Some of the most exciting, unexpected and intriguing advertising in the entire distilled spirits business is occurring in, of all places, the Scotch category. Ads and related promotions from several of the leading blended Scotch brands are, in that overused favorite of marketers everywhere, truly “breakthrough.”

These new ads-with-attitude are part of a large and ambitious marketing drive to recruit younger consumers. The various creative efforts, ranging from the hip, in-your-face and retro to the more sophisticated and whimsical, all seem destined to resonate with their respective 21- to 35-year-old target consumers. What is surprising is not so much the strategic direction (which has been articulated, if not implemented with complete success in the past), but that the individual creative executions seem so credible; so likely to inject new vigor and renewed sales into a staid, stiff and often aloof category.

At the same time, several marketers are tossing aside the “country club rules” of Scotch usage — neat, on-the-rocks or with a splash of water — in favor of a more radical mixology: Scotch with Coke, Mountain Dew, lemonade, ginger ale or just about anything else that appeals to the sugared sensibilities and sweet palates of 21- to 35-year-olds. It’s about breaking down some of the category’s traditional taste barriers and leveraging some of the beverages this crowd already mixes with their Jack Daniel’s, Absolut, Jim Beam, Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal and other fashionable brands.

To Scotch connoisseurs, all this may seem like heresy. But the purists are beside the point. They’re already Scotch loyalists or single malt elitists, and unlikely to leave the fold in either case. Instead, what’s happening is a major effort to develop a new generation of Scotch drinkers. As Eduardo Sardi


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