I have chatted with a number of people lately, both in and out of the alcohol industry, about the continued widespread use of the so-called experts who come in at eight figure fees to “advise” corporations on how to improve business performance.
I’ve had more than my share of exposure to these firms over the years and one of the reasons I enjoy the non-corporate life is not having to deal with consultants who ask for your watch so they can tell you what
time it is.
Too many choices.
Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerrys, is having some problems. Their stock is down, the new line of products has been delayed for a year and there are rumors of corporate sharks looking to take a bite out of them.
In the view of most observers, the problem stems from too many choices. Since 2007, they have introduced 37 models including BlackBerrys that flip, slide, with touch screens, touch screens and keyboards, high and low end products. The product line is too complicated. In a recent NY Times article, a market research firm estimated that their market share slipped from almost half in 2009 to roughly 10 percent in the US.
Compare that to Apple’s iPhone. There have only been four since 2008 and all were the same but differed only in storage or capabilities from earlier models. Apple made it simple and less is more.
I was always fascinated by Seagram’s Gin and at a recent lunch with a former production friend, we reminisced about the brand. I thought I would share that with my Seagram readers.
When I came to Seagram, the brand was selling at roughly the 3.3 million case levels. Thanks to Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice rap song, it grew to close to 4 million cases by the late 1990s. Today, the brand is still the leading gin but its sales are in the 2.5 million case range.
The product story of Seagram’s Gin epitomized the fundamental values of the company. In the commitment to quality and brand differentiation, someone way back when (perhaps Mr. Sam himself) decided that an American Dry Gin could be smoother and more tasteful if it were rested in charred oak barrels for 90 days. That resulted in a more expensive proposition and gave the product a pale straw color. Then, they decided to put it in an “ancient bottle” which evolved into the “bumpy” bottle the brand uses today.
That’s the headline in a recent online posting on the Star Tribune (Twin Cities paper) website. Here’s an excerpt:
“Upper Midwesterners drink more. Could it be our northern European roots? The weather?”
The story goes on to report that Minnesota is one of the top 5 drinking states in the US. Experts point out that part of the explanation is that many residents in the upper Midwest are descendants from countries with high alcohol consumption. Another reason given, of course, is the long cold winters and indoor activity that goes nicely with alcohol consumption.
It reminded me of a story I heard from the late Jerry Mann about the adventures of booze salesperson in the upper Midwest. (See March 25, 2010 for another tale.)