Food And Drink Copywriting Of The Week #1: Maker’s Mark bottle

Image courtesy of Maker’s Mark

Welcome to the first instalment of Brew Copy’s Food And Drink Copy Of The Week.

I go into the world of food and drink, and find examples of incredibly-effective copy—from personality-driven brand voices, damn good package storytelling and effective e-commerce websites to sales emails and product descriptions.Then I break down what makes it good, so you can apply it to your brand.

Simple.

In recent years, the entry-level bottle by Maker’s Mark has become increasingly popular in Australia, being profiled on the liqueur shelves behind most bars.

It’s really good value for money, goes well in a number of cocktails, looks great on display, and champions a charming story—which, I might add, just might be the four most important marketing elements of a liquor.

Note, I said, ‘champions a charming story,’ not ‘has a charming story. You see, most people have a story. They just fail to tell it.

Or maybe they tell it on the website. But for whatever (not smart) reason, they don’t tell it on the bottle, even though the label is one of the most important pieces of ongoing marketing.

It’s the primary touchpoint customers will come into contact with and, in turn, arguably the most important place to reinforce your story to establish trust and loyalty. (I’ve read the Maker’s Mark story tens of times before I ever went to their website or searched them on Instagram.)

Maker’s Mark not only has a story, they tell the story well, across every platform, including their bottle. Let’s break it down.

The front

Apart from the obvious, the copy simply details the whiskey is from Kentucky and is handmade. It’s nothing fancy, of course, but with good reason.

On a label, you don’t have space to be cute. Most people will buy a bottle 100 times and never read the label with intent.

They’ll merely have a glance as they merrily pour a glass. So, given people are glancing or skim-reading, you need to prioritise clarity, over ambiguous rhyme schemes or cute tag lines, which make sense to you, but to no one else.

The only exception is if you’re brand is really funny and you can pull of ridiculous copy that makes people smile. The problem is, if you fail, you fail hard. You come across as trying too hard. A lot of craft breweries make this mistake.

My advice is, if you want personality on the front, leave that up to the designer. Keep the copy direct.

The right side

On the right side, Maker’s Mark uses the precious label space as an ongoing advertisement. They tell a story that frames their value in the market and facilitates connection with a particular market. Here’s the story:

Maker’s Mark, America’s handmade bourbon whiskey all started because my grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr., a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller, didn’t care for the whiskey his family made. So in 1953 he burned the family recipe—literally—and started over. His taste vision was a soft, rich, creamy, full-bodied yet balanced bourbon. Meanwhile, my grandmother, Margie, was busy designing the bottle you’re holding. In fact, it was her idea to hand-dip every bottle in red wax. To this day, making Maker’s Mark—in small quantities, a little at a time—is still a family affair.

The story is signed by the grandson. Then, below that, there’s more.

P.S: You can learn more about our traditional approach to crafting whiskey at makersmark.com

First, the Maker’s Mark story centers around their clear unique selling propositions: Place of origin (Kentucky is the home of Bourbon), heritage, style of whiskey, and the fact that the company is, after all these years and success, still family-owned.

Everything about the story reinforces these messages.

They have the hand-written-style typeface. Though they’ve purposefully chosen a friendly style, not an ornate one, which gives the brand a warming approachability.

The story is in first-person and signed by the grandson. As marketers know, people don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people. As most copywriters will tell you, selling your value is first about making a connection with someone, and the best way to do this is by being personal, by writing human-to-human.

The story would have sounded a lot different otherwise: Maker’s Mark, America’s handmade bourbon whiskey all started because Bill Samuels, Sr., a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller, didn’t care for the whiskey his family made.

It’s still good, but certainly not as personal and approachable.

I’ll be quick with this one. But notice there’s no jargon. The reason is nobody gives a %^&* about complicated jargon that only someone who has worked in the industry for 10 years knows and cares about. The majority of people buying your product simply want to enjoy your product. So don’t ruin that by giving them a headache.

Why are some stories effective, and why do some fall flat? In almost every well-loved story, there is a structure that is used time and time again, (which Bernadette Jiwa framed around the 5 Cs). Your brand story should be no different.

Context: “Maker’s Mark, America’s handmade bourbon whiskey all started because my grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr., a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller…”

Catalyst: “didn’t care for the whiskey his family made.”

Complication: “So in 1953 he burned the family recipe — literally — and started over.”

Change and Consequence: “His taste vision was a soft, rich, creamy, full-bodied yet balanced bourbon. Meanwhile, my grandmother, Margie, was busy designing the bottle you’re holding. In fact, it was her idea to hand-dip every bottle in red wax.To this day, making Maker’s Mark — in small quantities, a little at a time — is still a family affair.”

The 5 Cs provide a structure so we can hold our reader’s attention and create an emotional connection. The story would have read very differently if they, say, started the story a few sentences down: In 1953, my grandfather Bill Samuels, Sr created a whiskey recipe. *Yawn*.

Effective marketing is about understanding where your customer is at in the customer decision journey. Again, the following diagram is courtesy of Bernadette Jiwa:

The copywriting and marketing techniques are different when we are building awareness compared to building loyalty.

As I said before, most people, like me, will read the bottle before they read the website. So the customers are at the purchased stage.

Now they are sipping a dram and nodding to themselves. “Mmmm,” they say. “Not bad.” Then they pick up the bottle and read more about it.

They read the story and go, “That’s a good story.”

And that could’ve been that. But Marker’s Mark wants to encourage enthusiasts to become true fans. They want to build affinity and loyalty.

So they lead them to the website where there is more storytelling—the extended origin story, the process, cocktail recipes.

Good stuff, Makers Mark. You nifty little thing, you.

Lastly, on the left side, Maker’s Mark has a sketch (again, championing the hand-done vibe) of the distillery. The copy below invites you to visit them:

Anytime you’re in the neighbourhood, stop by and visit us at our distillery, near Loretto, Kentucky. This beautifully restored home of Maker’s Mark is a designated Kentucky and National Historic Landmark.

By inviting us to their distillery, they’re again championing their family hospitality and warmth. It reads as a personal invitation. I’m sure the label as encouraged a lot of enthusiasts to go over the years and, here’s what we know when that happens: loyalty. When a customer can see the process, meet the people behind the product, smell the ingredients, witness the expertise and expensive machinery, you will have a fan for life.

But even if we are never planning on going to Kentucky, we feel flattered they invited us.

The spiel also gives them an opportunity to advertise their beautiful distillery, which I’m sure, as a hospitality venue, generates a fair chunk of the brand’s revenue.

More than that, though, it champions the place of origin, which is part of the story, and adds value to the brand at large. Here’s what I mean.

If I gave you a coffee and told you nothing about it, you’d drink it, put it in the sink, and two days later you would have forgotten about it. On the other hand, imagine if I gave you a coffee and then I gave you a photo of a man in Ethiopia who grew the beans. The photo also profiled the coffee trees, as well as the mountainous and vegetation-rich terrain of the region. You would have a completely different relationship with the coffee. Heck, it would probably even taste better.

Your label matters. Like a lot. It is a pivotal piece of brand storytelling that can make someone forget about you, or keep coming back. To summarise, here are the main take-aways:

  • Prioritise clarity over cleverness. Inject personality through the typeface or design, instead.
  • There’s limited space on a label, use it wisely
  • Tell a story to build affinity with the person who just bought your product
  • Use the 5 Cs story structure
  • If you have a distiller, cellar door, brewery, roastery, etc. invite them.
  • Have a call to action so people can find out more
  • Make it personal. If you can, speak in first person. Get the most important person who’s behind everything, and make the message from them. Sign it.

If you liked this Food and Drink Copy of the Week, sign up for the next one HERE.

Warmly,

Jayden O’Neil

(Copywriter and brand message strategist for farm, food and drink brands)

Hi. I’m a copywriter and brand message strategist for hospitality, farm, food, and drink businesses who want to tell a better brand story.

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