All sorts of awards and competitions exist to determine the “best” of something. All are inherently subjective: what one person or group of experts finds best may be the total opposite of what another person or group of experts finds best.
In conducting the UK’s Favourite Gin Survey, the Craft Gin Club sought the “favourite”, not the “best”. “Favourites” can be just as subjective as “bests”. But the goal of this survey was to use a “favourite” as a demonstration of brand loyalty, a gauge to show which brand’s customers feel the strongest affinity with that brand, its product and its story.
The survey was held in two phases: the first phase immediately following the end of the Ginvent Calendar by Drinks by the Dram from December 24th to January 4th and the second phase from January 5th to January 9th.
The first phase asked those consumers that had enjoyed the Ginvent Calendar to vote on their favourite of the 24 featured gins or to give the name of their favourite gin not featured in the calendar. This phase ended with Hendrick’s well on top of the pack and with more than 60 additional gins being mentioned.
The second phase asked the question, “Is Hendrick’s the UK’s favourite gin?”, asked participants to answer “yes” or “no” and if they answered “no”, to name their favourite gin. In total, over 1,700 Gin Lovers voted for their favourite gin resulting in 110 gins being mentioned. The final tally includes the combined results of the two phases. You can DOWNLOAD THE SURVEY RESULTS AND SECOND PHASE PROGRESSION HERE (Excel spreadsheet).
Here are links to the articles documenting the progression of the UK's Favourite Gin Survey:
During the second phase, the Craft Gin Club tweeted directly to the individual brands mentioned by their fans in the survey to make each aware of the survey and see how they would react. In analyzing the results of the second phase, it becomes evident that those brands most active on their respective social media channels were able to motivate their consumers - or in this case, the fans that hold them as their favourite gin brand - to vote for them.
The winner, Warner Edwards Distillery posted its participation in the survey on its Facebook page every day during the week of the survey with the “likes”, comments and “shares” on each post increasing every day. With this strategy, the distiller grew its votes 26 fold in four days.
Anno Distillers, which grabbed the eighth spot in the final tally, did not receive a vote until the second day of the second phase of the survey and the Craft Gin Club did not tweet to the distillery until the morning of the third day. Still, by tweeting and posting on Facebook, the distillery communicated the survey to its fans which then demonstrated their brand loyalty by voting.
On the flip side of this marketing coin we have Hendrick’s, certainly the most well known and biggest selling of the small-batch gins, also considered by many to have initiated the Craft Gin boom with its 1999 launch and subsequent creative communications campaigns. These communications campaigns are instilled in the minds of spirits appreciators in Britain and in the markets around the world in which Hendrick’s is present. This recognition most likely contributed to the gin receiving by far the most votes during the first phase of the survey - more than double the amount of votes of the next most “favourited” brand.
This brand recognition also most likely contributed to Hendrick’s finishing second in the survey as Hendrick’s did not motivate its fans by posting news of the survey to social media, bar one retweet of a Craft Gin Club tweet asking the question, “Is @HendricksginUK the UK’s fav gin?” and encouraging people to vote. Hendrick’s has nearly 22,000 followers on twitter and nearly 155,000 likes on its Facebook page. Theoretically, the retweet should have been viewed by many more people than the nearly 3,000 twitters followers and 3,000 Facebook page likes to which the survey winner, Warner Edwards, was communicating.
From this, we can determine that Hendrick’s’ 15 years of innovative marketing have contributed to a widespread fan base but that this fan base does not appear as loyal as those fan bases of the small, entrepreneurial distillers that are changing the face of the UK’s spirits industry (that being said, Hendrick’s is part of a portfolio of products of William Grant & Sons, a family-owned, independent distiller, yet a much bigger outfit than the majority of distillers mentioned in the survey holding over 10% of the global Scotch Whisky market).
As the craft gin, spirits and beer revolutions spread across the UK, it will be fascinating to watch the change in the market landscape. Will consumers increasingly switch to more locally-produced brands to the detriment of huge, established players? For one, the example of microbreweries in the United States, whose aggregate volume sales recently surpassed that of Budweiser, points to yes. A similar trend is currently underway in the UK beer market with the craft spirits market in both countries beginning to pick up steam.
“How many of these locally produced brands will create national and global brands?” is a completely different question. More brands means more market fragmentation. It also means more choice for consumers. Although we in capitalist economies and liberal societies tend to think that more choice is good, it can also lead to confusion amongst consumers. Market confusion often drives consumers back to “safe” brands, ones they know offer a certain level of quality and have a familiar name. This may very well occur with time in the case of the proliferation of craft beers and spirits.
But other signs point in the opposite direction. Consumers are increasingly willing to experiment with brands that offer distinctive tastes and are seeking more variety. More than anything, they seek products that are made by passionate people with engaging stories. The small, craft distillers in the UK’s Favourite Gin Survey that came out on top created and then engaged their fan bases with their unique stories. Today, unique stories can resonate well beyond geographical limits in much less time and for much less investment than it once took.
That’s why we launched the Craft Gin Club, to tell these stories and get them out to the people that matter. It’s why we conduct campaigns such as the UK’s Favourite Gin Survey: to learn from consumers and distillers in order to provide them with the best spirits service possible in a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse market. What do you think of our survey and service? Please let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels: Facebook and twitter.
If you are a Gin Lover and would like to see your favourite gin featured on our website, we would love to hear from you: [email protected] If you are a Distiller and would like to be featured on our website, drop us a line: [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you, to continuing our support for independent distillers, and to educating Gin Lovers everywhere to the best gins with the best stories.