The Glenlivet Takes Back Its Crown With a Cocktail of Fashion, Pods and Ice Cream

Shefali Murdia, Pernod Ricard's director of brand engagement, explains how a storied liquor brand became innovative again

Shefali Murdia
Pernod Ricard's brand engagement director Shefali Murdia discusses Glenlivet's partnership with top fashion designers. Sean T. Smith for Adweek
Headshot of Richard Collings

Key insights:

The Glenlivet, once again the top single-malt Scotch whisky by volume and sales, realized its marketing needed a spruce when the brand began losing ground to a key rival.

Not only was the brand falling behind a top competitor, it was also losing market share to bourbons and Irish whiskeys, according to Shefali Murdia, director of brand engagement at parent company Pernod Ricard.

While the nearly 200-year-old distiller had done a good job of maintaining its brand, it wasn’t doing a good job of growing its business, Murdia said on Wednesday during Adweek’s Challenger Brands Summit in New York.

In 2019, a cocktail consisting of fashion, with a scoop of ice cream and a helping of pods helped the brand reclaim the coveted top spot and grow at two-and-a-half times the industry average, Murdia said.

Rather than eschewing its history, Glenlivet “leaned into its heritage,” she said, repurposing for a modern age the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, George Smith, and his penchant for breaking with tradition with his original single-malt Scotch.

That carried over from advertising, which told the history of how the Scotch brand evolved with—or bulldozed through—changing times.

Glenlivet sought partners with which it shared common values—and could also borrow credibility from, Murdia said. Fashion was a natural choice, as an industry once viewed as exclusive had democratized over the past decade, in part by embracing diversity.

This thought process led to the liquor brand becoming an official sponsor of New York Fashion Week. The strategy also led to specific collaborations. After initially putting together a list of 50 brands and influencers it wanted to team with, it whittled that down to about 10 names, and then directly approached them with the opportunity to collaborate. Celebrities such as actor Alexander Skarsgard and musician Mark Ronson signed up.

The brand also stepped outside the traditional Scotch marketing tactics, creating a limited edition purse with designer label Alice + Olivia for New York Fashion Week in early February. The purple leather accessory was in recognition of The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch 14 Year Old. Fans were invited to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of the limited edition bags.

Last September, the whiskey label teamed with fashion designer Prabal Gurung to create a flask and a flask bag in commemoration of the launch of The Glenlivet 14 Year Old.

In addition to the collaborations, Glenlivet served cocktails at its own branded lounge located on the rooftop of Spring Studios. Glenlivet-infused ice cream was served, and guests could personalize their own Glenlivet flasks.

Glenlivet had also kicked off 2019 on a sweet note with ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe, creating two flavors of liquor-infused ice cream including a hot toddy sundae.

During London Cocktail Week in the fall, the label got a little cheeky by serving pods of whiskey—about one shot, to be exact—echoing Tide detergent pods. The pods were made of seaweed extract that you could see through, which could be enjoyed by simply popping the entire thing in your mouth.

The stunt proved to be controversial, but not only did Glenlivet turn the conversation into something that was positive by touting the product’s sustainability, the stir landed the whiskey brand on a number of television shows such as Ellen, and squarely back in the minds of consumers.

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@RichCollings Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.