Kilbeggan Campaign Undermines The Brand's Authenticity
What I love most about St. Patrick's Day is the authenticity. Even as the gutters run gold with the discharge of a thousand tumescent bladders, nary a celebrant loses sight of the history behind the hooliganism.
Don't believe me? This Sunday, approach - cautiously, and never from behind - any spirited young fellow clad a Boston Celtics t-shirt. Even before he casts aspersions on Derek Jeter's maternal forbears or questions what kind of jagoff wears blue on a day like today, he'll enlighten you on the legacy of Saint Patrick: his role in perfecting the rotational pivot of affixed bar stools, the way he mixed blue and yellow to invent green, etc. You'll leave the conversation far more versed in holiday lore, and far more dangerously slicked in ethanol droplets, than you were three minutes prior.
So you can forgive every marketer with a tenuous link to Ireland or the Irish for playing up its shamrockiness this time of the year (Swiffer: "our packaging has some green in it! Erin go br…ush up that shmutz!"). What's less understandable is when a brand with legitimate cultural and geographic bona fides cheapens itself by association.
I don't know whether Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey specifically timed the release of its first-ever major awareness campaign to generate pre-St. Pat's momentum. What I do know is that the campaign's "yoo hoo! look at us, world!" thrust actually undermines its authenticity, much in the same way a chain restaurant's "Bellissimo! We-ah serve you 'psghet just like-ah your mama!" inadvertently preps diners for a spread of egg noodles and ketchup. As much as it pains me to liken a campaign for a 250-year-old whiskey (and a tasty one to boot) to something out of the Olive Garden playbook, there are tonal similarities.
The concept behind the Kilbeggan campaign is the teensiest bit meta: Now that the brand is trumpeting its presence far beyond the town borders, its locals are worried that there won't be enough whiskey to go around. So the authentically accented and authentically ruddy Darren has taken up knitting. Why knitting? Because provincial barflies are usually too busy playing chicken with their livers to embrace a new hobby like knitting or cosmetic dentistry. So becoming an expert knitter/cosmetic dentist would totally be an exaggeratedly comedic natural reaction to the betrayal that his beloved local brand going global constitutes, right?
Indeed it would, and the campaign wouldn't rise beyond the level of benign misfire if it stopped there. But in extending the clip for web consumption, Kilbeggan renders it even dimmer and more oblique. The 30-second spot makes some modicum of sense, thanks to the helpful intro by the fetching lass of a bartender. But the longer version excises that intro in favor of more knit-babble; if you can unlock its central premise without peeking at the YouTube blurb ("with the secret of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey revealed to the world, Darren is determined to keep the Kilbeggan memory tightly knitted in the community"), you are a more skilled interpreter of brand motive than I.
The Kilbeggan folks appear to have overthought this thing. While "the best kept secret in whiskey, until now" is a natural angle for campaign of this kind, the video assets that accompany it scuff the brand sheen. Aspiring to cleverness is all well and good, except when it comes at the expense of authenticity.