In 2008, Maker’s Mark approached WINS with a problem. The brand, a mainstay in a now-growing whiskey category, had seen its growth slow in recent years as new consumers entered the space, and new competitors emerged. Maker’s knew that it needed to expand by appealing to new consumers while maintaining its loyal base – and, critically, it needed to meet the lofty business goal of returning to double-digit growth.

Utilizing The Political Model, WINS developed a behavioral segmentation and prioritized targets, occasions, and channels under a new brand architecture for Maker’s. The research helped connect key Maker’s equities to the behavioral DNA of a new, emerging consumer target. Our “guys” were folks who were moving up in life, without moving on from the things that defined them. We found that they approached life’s challenges with a fundamentally different mindset than old-school whiskey drinkers, and winning them over to Maker’s Mark would require a new message, and a new strategy.

Critically, the research also suggested that cable television was an influential channel for our target when it came to the spirits category. Our insights led to the creation of the “It Is What It Isn’t” campaign – and the debut of the Maker’s Mark brand on television, which it had historically eschewed.

With a flat spend (our work helped guide a re-allocation of media spend from other channels to TV) the brand increased the efficiency of its media buy by 68% in the first year, and returned sales to double-digit growth (+14% up from +7%) in Y1 as well. The campaign’s success continued well beyond its debut, stimulating such desire for the product that production was nearly unable to keep up with consumer demand, leading to the well-publicized Maker’s Mark Shortage scare of 2013.

Our work for Maker’s Mark earned WINS the Ogilvy Award for Research in Advertising and we continue to serve as a key strategic partner for Beam-Suntory across their portfolio of brands.