Where did it come from? Seriously … four years ago no one knew it existed and now it is arguably the most popular shot in America.
And whether you love it or secretly love it (face it people, for all but the most bitter of palettes its pretty damn good), it’s an undeniable reprieve from the harder options to which we continually subject ourselves.
But none of that answers the question of how it came to be what it is today in such a short time.
Fireball knows this, and they like it that way.
Consciously quiet on the specifics of their strategy, what can be deducted by simple observation and internet access is that they seem to have been the first company to really understand that if you can get the bartenders and servers to start drinking it … everyone else will follow suit.
Those of us in the industry have known this for years … but no one thought to ask. After all, what do we know? … we’re just bartenders.
The result has been an unprecedented rise in market share, from almost nothing in 2011 to 6.8% of all liquor sales in 2013 according to industry research firm Restaurant Sciences. And while those numbers mean very little to the layperson, a much simpler analysis proving the same point can be conducted by anyone at a nightlife venue with a median age under 40: sit at the bar and watch it fly off the shelves. It’s crazy.
This development is especially perplexing considering the product has actually been around for quite some time. Originally developed by a group of bartenders in Canada, the product was first marketed as Dr. McGillicuddy’s Fireball Whisky in the early 2000s. Then in 2006 the brand got a facelift to the current name and image.
This combined with a marketing shift focusing on the industry itself seems to have been the secret to their success.
They now enjoy the most vocal and loyal following in the industry.
“We just made a calendar with the top 12 fireball bars in the country … fans literally travel to each of them to crush shots”, says Fireball rep Justin Meigs.
Then there are the bars that do $1 Fireball shots anytime a firetruck passes, the five foot tall Fireball ice luges … and some pretty wild tattoos.
For those into social media, another piece of evidence is their interaction data, as they have a 10% “talking about” rate on a half million fans which is unheard of (the average is 1-3%).
And the company seems to be having as much fun as the patrons drinking it. Their marketing is surprisingly ”non-corporate” both in budget and message, never shying away from the manner in which their product is used (to party).
This is a nice dose of honesty, refreshingly different from brands that clearly rely on bar culture yet insist their product is nothing more than a digestif that is meant to be sipped slowly.
Regardless of the strategy, it doesn’t seem like the phenomenon is ending anytime soon. In 2013 the product even cracked the top 10 list for top selling brands (passing Jose Cuervo Tequila).
Looks like the industry staples are simply going to have to make room.