The Inventor

Maurice Kanbar is among a select group of entrepreneurs who have changed the spirits industry. And, he’s still at it.

Like my earlier posting about David van de Velde, Maurice is another visionary businessman who has spent a lifetime on finding a hole and filling it. Maurice has been inventing, designing and developing a host of products ranging from films and how we watch them, to surgical instruments, to things, that when we see them, we say “now why didn’t I think of that?” The man has thirty patents and products to his credit.

I first met him in the early days of Skyy Spirits when I was sent on a fool’s errand to see if he would be willing to chat about an acquisition. This was in the late 1990s and the brand was just starting its ascendency. We were feeling the effects of its growth and one of the geniuses in Sweden thought we might be able to “buy him out.” After just a few minutes of chatting, he asked the key question – why sell while the brand is still growing. Duh. Sure got my respect.

But what I really admire about him is his judgment and intuition balanced by the tenacity of an inventive mind.

Examples:

He complains to a doctor friend that he gets headaches and a hangover from Cognac. His friend explains about congeners and tells him to drink vodka. The next thing that happens, he studies the world of spirits, makes advancements to the distillation and filtering systems and creates Skyy Vodka.

At the time, no one in the food or beverage business used blue for packaging – don’t ask me why…I once got my butt chewed for presenting a new product in blue packaging. Maurice didn’t let this narrow, stay in the box thinking confine him. I don’t know for sure, but I suppose he was thinking Skyy = blue. Another duh.

When his brand starts growing, he’s smart enough to surround himself with people who know the business like Foglio and Ruvo.

So he’s an interesting guy, to say the least.

His newest effort is Blue Angel Vodka, which he says is based on further advancements in distillation that produces an ultra smooth product. But the really cool part about it, in my opinion, is that the inventor has further increased his marketing skills. First, his signature drink is the Blue Angel Martini (BAM as he calls it) made with blue curacao. Also, I like his tongue-in-cheek slogan – “the world’s second best vodka; we’re still looking for the best.”

On second thought maybe he should stick to inventing.

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Advertising (2) — Creativity

If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative. David Ogilvy (O&M)

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. David Ogilvy.

Is creativity in brand communication getting better, getting worse or staying the same?

Ad agency execs will tell you that creativity is alive and well and that memorable and effective advertising is as prevalent today as it was in the past. They will also add that the fragmentation of media creates an environment whereby delivering a highly effective message is diffused and expensive. And, the new media options (digital) require new forms of creativity.

The detractors will take the view that the demise of mainstream media has hurt creativity but not as much as the changes in the advertising business itself. They point out that only small, independent shops can replicate the talent of the past. The large agencies are too busy worrying about overhead and financials than concentrating on the quality of the work.

An ad agency executive friend of mine who sold his shop to one of the conglomerates tells the story of an annual agency-wide meeting a few years ago:

All the company Presidents were asked to report on the activities of their business unit. Speaker after speaker – from New York to New Delhi – talked about revenues, profitability, new business development, overhead, etc. Finally one exec from a highly creative firm couldn’t stand it anymore and got up and shouted, “Are we ever going to talk about the f*****g work we produce?”

What’s your view? Is the advertising creative in the booze business better or worse than it used to be? Hit the comment button to the upper right of this posting and let me know your view. Or, send me an email.

Finally, the most appropriate quote from David Ogilvy for this blog…

Many people – and I think I am one of them – are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Advertising – The Client

Two of my favorite quotes about advertising:

“Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol, which is the brand image.” David Ogilvy (O&M)

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes…” Phil Dusenberry (BBDO)

Years ago when I was in marketing research, the CEO of a midsized company and a good friend asked me to conduct some focus groups on a new campaign his ad agency had developed. After doing the work, I came back with the recommendation that he proceed – the message was in line with the strategy and consumers liked the creative effort.

He kept challenging me on each and every positive insight I shared with him. Finally, in exasperation I asked my friend/client what is the problem. He looked at me and said, “Arthur, there is nothing you can tell me that will change how I feel. I hate the campaign.” “So why did you bother to hire me to test it,” I asked. “I was hoping consumers would hate it as well. Now I’ll just kill it on my own.”

Our debate continued. “What don’t you like about it?” “I just don’t like it,” was the reply. “Well why not give your agency some guidelines for what you’re looking for?”

“Listen” he said, “I’ll know good advertising when I see it.”

Oh, it’s good to be the CEO.

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