Lillet puts women at the centre of new campaign

Who: Corby Spirit and Wine (for its aperitif brand Lillet) with Mint, Studio Sophomore for production, Darling VFX and Grayson Matthews for audio.

What: “Lillet her way,” a new Toronto-centric campaign that aims to grow the brand among the city’s female drinkers. Lillet is already popular among bar and restaurant-owners, and a fixture on trendy cocktail lists, but the campaign is aimed at boosting its brand recognition (and sales) among women.

When & Where: The campaign broke with some social teasers in late July, but formally launched this week with a digital and print ‘zine entitled Her Way and an Instagram account. It is being promoted via paid social and influencer marketing, as well as on-premise marketing. Her Way is also available via a dedicated website, while Mint created 1,000 print copies that are being distributed through female-operated businesses in the city. The campaign runs through the fall.

Why: According to Mint, the campaign is a response to the spirit industry’s failure to be “reflective of the complexity and depth of the modern woman.”

Kim Tarlo, who joined Mint as executive creative director earlier this year, says that many alcohol brands are trying to “shake off the dust” when it comes to outdated attitudes towards women, but there is still a gap in how they are both marketed to and portrayed in alcohol marketing.

“The idea we brought to Corby is that everyone is speaking on behalf of women, but what would happen if we allowed her to speak,” says Tarlo. “There are some brands that are really trying to open up how they depict women.”

The campaign arrives against the backdrop of what some are calling the spirits industry’s “me too” moment (see below).

How: The campaign is anchored by a digital zine built around the idea of “by women, for women.” It contains the stories of nine Canadian female creators who are disrupting traditionally male-dominated industries by being “unapologetically themselves.”

They include model and transgender activist Jordan Adrienne, musician Luna and celebrated chef Eimear de la Rosa. Recipes for cocktails made with Lillet are also included in the zine, which features photography by the Lebanese-Iranian Toronto-based photographer Renata Kaveh.

Mint describes the ‘zine as “a platform for self-expression where remarkable women collaborate with the brand to share how they’ve forged their own paths in under-represented industries by embracing what makes them unique and different.”

And we quote: “As we build consumer awareness for Lillet, we wanted to clearly articulate what we stand for as a brand—that Lillet believes in celebrating our individual uniqueness and doing things in your own way.” — Aoife O’Reilly, brand manager, CorbySpirit and Wine

About that controversy: The spirits industry, and the whisky segment in particular, is in the midst of a reckoning of sorts, with controversy surrounding British whisky expert Jim Murray and his annual Whisky Bible.

Murray is widely regarded as the whisky industry’s equivalent to wine expert Robert Parker, and being proclaimed his World Whisky of the Year can provide an enormous sales boost (as anyone trying to buy a bottle of Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye in 2015 can attest).

But prominent whisky critic Becky Paskin called out Murray in a blistering thread on Twitter last weekend, noting the “sexist and vulgar” nature of the tasting notes in his book. She noted 34 references to whisky being “sexy” in the 2020 edition of the Whisky Bible, as well as sentences like this, describing a Canadian Club whisky: “Have I had this much fun with a sexy 41-year-old Canadian before? Well, yes I have. But it was a few years back now and it wasn’t a whisky. Was the fun we had better? Probably not.”

The fallout has been significant, with spirits brands including Diageo and Pernod Ricard denouncing Murray’s language, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society noting that it recently introduced new guidelines to ensure its tasting notes “do not cross the line.” Beam Suntory, whose Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye was named World Whisky of the Year by Murray just last week, announced this week that it would pause all PR activity around the award.


Chris Powell