Beam Suntory’s recent Bourbon Legends pop-up at John F. Kennedy International Airport aimed to infuse consumers with the brand’s passion for both the spirit and its American heritage. The activation ultimately earned Beam a significant sales lift, but winning the attention of busy travelers was no easy feat. To get some insight on how the brand turned sampling into success, we spoke with Andrew Meeks, marketing manager-global travel retail at Beam Suntory. Following is an excerpt from our conversation.
Event Marketer: Why was education the focus of the Bourbon Legends activation?
Andrew Meeks: All bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons, so you want to educate people on what it takes to make bourbon, which is a very rigorous process. If you start to educate people, they become more familiar and I think they start to understand and respect the process a little bit more… And if you end up purchasing one of our products, excellent, that helps everyone out. But if you can walk away with an appreciation for bourbon and start to try it and grow your love for it, that’s going to make everything better for everyone down the road.
EM: How did you convince busy travelers to take time for bourbon education?
AM: You draw people over with one of two things: One is the opportunity to drink bourbon, and the second is the opportunity to purchase. We seamlessly tied our activation in with what the [duty free] store was trying to do. So we gave them the opportunity to purchase at the booth and then claim duty free. What we found was a deeper engagement. People were stopping and listening and spending time at the booth and not just saying ‘I’m going to grab a sample and run off to my gate.’ People were standing there asking questions and being involved.
EM: What did you want consumers to learn about your brand?
AM: We really wanted to introduce people to the [bourbon] category. There’s something for everybody. If you’re young, if you’re old, if you’re spicy, if you’re sweet—whatever your palette, we have something. And we have a saying in our company: ‘The only right way to drink bourbon is any damn way you want to drink it.’
EM: Why are live events a part of Beam Suntory’s marketing strategy?
AM: The reason you want to be live is that most of our brands have an incredible story to tell and there’s this amazingly authentic nature about what we do… A live event allows somebody to stand and listen and share and experience in a way that nothing else can. And I think it’s really important for us to share the brand, to watch people taste it, to see the excitement and to get real-time feedback.