Distillers, long barred from advertising in some mainstream media, have been heavily into on-premise and word-of-mouth marketing for years, using those methods to grab market share away from beer over
the past decade. But there has lately been a flood of liquor ads on TV, and while that won't stop, Beam Chief Marketing Officer Rory Finlay says that is only one means. "Advertising is not dead; it's
really important," he says. "But it's more about fanning the flames [of word-of-mouth] than anything else." Finlay says the company will overhaul its creative on three quarters of its brands.
What the switch will do to Beam's estimated $100 million global media and promotions budget is yet to be seen, but "this is a fundamental shift in the way they're doing business" says Paul Rand, president-CEO of Omnicom's Zocalo Group, a word-of-mouth firm working with the company. "I haven't seen a company that's as upfront and stamped-on-the-forehead about being a word-of-mouth company like Beam."