decade?
1. Consistent Branding
Scotch whisky brands have been expertly marketed and deeply rooted in consumer minds for well over a century, even among people who at that stage didn’t drink it. As one expert put it, “Its aspirational presence, linked to its reputation for consistent high quality, formed a solid launch pad for expansion”.
2. Staying Relevant To Consumers’ Needs
In other words: Re-branding when necessary.
Sales declined in the 1980s as whisky’s image became outdated, fit only for middle-aged or older males.
Scotch brand experts kicked in to high gear and altered the way it shaped its perception. Age and artisanship were no longer of interest to people, and so the attention was shifted to taste and aspiration. This helped create a “but Scotch is for everyone too!” attitude.
“There are now whisky-shows and festivals going on all over the world – probably one somewhere every weekend, attracting a notably different demographic from the stereotyped middle-aged male consumer.”
Discussion boards, blogs, twitter-tasting, and the like have popped up touting the fact that it is cool to drink Scotch again.
An increased number of young adults now drink whiskey, with 18 to 24-year olds now occupying 28 % of consumption. Women are also more easily attracted to whisky now, with famous role models like Kate Moss playing their part.
Brand building has been key to Scotch whisky’s long reign at the top. Adjusting, adapting, and repositioning has helped it to force its way back to the front of the line when others were beginning to nudge forward. All this, in spite of being in an oversaturated industry with heavy regulation and fierce competition.
Take a look at some websites belonging to Scotch whisky companies i.e. The Glenlivet (www.theglenlivet.com), Glenfiddich (www.glenfiddich.com), and Aberlour (www.aberlour.com). These websites take you tell a great story, have video, are very user-friendly, and most importantly: articulate the brand behind each company.
By Alan Chu