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By Jeffrey Davis, APR

There’s a lot of buzz in marketing about customer experience (CX). A new Forrester report says that by 2022, CMOs will spend over $122 billion on investments in marketing technology and services, with an emphasis on building customer experiences and automating more processes.

Central to that investment is the customer, so the big question for marketers is: Have you held an in-depth conversation with them lately? Do you know how they are experiencing your brand or product?

Van Eperen recently concluded a detailed customer research project for the whiskey brand, Sagamore Spirit, that enabled marketers at the Baltimore distillery to know exactly what’s on the mind of today’s premium whiskey consumers. Some of the results were predictable, some surprising, while many responses prompted Sagamore to refine their PR and marketing strategies.

This wasn’t your typical research exercise held at the beginning of a campaign. Sagamore made a smart move by electing to check in with whiskey consumers a year after the company’s launch.

“It was fascinating,” said Rachel Fontana, Sagamore Spirit’s director of brand development, who recently shared an overview of the research with members of the PRSA Maryland chapter.

Van Eperen recruited consumers who fit Sagamore’s target demographic: consistent purchasers of premium whiskey, a higher income level, age (we targeted 25-35) as well as a series of psychographic screening questions to ensure we were speaking with people who tend to be leaders and who could influence others.

Among many insights, the team wanted to know: Where do they consume media? What do they value? And what are they looking for in a premium beverage brand? We also explored how they view their whiskey experience.

“We learned a ton from the research and it continues to inform what we do every day,” Fontana told the PRSA audience, which had just completed a distillery tour and product sampling.

Those insights, along with other information from the research, guided the Sagamore team as they tweaked their marketing approach to encourage their customers to share their own experiences with the brand.

Check out their Instagram account – @sagamorespirit – to see the beginning of a new emphasis on their customer experience, including ways to encourage enjoyment of the product in group settings vs. isolated moments. Sagamore is already emphasizing group-related events such as Distillers Dinners, Workout & Whiskey events and summertime Whiskey on the Waterfront free concerts, with live music and lawn games.

If it’s been a while since you talked to your customers in this way, maybe it’s time to check in. Your customers’ journeys are taking place whether you’re aware of them or not and the reality check on your original marketing strategy could be quite valuable.


–Industry News