Over the weekend I listened (once again) to a podcast that Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba did with Maker's Mark CEO Bill Samuels, Jr. In the episode, Samuels gives the fascinating account of what the distillery's marketing mindset was, which they dubbed "marketing without fingerprints."
This philosophy was grounded in the idea that Maker's Mark wanted to think of all of its customers as friends. Given that its customers are its friends, the distillery from its first days decided that it didn't want to 'market' to its customers, because the founder viewed advertising as rude. And why would you be rude to your friends?
But by 2000, Maker's Mark had grown from its humble beginnings in Kentucky where the founders personally befriended and knew most of its customers, to having customers all across the nation. Maker's Mark had seen its production and distribution expand greatly, and wanted to do the same thing with its marketing. And since personally befriending and communicating with most of its customers was no longer possible for the founders, the company got creative.
Bill Samuels pitched the idea to the board of creating a brand ambassador program for the distillery. The idea was for Maker's Mark to reach out to its existing evangelists, and let them act as a marketing extension of them, by meeting and befriending new customers, which is what Samuels and the founders wanted to do.
So instead of changing its marketing mindset, Maker's Mark decided to find a way to scale it. The founders were determined, maybe even stubborn, about the fact that they wanted to treat their customers with respect, and as friends. When growth made it impossible to personally befriend every customer, the distillery leaned on its existing evangelists to help the company spread its marketing message.
But this all started with the marketing mindset of viewing the people that purchase its products as "friends," not as "customers." Everything else took care of itself.
What's your marketing mindset? Will it scale? And perhaps more importantly, do you believe in it so strongly that you will fight for it?
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