Selling a Brand, Shot by Shot

Issue 04-28-14   |   Reviewer:   Douglas L. Wilson, MBA


Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Is one of the most successful liquor brands in decades and has become synonymous with fun for young hedonists throughout the United States. Men like it, and women seem enthralled by the brand, which is rare for a shots brand. In 2011, Fireball accounted for $1.9 million in sales before jumping to an astonishing $61 million in 2012 and $81 million in 2013. It may be the first alcoholic beverage to have a larger presence in the virtual world than it does in taprooms and liquor stores. Fireball lovers post pictures of their whiskey-soaked exploits on Instagram, celebrate it on Twitter, and use Foursquare to monitor the whereabouts of Fireball’s “brand ambassadors,” who go from bar to bar treating lucky patrons to free shots.

Fireball was introduced in the mid-1980s in Canada as Dr. McGillicuddy’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and it was part of Seagram’s line of flavored schnapps. The brand does little in the way of traditional advertising but instead initially depended on a 25-year-old actor-turned-Internet-marketer named Richard Pomes to spread the word about Fireball. Pomes was a self-taught pitchman, and for years his job was to wander the country buying people shots.

Fireball is now within striking distance of Jägermeister, an 80-year-old German legacy whisky brand. Jägermeister is responding by imitating the cinnamon-and-vanilla-spiced version, as is Jose Cuervo’s Cinge cinnamon-laden tequila.

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