Bill Henderson talks about his role as chief marketing officer for Beach Whiskey Company, how Beach Whiskey’s national rollout was accomplished in less than a year’s time and his inspiration for spreading the word about this unique day-drinkable whiskey.
Talk to us about your position as CMO for Beach Whiskey Company.
I’m responsible for helping bring the Beach Whiskey Company portfolio of unique brands to market. In this capacity, I drive the overall marketing strategy and all of its components. I lead a team (a nimble few) that are responsible for point of sale, advertising, public relations and social media, sponsorships, and events, including integration with some of our more high-profile partners. Additionally, I work with our sales teams to first attract and now maintain distributor relationships across the country, and make sure that retailers and distributors all have the tools they need to move product. And then in my spare time, I keep our board of directors and investment partners up to date about our progress, all along with an eye as to what’s next.
We know you have extensive experience in the spirits industry, including a history with Sidney Frank Importing Co. Tell us a bit about your background.
During the nearly 19 years I was with Sidney Frank Importing, I had the pleasure of playing a key role in the creation, promotion, and expansion of some truly exciting brands–Grey Goose, Jägermeister and Casamigos, to name a few.
After the sale of Grey Goose to Bacardi in 2004 and during the five-year non-compete that followed, some 300 plus new vodkas were introduced. We always believed in the vodka category and wanted to be a part of it… that time gave us the chance to determine what would come next. That brand would be American Harvest Organic Vodka. We were ahead of our time but now is ideal. We are thrilled to be bringing the brand back to consumers again.
Beach Whiskey is for the “fun-loving whiskey drinker.” How did this brand come about?
The seed of the idea came from our partner and co-founder Andrew McGinnis, so I’ll let him answer that one …
McGinnis: I grew up on the beaches of Southern California, surfing and playing volleyball, and spent many summers wakeboarding and partying on Lake Tahoe. In fact, many of the fun experiences in my life have occurred on the beach and drinking whiskey–but rarely did the two mix. A couple of years ago, while chilling one afternoon at the Sky Bar at the Beach Club in Santa Monica, I noticed that no one was drinking brown spirits or whiskeys, but the clear liquors were being enjoyed copiously. It struck me that there should be a day-drinkable whiskey that could be enjoyed at the beach, by the pool, on your boat, etc. I looked for one, but it didn’t exist. That’s when the idea of Beach Whiskey was born. I thought, “What would it look like? It would be clear. What about the bottle? It would have to be sea glass. And what would we call this whiskey, which was created for daytime and the beach? Obviously, Beach Whiskey.”
Bottom line, Beach Whiskey is about combining love of whiskey with love of the beach. It’s about creating a fun, delicious, and versatile whiskey that can be enjoyed at a daytime beach party or by a bonfire at night. That’s what this brand is all about.
Talk to us about your marketing directive for your brands.
Beach Whiskey and American Harvest are brands that are looking to shake things up. In creating both brands, we looked for the ownable, the concept that would cut through the myriad of competing messages and consumer propositions. We think we nailed it.
Our Beach Whiskey is 100% American whiskey. A proprietary filtration and blending process makes Beach Whiskey a uniquely versatile clear spirit, with more flavor than vodka, yet a smoothness that beats traditionally aged whiskeys and harsh unaged rums. It is wildly versatile, and now whiskey has its own place in the daytime, in the sun. Beach is a state of mind and it usually comes with a smile and friends. Now it also comes with a great whiskey.
American Harvest was relaunched at a time when consumers have never been more focused on the provenance of their consumer goods, their clothes, shoes, food and now their cocktails. It’s about recognizing that eating and drinking well is how you take care of yourself and how you treat yourself well. It also comes at a time when nationalist pride in American goods has never been stronger. High-quality spirits are no longer limited to the imports. They are made in America, and in our case, start with Rocky Mountain, organic wheat.
Beach Whiskey Company seems to be shaking things up across categories with Beach Whiskey and American Harvest Organic Vodka. How do these brands connect with today’s consumers?
Consumers today are smart, and they are vigilant about quality, particularly from a goods and an experience point of view. From day one, we were determined to over deliver to make an impact, not just on what is in the glass or bottle, but everything that comes with it. We’ve gone the extra mile when it comes to our packaging, point of sale, even the wearables that we share with our consumers. It means that consumers keep them, wear them, share them, and post about their experiences with our brands.
We hear Beach Whiskey Company just got national distribution for Beach Whiskey and American Harvest. Talk to us about this achievement. How did such young brands grab the attention of the largest distributors? Do you have any tips for other small-batch craft spirits?
Apart from having delicious brands that are unique in the market, we were prepared. All of our POS, presentations, go-to market strategy–it was all in order before we had our first meeting. Plus, American Harvest was not an unknown commodity. It was a 50,000 case brand before the turmoil with the sale of Sidney Frank to Jägermeister and was widely regarded. We showed distributors that American Harvest has a new home, comprises a strong portfolio with Beach Whiskey, and that through the results of earlier market tests, both brands were turning over and being reordered. You get all of that in place and you have a 50 percent shot of getting signed.
Beach Whiskey works with several celebrities including Jake Owen and Gavin DeGraw. Talk to us about the celebrity involvement. How do you leverage celebrity involvement to really drive sales?
The idea that a celebrity backing means success is one of the biggest myths out there today. The majority of all so-called ‘celeb’ endorsements will fail. What makes our partners different is that they all–regardless of their celebrity–organically believe in this brand, are owners of the brand, and have skin in the game. They aren’t just a group of people who are being paid to send out a tweet or two each month. They love the beach lifestyle, they all love both of the brands, and they are getting in the trenches with us. Everyone one has had an opinion about the bottles, the liquid, the plan, our go-to market strategy … sometimes it would be easier if they didn’t, but at the end of the day, we’re stronger because they care so much. There are few examples of celeb-backed brands that are killing it … we hope to be another.
What would you like bartenders to know about Beach Whiskey and American Harvest?
Both Beach Whiskey and American Harvest vodka are super-premium products that meet a unique consumer need. They are delicious, infinitely versatile, and can be enjoyed straight up, on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails.
For more information, visit BeachWhiskey.com.