KIRBY, Wyo. — The video’s visuals are warm, Western and backed by finger-picked guitar strings.
Clouds sweep across a high plain, buffalo roam in front of a mountain range, a river cuts through a valley.
“The bourbon frontier has moved west,” a voice says. “The river, the road, the train tracks — they all lead into the Big Horn Basin and a little town called Kirby.”
It’s a one-minute video, posted by Kirby-based Wyoming Whiskey on its Facebook page in advance of their recent and much-anticipated first offering of the first bourbon whiskey made in the state.
The company’s full-spectrum approach is a big-time move for a Wyoming small business, said Juliette Rule, who manages social media at Cheyenne-based Sierra Trading Post, an outdoor equipment seller. But the company’s efforts earn high marks from Rule, and hundreds of Facebook fans agree.
“They do very nice in that (video) piece alone of setting a scene, a tone, a mood, and they’re letting that tell the brand’s story,” Rule said. “That was nice to see.”
Wyoming Whiskey used a full-press electronic marketing campaign to market its bourbon rollout, from a plush website to a “Whiskey Barons” membership email list and social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
The company’s efforts clearly worked. Wyoming Whiskey’s first batch, limited and available only to Wyomingites, sold out to retailers in four minutes and stores who filled pre-orders from customers quickly found themselves sold out as well.
“We’re getting calls from other states wondering when it’s going to be in their state,” said Donna Nally, director of tourism and public relations at Wyoming Whiskey. “It’s going to be a year at least — at least a year.
Rule said the company is selling far more than bourbon — it’s selling the magic and mystery of the West and Wyoming in particular. That’s something Bourbon Country in Kentucky can’t do.
“What they’re selling in a way is the romance of Wyoming, and that market is of course much broader than Wyoming,” she said. “So taking that approach is a great way of differentiating themselves in the market.”
The company’s Double W brand could’ve been something else. The company’s small group of leaders, including Brad and Kate Mead, considered some initial thoughts on the whiskey name. The Meads first suggested using the family cattle brand - a double T stacked, Nally said. But they all eventually decided to instead use the state’s name as a moniker to truly mark the bourbon as a Wyoming exclusive.
And so, the company’s sturdy Double W brand is now spread across each bottle of its bourbon.
“I thought it was very important that the ‘Wyoming Whiskey’ be on there,” said Nally, whose husband, Steve, is Wyoming Whiskey’s master distiller. She was worried that “people weren’t going to make the connection with Wyoming whiskey,” she said.
That distinctive logo and the imagery that accompanies it on the company’s website also crosses into the company’s marketing efforts on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Rule examined Facebook measurements of engagement of those following Wyoming Whiskey’s Facebook updates, and she says they’re impressive.
“They get it. They’re telling a story, and that’s the way you do social media marketing,” Rule said. “And then you let those stories distill.”
Even for relatively simple posts, such as a photo of the bourbon-making operation, many fans chose to share the post or show approval by clicking the “like” under it. Wyoming Whiskey has shown it understands how to build audience, anticipation and excitement by what its staff puts online, Rule said.
“Getting stuff to go viral doesn’t have to come at a high production cost, they know that,” Rule said. “It helps, but it’s really more about being useful and interesting. That’s because social media marketing is storytelling.”
The company set up its website and then began an email marketing campaign for what it called Whiskey Barons, or those who signed up for email updates on the company’s bourbon. Nally said 5,000 to 6,000 so-called Whiskey Barons have signed up, with more joining recently as people have heard about the new whiskey’s release.
Those who signed up and retailers attended an exclusive event on Dec. 1 marking the bourbon’s rollout.
Bourbon lovers hit the Wyoming Whiskey website when the first bottle came out, adding up to 10,000 page views, or hits, Nally said.
“That was phenomenal,” she said. “People have been watching.”
Still, for now, only Wyoming gets the whiskey named after it.
“We’ve got a loyal fan base, and the pride of the people of Wyoming for this bourbon whiskey.”
“It’s just been phenomenal, the interest and the loyalty for the brand, and they haven’t even tasted it yet,” said Nally, interviewed just before Wyoming customers got their first taste of the bourbon.
So what’s next for Wyoming Whiskey?
“The first thing we need to do is get more bourbon,” Nally said.