Thanks for Nothing

Let’s face it. All companies make mistakes. But while most organizations try their darnedest to cover up those mistakes, Knob Creek has taken the high road. The liquor brand has admitted an error and used it as an opportunity to highlight the quality of their products and thank customers for their loyalty.

Beam Global Spirits & Wines prides itself on Knob Creek Bourbon. Unlike the typical four year aging process for bourbon, Knob Creek is aged to perfection for a full nine years.  Due to the length of the product’s aging process, the company has to predict demand pretty far in advance. And this makes them susceptible to a shortage.

And sure enough, an increased demand for bourbons in the last couple years, especially aged ones, has threatened to deplete the supply of Knob Creek bourbon until the next shipment is ready in November. Instead of covering the problem up by bottling bourbon that hasn’t aged the full nine years, Knob Creek has decided to take the high road by admitting their error and thanking their customers…for nothing.

Knob Creek worked with agency Doe Anderson to create ads that ran in high profile newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that admitted to the forecasting error and thanked customers for their loyalty to the Knob Creek brand. The print ads showcased an empty bottle of Knob Creek with the headline “Thanks for Nothing.”

Knob Creek_Print

In case you can’t read it, the body copy says:

You see, since we have so many loyal customers out there, demand for Knob Creek® Bourbon has finally outstripped supply. And rather than compromise quality for quantity, we’re letting it run out. Until the next batch is finished aging its full 9 years. So you may experience something of a shortage at your local liquor store very soon. But not to worry, the next batch will be bottled and on the shelf in November. We appreciate your understanding and your love of Knob Creek.

In addition to these highly visible print ads, Knob Creek played with public relations by sending empty bottles of their bourbon to press spirits reporters, Knob Creek loyalists, bloggers and distributors. The empty bottle came with a note explaining the shortage:

Dear Knob Creek® lover,

It seems you’ve helped cause a bit of a “situation” here at the distillery. See, because you, and many others like you, have been such loyal consumers, we’ve temporarily run out of Knob Creek Bourbon. And for that you deserve a huge thanks.

With that said, it’s quite possible that you might not be able to find us in our usual places for a bit. Should this happen, take a deep breath and keep in mind that our next batch will be fully matured and ready to go this November (we’d bottle it now to boost supply, but then it wouldn’t be aged a full 9 years and it wouldn’t really be Knob Creek).

And once you’ve weathered the storm, be sure to proudly sport this t-shirt commemorating this historic event.

Now, hang in there and cherish every drop of Knob Creek like it’s the last, because, well, it could be. Until November anyway.


Your friends at Knob Creek

P.S. If you can’t find a bottle of Knob Creek anywhere, visit and find out which locations (if any) in your area are lucky enough to have a few bottles left on their shelves.

We all learn in marketing classes that scarcity is attractive. Bourbon fans will run out and buy Knob Creek before the supply runs out. In the short term, this Knob Creek “drought” could actually boost the brand’s image. The liquor shortage may even result in greater name recognition, and it could attract new customers who weren’t Knob Creek drinkers before.

The challenge will come for Knob Creek if the shortage lasts more than a few months. For bourbon enthusiasts who want their Knob Creek now, a couple months is a long time to wait. Some customers will probably switch to a comparable product.

Knob Creek could have acted in the name of profit by opting to sell a product that didn’t quite meet their quality standards. But chose not to cut corners. And for this reason, I think the company is a good role model for other brands. It’s always good to admit you’ve made a mistake…and you may even be able to use it to your advantage. Sure, some customers may turn to other bourbon brands during the shortage, but True Knob Creek fans will know that the quality of the bourbon is worth the wait.


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