Reworking a Brand: Chivas' Hip Tasting

November 12, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

At a Chivas Regal Scotch event at Studio 450, Sir Jeremy John Bell led the group of 150 guests through a tasting with the help of place mats illustrated with a map of Scotland.

Chivas Regal tasting event Studio 450 Thursday, 11.07.02, 7 PM to 9 PM
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Old habits die hard, and when your drink of choice is a Bud—preferably out of the can—TV or magazine advertising probably won't get you to drink Scotch. Which is why Chivas Regal, the Scotch brand owned by liquor conglomerate Pernod Ricard, is going out of its way to educate young consumers about a drink that's typically thought of as grandpa's digestive with a cigar after a steak dinner.

Chivas hired marketing agency Group 3 to hold a series of Scotch tasting events through ten major cities to introduce young consumers to the joys of Scotch. “We want to make Scotch cool again,” said Group 3's Chris Kapsalis. Part of the strategy is to put the events in a clean, modern environment (in this case, Studio 450) instead of a stodgy, mahogany-walled bar. And for good measure, three lovely young women in clingy black dresses greeted guests at the door and directed them upstairs to a pre-tasting cocktail party, with drinks like Scotch and ginger ale and Scotch Manhattans, and hearty hors d'oeuvres like baked black bean and sausage crescents and grilled shrimp and mango quesadillas from Thomas Preti Caterers.

Next came the tasting, where Sir Jeremy John Bell—the official brand ambassador for Chivas Regal Scotch and the self-titled “Knight of Toasting“—gave a lesson in Scotch appreciation. Part musician (he plays what he calls the “techno-bagpipes"), part teacher and part comedian, Bell led the group of 150 guests through a tasting of five types of Scotch, which included a comparison against Chivas' main competitor, Johnnie Walker Black. To emphasize the difference between the two Scotches, a place mat illustrated with a map of Scotland depicted the regional differences of where the Scotch malt is grown. The lesson was followed with a quick Scotch-blending lesson.

The raucous tasting—one group of men clearly enjoyed a considerable amount Chivas during the cocktail hour—was followed by a full buffet, replete with grilled beef with a savory tomato relish, sesame crusted tuna and lots of sweets to finish. (Jessica Alton of Thomas Preti pointed out that the food had to be hearty because of all the drinking.)

Special events are an important part of Chivas' marketing strategy. “Chivas is the number-one global brand for Pernod,” said Chris Willis, vice president of of the Chivas brand for Pernod Ricard USA, “so we're expanding our marketing efforts to keep the brand relevant.” That includes recruiting people at bars for these small-scale tasting events, and sponsoring larger events. Willis is working with the Strategic Group for event sponsorship opportunities, and recently co-sponsored the Hip Hop Immortals book launch event in the Hamptons last summer.

Suzanne Ito

Read about a more traditional Scotch tasting event...

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