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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

A Tale of Two Bourbons

What you offer your clients will determine your level of success.

If you know me at all, then you know I love a good metaphor. As I was wrapping up the work week on Friday, I started thinking about how to celebrate the end of an intense week. Not surprisingly, my thoughts turned to bourbon.

As things often do, it got me to thinking about businesses in the creative space – especially those in the promotional products industry. What do tacos have to do with creating memorable experiences through branded merchandise? I’m glad you asked.

Every liquor store offers many types of bourbon. However, they can be distilled (pun intended) into two distinct categories: regular and remarkable.

The regular bourbon is predictable, if not dull, and exists to appeal to those uncomfortable with something new or exciting. While it may be unremarkable to some, it’s a reliable and, for the most part, repeatable beverage. In other words, it’s a very safe choice and almost consistent among different brands of brown liquor. This isn’t to suggest that regular bourbon is inherently wrong - it’s not. It’s simply a safe choice because the consumer knows precisely what the taste will be every single time with no degree of variance. A great example of this is Jim Beam.

The remarkable bourbon - Willett Pot Reserve, for example - is entirely different because it represents an opportunity for the Master Distiller to reinvent a well-known libation into something that creates joy, amazement, and wonder. Because of the various combinations of grain, barrel aging, and packaging, it might even cost a bit more than regular bourbon. This means there is an unpredictability to the remarkable bourbon, which means that, at times, it may disappoint.

However, there is far more reward than risk with the remarkable bourbon for one reason: when it hits, it is something that people will talk about to their friends and neighbors, giving a free publicity boost to the distillery while creating an emotional memory. On the other hand, because regular bourbon is safe, it’s also eminently forgettable.

Far too often, companies offer only regular bourbon to their customers. They are afraid that if they present the remarkable bourbon, the client might not be satisfied and will leave it on a back shelf, hidden from public view, to collect dust. As such, they lose their nerve and simply bring the same safe, repeatable, and reliable bourbon to the table in hopes that it satisfies the client.

Remember, whether it’s bourbon or a creative marketing campaign, no one ever remembers simply being satisfied.

If you want to stand out in an industry with tens of thousands of competitors selling the EXACT same thing as you are (and likely at the same price), take the Jim Beam off your shelf. Instead, ask questions and listen to your clients to craft unique variations to whet their marketing whistle. Only then will you stand out to the point your clients share their experience with your particular bourbon with others.

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