A Social World of Whisky Part 1: Big Drinkers, Small Talkers?

Winston“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.” — Winston Churchill

Amongst all spirits, whisky holds a very particular place. From teenagers to world leaders, from whisky and soda to $460,000 bottle – a 1946 Macallan in a Lalique decanter was auctioned at this price in 2010, whisky proves being more than simply a category of alcohol, but a potent landmark of social and economic belonging.

The whisky market is diverse, but can be divided in two main categories: Scotch (i.e. distilled in Scotland and matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks) and non-Scotch whiskies. Both have experienced continuous growth, with some particularly dynamic markets in the last couple of years in emerging countries, especially India and China. Scotch whiskies represent around 85% of Scottish food and drink exports and nearly a quarter of the British total, according to the Scottish Whisky Association.

Such a success in the context of our digital era questions us about the way this phenomenon echoes on social media, how consumers take part into the whisky related social discussion around the world, and what insight can social media bring for the whisky industry.

This blog is the first of a series about the whisky industry that will demonstrate several ways we can investigate a broad social dataset and make sense of it thanks to the use of different research techniques and integration of other data sources like sales data.

In this first blog, we’ll have a look at the big picture: identifying how whisky-related social discussion is naturally featuring, and how whisky in social media differs from actual consumer behaviour.

Simply looking at raw social data volumes can be misleading since it doesn’t take in consideration the actual population size of each country, and the proportion of its population using social media. In order to balance the countries’ weight and get a better idea of the countries where whisky discussion is getting more traction, we weighted each country to its population:

Average whisky related social posts per 1000 capita 

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Content posted between August 15th to August 31st,
including “whiskey”, “whisky”, “whiskeys” or “whiskies”

What patterns do we see, and why?

Whisk(e)y as a share of British and Irish identity – Ireland is the country eliciting the most social discussion per capita, demonstrating the vitality and weight of the whiskey topic in this country. The second place of United Kingdom in both overall social volumes and discussion per capita, also highlights the importance of the whisky industry and the passion towards this spirit, as home of Scotch whisky – at least for the moment!

The home of Bourbon trails behind Ireland and UK – The United States remains a major country for whisky discussion, especially considering the impressive overall amount of content originating from this territory. But the volumes per capita put this domination in perspective, suggesting that Irish and British are more passionate about whisky.

Whisky proves a healthy topic of discussion in South America and Oceania – A few less populated countries, especially in South America and Oceania, elicit a comparatively high level of whisky conversation, proving their attachment to this beverage, namely Uruguay (6th), New Zealand (7th), Venezuela (8th), and Australia (9th).

Now we’ve drawn a map of social media whisky discussion, getting the most of this landscape implies connecting it to the reality of whisky consumption.

To do so, we are using Euromonitor whisky consumption country data per capita.

Annual whisky consumption/capita (in liters)

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Source : Euromonitor, Worldbank

This data offers us a ranking of the biggest whisky drinkers that we can compare to the ranking of the biggest whisky “talkers”, giving us a new perspective over the whisky market opportunities in terms of social strategy.

Whisky Drinkers versus Whisky Talkers

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* Searches didn’t include words in Hindi, Japanese or Chinese
alphabets, 
so these ranks are likely to be higher in reality

A correlation between whisky consumption and whisky social discussion

Out of the top 10 countries with the higher consumption of whisky per capita, 7 also feature in the top 10 countries with the more whisky related social discussion per capita. However the ranking is quite different…

Less social verbose, more drinking?

Two groups of countries emerge:

On the one hand, countries that feature higher in the consumption ranking than in the social discussion ranking. Including Uruguay, Australia, India or South Africa, this group bears a high potential for social marketers: healthy markets with a lack of social media structure, thus an opportunity for whisky brands to own the category with targeted efforts. The emblem of this group is France, that ranks at the first position for whisky consumption, but only 19th for whisky related social discussion. Some could think that French people drink too much whisky to be able to post their experience on social media. Being well placed to answer this exaggerated statement, I tend to consider that the reason is more likely to lie within cultural and media habits, both in terms of whisky consumption and social media use. This will be the topic of a future blog.

On the other hand, countries that feature higher in the social discussion ranking than in the consumption ranking. And this comprises almost all main whisky producers, namely United Kingdom and Ireland: in addition to a healthy discussion around the whisky consumption itself, distilleries, associations, news websites and organisations contributes to the fact that whisky also feature as a business and economy related topic.
This first glance at the whisky social landscape opens quite a few doors that we will enter in the next couple of months, and that will lead to how we dig more qualitatively into social discussion:

  • Scotch/Bourbon fracture: how is it tangible on social media, and which is winning the social battle?
  • Booze vs Nectar: whisky’s duality
  • A whisky connoisseur social audience
  • The French enigma: understand the specificities of the French social whisky environment
  • Whisky brands: what is their place within the social conversation, and which ones are stealing the show

Stay tuned!

Where next?

Behavior

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Communities

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