Where’s the alcohol section?

The late Bob Dubin once told me a story about the folks he had to deal with at Allied Domecq.

It seems they weren’t very happy with the way their brands were being run in the States (New York in particular) and one of their top ranking marketing people was coming over for a series of meetings to get to the reasons behind the poor performance.

A senior member of the NY sales team met the executive at the airport when he came through customs. He ushered him to his car and told him that the plan for the first day was to bring him to the hotel, get settled and then they would tour the market.

“I hope to see stores as they really are and not have one of your set up visits,” said the marketing guy. To which the sales person replied, “any store you like…you’re staying in Manhattan so lets start there. You choose.”

A few minutes went by and the visitor exclaimed that he needed to go to a drug store right away. “Please find one close by.”

Thinking that he must have had a headache or some other physical ailment from the flight, the salesman pulled off the expressway and stopped at the first drug chain store he saw.

He was gone for about 10 minutes then came storming out, got back in the car and complained loudly and bitterly that he had looked all over the store and couldn’t find any of their brands.

The salesman patiently explained that in NY, the sale of alcohol was not allowed in drugstores.

“But it is allowed in other states isn’t it?”

“Yes, in a few states” said the salesman.

“So, if you and your associates weren’t so damn lazy, you’d get the law changed, wouldn’t you?”

The salesman didn’t bother to explain.

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Brand Nicknames

There is an interesting article in this week’s Ad Age on Belvedere and their new advertising campaign.


Not much more for me to add other than what I said in the article.

However, what I didn’t say and was thinking at the time of the interview was why go in this direction in the first place? Most brands I know that are called for by nickname have traction and a following e.g., Crown, Jack, Captain, Stoli, etc.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to further develop the brand on-premise rather than through ATL spending? Even if the message was strong.

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Focus groups – the fantasy that keeps on giving

If you’re a consumer and asked to participate in a focus group, do it. It’s a good gig…you get paid to give your opinions and reactions to ideas and concepts. And, it can be fun.

If you’re a spirits marketer and have a yen to sit behind a one way mirror (kind of a voyeur thing), eat M&Ms, lousy pizza (or sushi), stale pretzels and listen to a boring moderator and consumers who are lying through their teeth about what they drink and why…well, that’s a great way to get away from home and feel like you’re in touch with the market. Dream on.

Truth of it is focus groups among consumers in the booze business are a waste of time. The moderator is putting on a show for those behind the one-way mirror. Those behind the mirror spend their time playing with their computers and asking the moderator to pose questions that meet their preconceived points of view.

This may not be true in many consumer businesses but, in my experience, describes focus groups in the booze industry.

I know because I’ve been on both side of the one-way mirror (moderator or observer) for literally scores if not hundreds of group sessions.

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