Scotchy, scotch, scotch: How Macallan uses Instagram to court millennial drinkers

Scotch is all about its taste, its age, its smoothness and its scent.

And none of that translates very well in a photograph. But for Macallan, the premium Scotch whisky brand that has made digital a core tenet of its marketing strategy, Instagram is its most important channel.

When it launched Edition No. 1, a new collectible scotch priced at $99 last month (collectibles can run into the thousands) and targeted at the millennial market, it did it through Instagram. The brand created eight different Instagram accounts, one for each of the wood casks in which its scotch was distilled, in an effort to break down stuffy information about why this whiskey is so good.

A photo of a bottle on the brand’s main account was tagged with the eight different cask accounts. Users could click through to learn about that particular cask. Sam Leotta, digital marketing head for the brand, said it was a deliberate attempt to recruit a “brand-new generation of drinkers.”

In the last quarter, Macallan has grown its Instagram follower count 350 percent to 28,000. (It has only 11,000, in comparison, on Twitter.) A lot of that is because of lifestyle content. “We have found that there is a big demand for whisky knowledge among millennials, but they don’t want to consume it in a traditional way,” said Leotta. “So we have to do it succinctly.”

The brand runs a “Did you know?” series that shares facts about the drink and Scotland — average engagement is 30 percent higher than other posts, said Leotta. “We see that they are trying to connect with us to learn real substantive facts.”

Other content includes advice on pairing scotch at dinner parties, how to serve it and how to talk about it. In part, this is a result of the brand shifting to focus more on female scotch drinkers: 50 percent of people who attend guided tasting sessions hosted by the brand all over the country are female. “It’s become a social currency to know about whisky,” said Leotta.

The brand ranks in the “gifted” category in L2’s annual digital IQ index for spirits — making it one of the best digital marketers in the space, with a digital IQ of 130. (Jameson and Laphroaig, in comparison, have 113; Glenmorangie comes in at 102.)

The brand has noticed higher engagement when it features photos of the bottle (Stoli vodka has the same finding), so it will pair those photos with actual content. One of its highest-performing series of posts on Instagram was a holiday gift guide that presented gift ideas over Christmas.

“Macallan gravitates toward Instagram because of its algorithm-less structure,” said Ben Lebowitz, director of digital strategy at M Booth. “We know people are following the brand, and most users go through the whole feed at one time. So they’re engaged.” The brand also said that it’s not worried about the growing number of ads — often of a lesser quality — on Instagram. “The high visual standard for our photos means our posts always stick out more.”