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Campari’s Innovative Approach Invigorates Wild Turkey

April 3, 2012

Wild Turkey may be one of the U.S. spirits market’s most storied brands, but it has also been one of the most innovative of late. Since acquiring the Bourbon brand in 2009 from Pernod Ricard, Gruppo Campari has engineered a number of initiatives aimed at contemporizing the franchise without sacrificing its colorful heritage. In mid-2011, Campari rolled out a new 81-proof variant, Wild Turkey 81 ($17.99 per 750-ml.), in the U.S. Intended to target “urban on-premise” consumers—primarily on the East and West Coasts—the new offering has found strong footing among bartenders and mixologists.

“Wild Turkey 81 is much more mixable than the 80-proof edition (which Campari has phased out). It’s become very popular in cocktails, and it’s a great recruiting tool for the franchise,” Gruppo Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz recently told Shanken News Daily. “The 101-proof Wild Turkey remains challenging to those entering the Bourbon category, so there’s a comfort level with 81.”

Campari has also repackaged the full Wild Turkey range, placing increased emphasis on the Wild Turkey logo and proof statement. In recent days, Campari broke ground on a 125,000-square-foot packaging facility on the company’s Lawrenceburg, Kentucky site that will allow Wild Turkey to have full control of its entire production (the distillery previously housed its own packaging capabilities, but those were discontinued in 2006).

The brand’s new look was supported by a strong investment in Wild Turkey’s most recent ad campaign, “Give ’Em The Bird,” which targets both the brand’s traditional, loyal consumers and its younger, more urban audience.

Campari’s innovative approach is clearly paying off. After hovering around the 550,000-case mark in the U.S. market for the past few years, Wild Turkey made solid gains in 2011. Globally, the Bourbon brand’s sales rose by 7%, with the U.S. (which accounts for roughly 60% of Wild Turkey’s business) driving its growth.

“It took some time for the new product and packaging to hit the store shelves and bars, but we started increasing our traction in the last quarter of 2011, and we’re now picking up steam,” said Kunze-Concewitz. “We knew we had a great liquid, and by fixing the other fundamentals, we think we’re now very well-positioned to ride this Bourbon wave that we’re seeing in the U.S.”

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