What do you do when you’ve really screwed up with your donors or other stakeholders?

First of all, I’m assuming: a) you have ways of listening to your donors; and b) you are paying attention.

Second, you’ve realized that they’re right; you’re wrong.

Then do what one of my favorite clients of all time — Maker’s Mark bourbon (did I need to say bourbon?!) — recently did. Apologize … sincerely.

Maker’s Mark decided to water down their bourbon, lowering the alcohol content from 45% (90 proof) to 42% (84 proof) because supply problems were keeping them from meeting soaring demand.

Fortunately, they pre-announced the change to their customers (Maker’s Mark has an extraordinary customer relationship/communications program), because that’s the kind of company they are.

Passionately loyal customers revolted … they’d rather have less bourbon than less alcohol in their bourbon!

Maker’s Mark listened. Changed its mind. Publicly apologized.

Here’s their apology …

Dear Friends,

Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans.

We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we’ll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.


Rob Samuels Chief Operating Officer rob@makersmark.com

Bill Samuels, Jr Chairman Emeritus bill@makersmark.com

You can’t do it better than that.

A great model for the next time your organization stuffs it up.


P.S. You can read the full story here.


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