In Sweden, the advertising rules for alcohol are very strict. You are essentially limited to only showing the bottle of your product, which may explain why so many Swedish brands have such exquisite bottle and label designs.
Mackmyra Swedish Whisky dared to be a little different in their social media accounts, showing sometimes a few more details than just the bottle as they spoke about their products. For this, they were sued. The Consumer Ombudsman (Swedish "konsumentombudsmannen" KO) sued Mackmyra for improper use of six different images in social media, and they won, as Mackmyra was convicted in the Patent and Market Court at the Stockholm District Court.
Realizing that the playing field is now different for any alcoholic beverages produced outside of Sweden on social media, vs Swedish brands like Mackmyra, the company has decided to take this conviction to the higher court, in defense of all Swedish alcohol brands rights to advertise themselves in competition with foreign brands on social media. To fund this, they have launched "Freedom Whisky".
The Mackmyra Freedom collection box contains Swedish Oak, Swedish Smoke, Mack by Mackmyra, Summer Time, Ten Years and Harvest Time. Each of the bottles is adorned with one of the "prohibited" images from the controversial court case.
The verdict in court sided with the consumer ombudsman, KO, that Mackmyra's images "do not live up to the image rule and the requirement for special moderation, allude to moods and emotions and that they attract special attention". They were fined one million SEK and explicity forbidden to run these specific images again.
You can't even attract special attention, aye? Really now. Let's have a look at these daring ad images, shall we? Check the slides below - these are the social media posts that were banned. Five Instagram posts and one Facebook post.
According to Mackmyra, they believe that Swedish rules should not be applied in this case because the images are aimed at target groups outside Sweden, in for example Great Britain and Germany.
Mackmyra, belive that the judgment distorts competition in an international market and affects an important industry for Sweden, which is why they are seeking to have it overturned. Not just for the world's only Swedish Whisky producer, but for all other Swedish alcohol brands such as Kopparbergs Cider and Absolut Vodka.
Magnus Dandanell, the founder of Mackmyra adds:
And to be clear: Mackmyra will always market and sell under responsibility - we have nothing against the Swedish responsible alcohol policy. But that we cannot show people or nature together with our products is fraught. Not that we make whisky in Gävle, but we also have the right to express ourselves. This is basically an issue of freedom of expression. It's worth fighting for.
The pictures also convey an overall picture of Mackmyra - Swedish nature, Swedish raw materials, crafts and innovation. Swedish alcohol legislation clearly states that the brand, raw materials and product information are approved in connection with image use.
The only other thing I would add to argue in the higher court is; is a social media post that is not paid-for promoted really advertising? Where is the line drawn for what is actual advertising these days? Sponsorships, sure. Paid for media, sure. TV commercials, posters and billboards, well obviously yes. But is a non-promoted post on a free social media channel really advertising? If so, then everyone is doing advertising day in and day out, including your 12-year old kid, and there are quite a few individuals that are breaking the consumer ombudsman's rules and regulations in Sweden. Ah, but they're individuals and not whiskey brands you say? But some influencers are brands, so there are quite a few more people the Swedish consumer Ombudsman could drag to court if they want to apply the rules evenly to everyone. Just saying.
To support Mackmyra in their next court battle, and try all the controversial Swedish Whiskys, order the limited edition "Freedom collection" here.