Full DisclosureHow we operate as a business.
Published: 6th February 2019
As a business, one of our objectives is to push for more clarity and transparency surrounding Scottish Gin. Where is it made? Who makes it? We felt it only right as a business that prides itself on asking others to be more clear that we too also operate with complete transparency.
With brands using social media, influencers, reviewers and bloggers to help promote their brand and products, we want to highlight and clarify how we work with the brands that are on our website and appear on our social media channels.
The Gin Cooperative
The Gin Cooperative is a commercial Limited Company. The sole Director of the business is Natalie Reid. The co-founders of The Gin Cooperative are Natalie and Martin Reid. The business is a consumer facing commercial business that was established to help share the story of Scottish Gin in a completely impartial and non-sales led way. The business provides the consumer with a variety of resources including a website and social media pages where the consumer can discover, explore, learn and educate themselves about Scottish Gin.
Natalie gave up full-time employment to set-up The Gin Cooperative. We took pretty much our life savings and invested this into the development of our website but also to cover Natalie’s outgoings for the first 6 months of business including the dreaded mortgage!
We believed we could do something great for Scottish Gin. We believed we could create a premium website. We believed we could add value to the story of Scottish Gin and help deliver more transparency for the consumer. We are passionate about Scottish Gin.
We’d asked some of the gin makers during our initial market research if being on our website was something they would pay for. Naively, we didn’t ask all the gin makers if they would be willing to pay, but the ones who had engaged with us as part of our market research did say they would be willing to pay an annual contribution to support our activities, especially as we had made it clear from day one we would only be working with Scottish Gin makers and brands that were actually distilled, cold compounded or rectified in Scotland.
We wanted to support all the gin makers and brands, small, medium and large and we wanted to make sure they were all offered the same cost. No sliding scale based on production, everyone treated as being the same. We didn’t want the consumer to have to pay to learn more about Scottish Gin, so a modest annual financial contribution from the gin makers and brands was the best option.
When we introduced the concept of an annual fee to be on the website and additional benefits we were given a variety of feedback. We provided a cost and a package which saw over 50% say yes. Many of the small brands said they couldn’t budget for the cost and couldn’t come on board. Some gin makers were perplexed that we wanted to suddenly introduce a cost to be involved.
One gin maker told us even if it cost a pound they wouldn’t sign up, ouch! We were asked why would anyone pay to be involved with us when others were doing the exact same thing for free. We took this on the chin as we were unproven, had come from nowhere and were now asking for a fee to be on our website. We knew not everyone would want to be involved and we knew we had a lot to prove.
Once we explained what we were doing was different to anyone else and actually met gin makers face to face, we found a lot of common ground concerning fake provenance, their own business challenges and even talking about the joys and pitfalls of parenthood and running a small business. We explained the money generated would be used for the maintenance of the website and various operational activities. It would hopefully eventually generate a small income for Natalie. Martin would work for free and wouldn’t take any money out of the business. We were delighted when the first few gin makers and brands came on board. Eventually after a few weeks, and with a revised pricing model we saw a fantastic uptake from gin makers of all sizes.
Our Business Model
We believe we have created a fantastic platform for Scottish Gin. Both our website and social media channels are carefully curated to create the best Scottish Gin experience for our audience. Meeting our own very high standards takes up a lot of time and resources. At the moment we can’t do what we do without requiring a financial contribution from the Scottish Gin makers. We are humbled that Scottish Gin makers and brands see value in what we do and share our objectives about how Scottish Gin should be spoken about and how it should be presented to a growing audience who want to learn, discover and explore more about Scottish Gin.
Premium Gin Maker Profile
The Scottish Gin brands who are official stakeholders with The Gin Cooperative pay an annual fee for a premium profile on our website. Gin makers and brand owners all pay the exact same annual fee, regardless of their size, production or finances. This means we manage and maintain their profile so if they release a new gin we will add it and maintain their profile for them. Stakeholders are also the first to be given new profile features. Stakeholders have no editorial control over their profile page.
Stakeholders are also provided with additional benefits of being included on our free downloadable resources like our Bottle Poster and Gin Map. Stakeholders are also invited to take part in editorial features, competitions and other activities we undertake, for example, brands are automatically given the opportunity to be involved with International Scottish Gin Day at no additional cost.
We didn’t want a two tier directory that was missing some gin brands or to punish the consumer by leaving anyone off, although at one stage we did consider removing the profiles for the gin makers who didn’t want to be involved. In the end, we decided it was fairer for the consumer and the gin brands who didn’t want to work with us if we gave them a basic profile. They get a basic profile that we manage and get to be on the free downloadable assets so the consumer can still see a full picture of Scottish Gin, but we don’t engage in any additional activities.
Our door is always open to all Scottish Gin makers. We’re delighted to be working with so many great people, many of whom we consider friends and many who share the same objectives and views on Scottish Gin as ourselves. We don’t and never will put pressure on anyone to work with us. We’ve had it done to us over the years and it just isn’t very professional.
To ensure we were not misleading or could be accused of any wrongdoing, we asked the ASA about the gin maker profiles and how we go about promoting the profiles and sharing links for our audience to discover the gin brands in our directory.
“We would advise that if the gin makers have no editorial control over the content of their listing on the site, don’t require you to post about them a particular number of times or on particular dates or social media platforms, and you aren’t paid for each attributable ‘click-throughs’ from the listings (as in an affiliate marketing scheme), these listings are unlikely to be considered advertising by the ASA and CAP. If they’re not subject to the CAP Code, the ASA and CAP’s requirement to label the post as advertising would not apply.”
We also sought advice about the editorial content we create to check if it could be considered advertorial or sponsorship.
“An advertorial (or ‘advertising feature’) is a piece of content in editorial space which is paid for by a brand and over which they exercise some degree of editorial control. If a confectionary brand gives your favourite blogger a goody-bag on condition that they write positively about it, that’s an ad. If a travel company sends a vlogger on a free trip to the Andes on condition that they have final editorial sign-off for any videos made about it, those are ads.”
“Sponsorship only has the ‘payment’ element and leaves editorial control entirely with the creator; these are not ads for the purposes of the CAP Code. If a computer company gives or lends a vlogger a PC on condition that they give an honest review, that’s not an ad. If a car company financially supports a series of news articles, but has no editorial input, that’s not an ad.
However, such arrangements are still subject to consumer protection laws and the attention of the Competition and Markets Authority.”
To clarify, all the brands we work with including gin brands, tonics and mixers, bars and other brands, businesses or named individuals who appear on our website, including those who feature in our editorial content, have no editorial control over the content.
The only time a brand or individual will have input into editorial content is when the format is a Q&A. We provide a number of questions for them to answer. We still retain full editorial control and in some cases have had to change content because we felt it was too sales oriented or made claims that couldn’t be verified. If grammatical errors, incorrect factual details or broken links are brought to our attention once an article is published, we will amend.
Where we take photography as part of an editorial feature, we will offer the photos to the brand for them to use free of charge. All we ask is that we are given the appropriate photo credit. We retain full copyright over all the content we create including original photos.
We have full editorial control over the content we post and share on our social media channels. We are not paid to share content from brands. We are not asked to post regular posts that feature their brands or products. We don’t operate an affiliate scheme where we get paid to direct traffic to specific brands or retailers.
We do not buy followers. We do not buy likes. With our experience of working in marketing and advertising, we know this strategy doesn’t work. It doesn’t add any real value to brands or the content being published or shared on social media. This approach isn’t for us. Yes it’s a slow process building a genuine audience but we feel long term we want an audience who is engaged, sees value in our content and we hope will find our content both educational, fun and will help them discover Scottish Gin.
We invite brands to be involved in our competitions. There is no cost to the brand other than providing the prize to the winner/s. The brands who take part in our competitions do not have any editorial control over how our competitions are run, including frequency, graphics, terms or any other aspects.
As we’re not a sales led business, we don’t sell gin nor do we have any affiliate schemes with any retailers, we don’t have specific KPIs to show gin sales in relation to our business. We also don’t undertake national advertising campaigns that could be tracked to gauge an increase in sales.
What we do get from time to time are inbound enquiries from a variety of businesses looking for either contact details, introductions or to purchase gins. These have included enquiries from America, Europe, Australia and more. Where possible, we verify these leads before passing them directly to the gin brand to follow up. We do not make any commission or money from passing on these opportunities.
We’ve also been told directly by gin brands that they’ve had large orders as a result of someone coming across their brand on our website. This isn’t to say that everyone who places an order with a gin maker will declare they found them through our website or social media activities.
We don’t guarantee being part of The Gin Cooperative will lead to direct sales. However, we have received positive feedback from online retailers (linked from gin maker’s profiles), one stating “visitors spend more time on the site and browse more pages than the average visitor and the conversion rate in terms of sales is much higher than the site average”.
Our focus is on generating brand awareness and sharing the story of Scottish Gin, which plays a massive role helping the public discover a brand and in turn helps the consumer make informed decisions when purchasing gin. We also know that a variety of on and off trade businesses regularly use our website to see what’s going on in the world of Scottish Gin.
We don’t pass on contact details for any of the brands featured on our website without first seeking permission of the brand owner.
We don’t review gin. There are plenty of great people doing that job fantastically well already. Gin and taste are so subjective and we encourage consumers to discover what they like and don’t like for themselves. There are gins out there that we don’t like and others do and there are gins we like and others don’t, so we keep that in mind with everything we do – we try to be impartial and fair and it’s not for us to judge the quality of gin.
The only time we request gin from a gin maker is so we can use their bottle in a photoshoot. Sometimes we’re sent a full bottle of gin, sometimes containing water, sometimes empty. We don’t resell gin nor do we pass it onto anyone as a gift (our friends and family hate us!)
We’re sometimes offered free tickets to gin events. We accept these on the understanding that we are under no obligation to promote the event or review. Any opinions we give about an event are our own and free from any bias or influence.
On-Trade, Off-Trade, Hospitality
Although one of our objectives is to support small independents – bars, bottle shops and other business who stock and sell gin, we have no official links to any one business in the On-Trade, Off-Trade and Hospitality sectors.
The Gin Community, Collaboration and Working Together
We’ve met a lot of fantastic, amazing people all contributing to the world of Scottish Gin. Reviewers, bloggers, content creators and more. All producing brilliant content. We don’t ask any of our connections to share our content. We’ve also never been asked to share any of theirs. We share what we like, when we like on our social media pages, free from bias or influence.
The door is always open and the gin shelf is always filled
We’re not big fans of drama (other than the inevitable 2 and 3 year olds’ tantrums), however we do understand we might not always get things right. If we do post something you don’t agree with or feel we’ve got something wrong please get in touch. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders to ensure we’re doing things right. We also have a responsibility to our audience to ensure our content is both engaging and factually correct.
We can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance or via private message on our various social media channels.