• Jamie Lister

Monkey 47: Shaking things up from the top

One of questions at this morning’s Shaking up the Drinks Industry at Isobel was "Could a craft brand hang onto the individuality that made it special after being acquired by a larger company?"

One brand that looks very comfortable in its new home is Monkey 47, bought two years ago by Pernod Ricard. They have had the good sense – and the decentralised business structure – to give their new brand access to their global distribution network and to leave everything else as it was.

Monkey 47 is an outstanding product with a great name, a distinctive bottle and a compelling story. The brand has, from day one, focused its marketing on telling the brand story to the world’s best bartenders.  Every communication has added detail to the story: the forty-seven ingredients, the 100 litre stills, the Black Forest provenance, recipes for cocktails, the bottle, the brand’s German founder and the British RAF pilot whose gin recipe and pet monkey provided the inspiration (this is the myth part of the story, so roll with it).

This is marketing at its simplest - make a great product and tell its story. It gets to the heart of what Daryl Fielding, who chaired this morning’s discussion, describes as the definition of a brand: a product plus its reputation.

The simple approach has been astonishingly effective for Monkey 47. The target audience, high-end bartenders, have fallen in love. Next time you order a cocktail, look at the fingers of your bartender and see if he or she is wearing a collection of stainless-steel rings. These rings started life around the cork on a Monkey 47 bottle before they became bartender jewelry: this is not just love, it’s marriage.

The brand is also finding its way out of the bars and into homes: despite being priced at £90 a liter (more than double any other top selling gin), Monkey 47 is the 11th best-selling gin on Ocado this week.

The lesson for craft brands, regardless of who owns them, sounds too simple to say: keep every communication focused on telling the brand story to the target audience.

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