The Wiserhood (Wiser's DeLuxe Canadian Whisky)

Sustained Success (SILVER)

Client Credits: Corby Distilleries
Joseph Delvecchio - Brand Director
Zoe Traynor - Senior Brand Manager

Agency Credits: john st.
Angus Tucker - Co-Creative Director
Stephen Jurisic - Co-Creative Director
Chris Hirsch - Associate Creative Director & Copywriter
Nellie Kim - Associate Creative Director & Art Director
Ian Brooks - Group Account Director
Mark Graham - Account Supervisor
Andrew Godfrey - Account Executive
Michelle Orlando - Broadcast Producer

Crossover Notes:
All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2013 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 1. What a Brand Stands For.
Crossover Note 9. Turnarounds.
Crossover Note 11. The Eureka Insight.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.
Crossover Note 28. Media Learning.
Crossover Note 33. Changing the Target Audience.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):October 2008 – April 2012
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: October 2008
Base Period as a Benchmark: October 2007 – September 2008

a) Overall Assessment

Wiser’s DeLuxe whisky has a proud heritage and long history, having been in Canadians’ liquor cabinets for over 150 years.

The problem is, Canadians are consuming less and less whisky every year. Spirits like vodka and rum have been drinking up market share and sales for more than a decade, leaving Canadian whisky virtually at a standstill.

From 1996 to 2007, Canadian rum volume sales had increased 26%, vodka 66% and whisky a meagre 9%. Canadian whisky in particular had shown the least amount of growth at 3%.

And by 2008, things got even worse. As other categories continued to grow, Canadian whisky actually declined; a trend that would continue for the next 4 years. [Footnote 1]

Age demographics were also shifting. Whisky was seen as your dad’s drink, and high-energy concoctions like vodka-Red Bulls & spiced rum were gaining popularity with younger audiences. By comparison, Wiser’s drinkers skewed between the ages of 40 & 64, and they weren’t getting any younger.

We were at the bottom of the oak barrel (so to speak). The shift in tastes and the category’s slide would make it much more difficult for a Canadian whisky brand to make a gain, let alone reclaim the share or revenue it previously enjoyed.

For Wiser’s DeLuxe, the hill was particularly steep. They were being outspent by Crown Royal, and were perpetually losing the sales battle to Crown Royal and Canadian Club, the top two competitors. [Footnote 1] Poor awareness scores also didn’t help. A 2007 survey revealed unaided top of mind awareness scores of 34% for Canadian Club & 13% for Crown Royal. For Wiser’s DeLuxe: 0%. Ouch. [Footnote 2]

Ironically, around this time, Wiser’s was running billboards with headlines like “The more things change, the more we stay the same” – exactly the opposite of what their strategy should have been to avoid falling victim to their own category. [Crossover Note 16]

They needed to change how they spoke to consumers. Repositioning the brand for a younger demographic would be risky, but the best chance at plugging the leaky bucket, or at least slowing the leakage down. But we risked alienating our core drinkers. [Crossover Note 33]

We were stuck between a rocks glass and a hard place.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

The business objectives may seem modest, but in a declining and highly profitable category (margins can be upwards of 30-40%) small gains are financially meaningful:

  1. Increase absolute volume (9L cases) year over year by 1%
  2. Increase volume market share year over year by 0.2 points

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area

Footnote 1: Statistics Canada. Table 183-0015 - Sales of alcoholic beverages of liquor authorities, wineries and breweries, by value and volume, fiscal years ended March 31, annual, CANSIM (database).

Footnote 2: GfK Research Dynamics, Spirits U&A – Canadian Whisky August 2007.

a) Analysis and Insight

An Uncompromising Position.

Like many established whisky brands, Wiser’s was in a precarious position: they had to recruit younger new drinkers to their brand (urban males, aged 25-35) without alienating their older franchise (rural males, aged 40-65). We had to find some common ground between the two generations. We needed an insight that would resonate with both consumer groups, differentiate Wiser’s from our competitors, and be authentic to the brand.

In consumer research, we discovered that every man, regardless of age, admired and revered a guy who stuck to his guns. It spoke to timeless qualities that both groups could relate to: masculinity, strength of character and individualism. In short, it is a quintessentially unifying male trait to respect a man who does not compromise. [Crossover Note 11]

This attitude fit perfectly with Wiser’s DeLuxe, which (as it says on the bottle) is made in exactly the same manner as it was when J.P. Wiser began distilling it over 150 years ago. It too, was uncompromised.

The trick, of course, was taking this universal truth and making it distinctly ownable to Wiser’s. [Crossover Note 1]

b) Communication Strategy

Welcome to the Society of Uncompromising Men

Our idea was to create a (not-so-secret) society of men that would act as the authority for uncompromising behavior - and to unite men of all ages around the Wiser’s DeLuxe brand. Two communication objectives were set:

  1. Bring awareness and intrigue to the campaign, the society and the whisky behind it. (although the client did not set quantitative goals, they were looking for statistically significant lift in awareness.)
  2. Provide consumers with an opportunity to further engage with the brand and become members themselves

To deliver on these objectives with such a modest budget compared to the competition, we had to be precise and calculated in how we approached the use of media. The strategy:

  1. Awareness: Build awareness and intrigue in the Wiser’s brand to recruit new drinkers while maintaining the existing franchise
  2. Engagement: Allow drinkers to build a deeper, more committed and resistant relationship with the brand
  3. Influence: Amplify the reach of the campaign by facilitating our consumer to deliver our message and experience and become our ambassadors
  4. Experience: Allow the drinker to try, learn and experience the Wiser’s liquid, heritage and story
  5. Activation: Create a motivating reason to choose Wiser’s at the point of purchase

a) Media Used


  • Television
  • Online advertising
  • Sports property sponsorships


  • Website
  • E-Newsletters
  • Digital applications
  • Print


  • Facebook
  • Digital applications


  • On-premise sampling tours
  • Sports property sponsorships


  • Retail Point of Sale
  • Licensee Point of Sale
  • Merchandise

b) Creative Discussion

Welcome to The Wiserhood.

We didn’t just create a brotherhood, we created The Wiserhood. A community bound by an attitude as opposed to an age. They were men who recognized and applauded (quite literally) those with uncompromising qualities.

With The Wiserhood, we gave Wiser’s DeLuxe not merely a voice, but an entire club – with age-old rules, rituals and virtues to abide by. It had a founder (J.P. Wiser), and a headquarters (

2008 - Launch

The website was the foundation of the campaign - the headquarters of the society. It was built before Facebook’s rise to advertising dominance and designed as a place for members to “meet” and take part in the Wiserhood experience. For a campaign rooted in the idea of an uncompromising society it was critical in achieving our communication objectives. Exploring the room, they could find games, discover secret videos, read the Official-Looking Handbook, download a “Slow Clap” ring tone, print a membership certificate bearing their name and much more.


In the fall of 2008, four TV spots (two :30s and two :15s) were created to drive our target to - a virtual clubhouse where they could learn more about this mysterious Society of Uncompromising Men.

The :30s (“Sweater” and “Turkey Carver”) showed Wiserhood members slow-clapping young men who showed their unwillingness to compromise, as would every spot created throughout the life of the campaign, now in its fourth year.

The Wiserhood Official-Looking Handbook

As well as a digital version on the site, a 30-page passport-sized Handbook (complete with Wiserhood-sanctioned drink, dress and facial-hair codes) was handed out at liquor stores and tastings in bars and restaurants – which doubled as membership drives to recruit new Wiserhood members.

2009 – Website & Sports Property Extension


Due to the success of the launch TV spots and relatively light media weight in 2008, the decision was made to decrease production dollars for 2009 and re-run 3 of the 4 original spots as they were judged to still be effective. The strategy for TV was unchanged, however the media buy was increased to cover 2 cycles (late fall to early spring 2010). & Online Ads

While we continued to drive traffic to the website, we wanted to give current members a new experience. We developed the “Wiserhood Yourself” Facebook application where members could place their own faces within a number of classic oil paintings.

CFL & NHL Sponsorships

Guys like sports. So we leveraged Wiser’s sports partnerships via program ads and poster installations in stadiums, to get those guys who like sports to like our whisky.

2010 – TV & Social Media Extension

Television Campaign

With increased media spend additional dollars were allocated to create the next 2 installments of the TV campaign (“Off Site” & “Art Gallery”). Media again was bought for two cycles during the same period. 

Social Media

Facebook, now in full swing, was added to the plan to promote greater social engagement and help increase membership into the society. The Wiserhood Facebook page replaced the more cost-prohibitive website, allowing us to facilitate more conversation and be more effective with our ad dollars. [Crossover Note 28]

First up, we created the “Slow Clap App” – where men could reward the uncompromising behaviour of a friend, by sending them a Slow Clap. The instant shareability made it much easier for fans to engage with the brand and drive awareness within the network.

Online Videos

To complement the new TV spots, 6 online videos were created to strengthen the digital media buy and add fodder for Facebook discussion. Each video featured a Wiserhood alum (from the commercials) providing Wiserhood tips and anecdotes – one specifically promoting the “Slow Clap” app. 

CFL & NHL Sponsorships

We expanded our sponsorships from the previous year, adding in-stadium video board creative, elevator wraps in arenas and stadiums, pillar wraps in stadium sports bars and specialty-network TV billboards on stations like Senators TV.

2011 – TV Extension & He-Coy Bag

Television Campaign

The next installment of the TV franchise was called “Purse”. “Purse” would become the most viewed spot online with over 650,000 views (more than twice the views than all the other spots combined – and these views were all organic)

He-Coy Bag

The bag our hero uses in the “Purse” spot was more than just any ordinary bag. We coined it the “Wiserhood He-Coy Bag” – the decoy bag for him. A tool men could use to help ensure the most uncompromising of behaviours.

So we developed and promoted a line of He-Coy Bags on the Wiser’s FB page, driving members to our online store where they could score a free bag of their choice. Each limited-edition bag featured a unique Wiserhood-worthy logo (5 in total), designed to turn awkward purse-holding occasions into moments of pride.

c) Media Discussion

With a media budget that didn’t reach $1 million until the last year of the campaign, we needed to find efficiencies where possible. With Wiser’s awareness next to zero and a market dominated by our competitors, we had to make as much noise as possible from fall to spring – the big-selling months for brown spirits.

TV buys were the best way to achieve the broad reach we needed to compete during this critical sales period. The online environments, sports partnerships and repurposing of existing digital assets, maximized opportunities to further drive the experience. This would not only add to our impact during peak periods, but would be critical in maintaining share during the summer months when TV was not running.

We used our own value-based segmentation in defining the prime target. This segment’s media habits included two key uses: 1) using the internet as a source of entertainment and 2) sharing social experiences with their friends (particularly things that they find meaningful and entertaining).

So the creation of assets like the Slow Clap app, Ringtone, and online videos allowed us to send materials out into market at no cost by passing the distribution over to our Wiserhood Members.

a) Sales/Share Results

Cue the Slow Clap.

With the Wiserhood, Wiser’s DeLuxe was not only able to fend off negative momentum in the category, but actually spur growth year after year as the category continued to decline. [Crossover Note 9] Each of the business objectives was achieved, despite the strong market pressures.

Word-of-mouth awareness increased, as well as whisky-to-mouth sales. During the base period, Wiser’s DeLuxe was averaging about 374,000 (9L) cases in sales per month. Three and a half years later, absolute volume sales are up 8.5% over the base year. That’s over 30,000 more 9L cases a month than they were selling 3 1/2 years ago, vs a Canadian whisky category decline of -5.7%. And in terms of objectives, the annual average growth rate has been approximately double the 1% target. [Please open Footnote 3 in Attached Files.]

And from April 2008, even Crown Royal & Canadian Club found themselves losing ground, seeing decreases in volume sales (-0.9% & -13.5% respectively). [Footnote 4]

In outpacing its competition, Wiser’s DeLuxe achieved its second business objective: increase volume (and dollar) market share year over year.

The increase in volume market share of Wiser’s DeLuxe (WDL) from 10.4% to 12% by April 2012 would represent an approximate increase in yearly revenue of $3MM by the time the reporting period was complete, a total of just under $11MM over the entire campaign. [Please open Footnote 5.] 

Lastly, and arguably the most impressive, Wiser’s would finally surpass Canadian Club as the #2 selling Canadian whisky (volume sales). [Footnote 6.]

Did Wiser’s buy its results? No. Despite increasing investment, their media SOV has declined due to significant higher spends by key competitors. [Footnote 7] Even with particularly strong spends by Crown Royal & Canadian Club in 2010 & 2011, Wiser’s continued to grow.

Due to confidentiality we are unable to report profits and therefore ROI. However, based on a nearly $11 million return after approximately $3 million media investment over the 3 1/2 years of the campaign, we can be confident that the Wiserhood delivered on the bottom line.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Footnote 3: Association of Canadian Distillers, National OTC R12 Apr.12; 9-L Cases.
Footnote 4: Association of Canadian Distillers, National OTC R12 Apr.12; 9-L Cases.
Footnote 5: Association of Canadian Distillers, National OTC R12 Apr.12; 9-L Cases.
Footnote 6: Association of Canadian Distillers, National OTC R12 Apr.12; 9-L Cases.
Footnote 7: Offline Media Spends, Nielson, 2011

a) General Discussion

Small marketing budgets and low SOV tend not to bode well for an advertising campaign, especially in such a competitive category as whisky. But the Wiser’s results prove otherwise. Those same budgets and SOV percentages, amongst other indicators, help show exactly how the Wiserhood provided the cause and effect of those results. Specifically, we can gauge the effectiveness of advertising in the following ways:

  1. Growth in a declining market with declining SOV
  2. Awareness scores
  3. Age demographics
  4. Consumer engagement
  1. Declining SOV

As presented, year over year Wiser’s DeLuxe continued to lose SOV as their biggest competitors outspent them. So neither a reduction in spending by our competitors, nor a large increase in spending by Wiser’s can be cited as reasons for success.

 2. Awareness

Wiser’s focused advertising efforts in the late fall to early spring each year. Comparing these periods to the trends in unaided awareness scores, one can see the correlation: increase in advertising spend = increase in awareness and vice versa (decreases in awareness would occur through the summer months when the campaign wasn’t as active, but by each winter be up again). [Footnote 8]

Note that awareness for Wiser’s eventually surpasses Canadian Club, which coincides with DeLuxe taking over the #2 position in whisky volume sales.

Moreover, top of mind scores have improved significantly over the duration of the reporting period. In 2007 top of mind awareness for DeLuxe was 0%, it now rests at 8%. [Footnote 9]

Lastly, when asked “what whisky brands do you hear and see a lot more about?” in November 2008, 8% of respondents named Wiser’s DeLuxe. Now, 19% recall seeing the Wiserhood campaign. [Footnote 9]

 3. Age demographics

The Wiserhood was after a younger demographic (males 24-35) than what Wiser’s DeLuxe had previously been attracting. Over the past 4 years they’ve made quite a bit of headway. [Footnote 10]

And this approximate 4 point increase did not come at the expense of the older drinkers they feared they might alienate. 

 4. Consumer Engagement

Soon after launch, success was also seen in consumer engagement. Fans quickly joined The Wiserhood, first via the website, then the Facebook page. But definitely the most flattering were the many Wiserhood costumes and spoofs that popped up on Facebook & YouTube. They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Or is it effectiveness?

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Wiser’s incrementally increased media spends year over year, but SOV declined at the same time as they were out spent by competitors. Spending did not buy the business.


There was no unusual price discounting, and pricing in general maintained fairly constant. Wiser’s had only taken the occasional price increase when the LCBO increased floor pricing.  In fact both volume and dollar market share grew at the same pace indicating no fluctuations in pricing.

Distribution Changes:

Distribution efforts didn’t change Canada wide. In fact, at retail in Ontario (Wiser’s largest market) the LCBO is a highly controlled environment where all players in the category are given equal standing. 

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There was no out of the ordinary promotional activity. Sampling activities (Wiser’s main source of promotion) remained constant throughout the campaign, though now featuring The Wiserhood.

Other Potential Causes:

There are no other potential causes that could have contributed to Wiser’s DeLuxe success. The packaging and liquid remained the same, uncompromised for 150 years.

Footnote 8: GfK Research Dynamics, BRAND EQUITY MONITOR: WHISKY CATEGORY, March 2012.
Footnote 9: GfK Research Dynamics, BRAND EQUITY MONITOR: WHISKY CATEGORY, March 2012.
Footnote 10: GfK Research Dynamics, BRAND EQUITY MONITOR: WHISKY CATEGORY, March 2012.