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Maker’s Mark Miracle: Best PR Disaster Ever Engineered

We all remember just a few short months ago when Maker’s Mark announced plans to water down its product to accommodate demand. It was an unmitigated public relations disaster. Diluting the bourbon was tantamount to halting production altogether. The brand had given up on its values, heritage and customers. R.I.P. Maker’s Mark, right?

Not quite. The result was a public relations bonanza. Upon hearing the breaking news in February, fans of Maker’s Mark began hording the product, rocketing sales up by 44 percent. By the time the dust had settled Marker’s Mark had very publicly reversed its decision and enjoyed the benefits of widespread, free publicity. We have to say, nice work Marker’s Mark PR team.

Whether the decision to water down Marker’s Mark was a sincere proclamation or very clever publicity stunt, well, we’ll have to leave that to industry conspiracy theorists—this all HAD to be planned, right? Conspiracy! Conspiracy! Conspiracy!

It is simply inconceivable that a brand so PR savvy, so knowledgeable of its products and customers, so in line with its own promise of quality, would consider watering down its bourbon. That would be like Taco Bell selling tacos in Doritos shells… oh, wait a minute. That would be like Budweiser putting water in its… no wait. That would be like Porsche building its exhaust system using Honda parts (no offense, Honda, I lost control of this analogy a few sentences ago and needed a way out).

Though Maker’s Mark no longer has any intention to water down its product, it should breathe a sigh of relief as this hubbub is now part of the brand’s storied history. As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. If this was an honest mistake, then Maker’s Mark was very lucky. If this was all a PR strategy, then Maker’s Mark was very good. No, they were great.

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