Crown Royal

Crown Royal has always been an iconic brand. But to me it’s been a bit of a mystery.

When I first met it as a consumer, it was the brand my grandfather served when company came over. Philadelphia Whiskey was his usual fare but his Crown Royal was special.

I’m not an historian on the brand but from what I can gather over the years, at the outset it had important equities but just needed a spark. The taste was great and unlike other whiskies at the time, unique packaging inside and outside, a back story about the royal visit to Canada and very aspirational look and feel. The spark occurred when oil workers from Canada working in the Gulf of Mexico (way before the current disaster) came to Gulf cities on their night off, with pockets full of money, and wanted the best whiskey they knew from home…Crown Royal.

As the story goes, this set off the growth and proliferation of the brand, primarily in the South.

It was marketed in the Seagram days in a classic brand-building manner. ‘Push’ and ‘pull’ efforts worked together successfully and the brand grew — even while vodka was growing by leaps and bounds.

The sales and regional marketing component, orchestrated by Jim Reichardt, was top of the game. All the activity was integrated and based on strategy, from the distributor focus to programming to ‘pull’ activity at retail. Above all, carefully thought through marketing innovations were introduced under Jimmy’s watch.

On the national marketing side, programs were developed to maximize the equity – especially the bag – and develop relationships with the core consumer. And, the advertising was that unique combination of creative excellence combined with brand recognition and sell. Not your average garden-variety ad campaign.

Everything on the brand was done for strategic reasons. The sole line extension (at the time) was Crown Royal Special Reserve whose intent was to protect the brand’s flank from above and make a price-value statement about the base brand. It was not to make a number. In fact, many worried about cannibalization of the base brand, which never occurred. At one point, both were growing at double digits.

Lately I’ve been looking at Crown Royal and how it’s doing. Last year was a tough one for the brand as it was for most high-end spirits. But I noticed the following in WSD the other day–

“…Furthermore, Trevor {analyst} believes the promotional support … behind Crown Royal ‘seems to be paying off,’ perhaps partly helped by its new, more expensive offering, Crown Royal Black.”

I also noticed that there are 5 Crown Royal products in the line.

I think my grandfather would have been confused.

Continue Reading

True Fans

I got a lot of comment (mostly positive so far) about my last posting on “How Small is the Market.”

Like many businesses, the market for alcohol follows the old 20/80 rule. Twenty percent of your customers account for 80% of your business.

I came across a posting on a marketing blog that goes the next step.

I follow Seth Godin, a marketing guru, a prolific writer and someone well worth following and reading. Lots of insights.

A recent post of his is called “The circles (no more strangers)” and deals with the value of a “true fan” vs. “strangers.”

He concludes his posting with:

Let’s say a marketer has $10,000 to spend. Is it better to acquire new customers at $2,000 each (advertising is expensive) or spend $10 a customer to absolutely delight and overwhelm 1,000 true fans?

Check out his blog…there’s good stuff there. Here’s a link to this posting  —  Seth’s Blog

Continue Reading

How small is the market?

I’m always struck by the size of the spirits category and small number of dedicated drinkers of a particular brand. (Based on US Census and Gallup’s annual survey.)

Let’s do some math (or trust me and skip ahead to the fact that there are ‘only’ 24 million core spirits drinkers)…

  • US population over 21 is around 200 million.
  • 60% of those over 21 drink alcohol at least occasionally, 120 million people.
  • People who drink spirits most often (as opposed to wine or beer) are about 20% of those who drink alcohol. So now we’re down to 24 million spirits drinkers.

(Actually the overall number who drinks spirits is much higher; perhaps 80% of alcohol drinkers or close to 100 million. But I’m focusing on most often, the core of the market.)

The size of the core market at 24 million people can be seen as huge or small depending on your perspective.

If half these drinkers consume Vodka, that’s 12 million people. But, if a brand has a 25% share, the size of the ‘franchise’ is only 3 million consumers.  (The numbers get smaller as you get into different categories.)

What this has always meant to me is, in addition to or perhaps in place of mass media, marketers need to think in terms of ‘a rifle not a shotgun’. Maybe even with a telescopic lens.

Whether aiming at increasing brand loyalty or converting users of competitive brands, it’s all about the return on investment. Efforts such as relationship building programs, digital marketing, database marketing and point of sale programs, to name a few.

Just like the old expression – fish where the fish are… but with a rod and reel not a net.

I bet you knew that.

Continue Reading