Start Ups

Ever since Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose in 2005 for billions of dollars, the industry has attracted many entrepreneurs with the dream of inventing a brand, building it, flipping it and moving on to the next one.

It’s a good thing. The growth of the industry, any industry, depends on the infusion of new ideas, capabilities and fresh passion. Look at the rising stars, fast track and hot brands of the industry. You’ll find lots of entrepreneurial and start up brands.

And, as I mentioned in previous posts, success comes from hard work and the tenacity of people not large corporations.

But for every winner there are loads of wannabes whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. An investment banker friend described it this way —

“Almost every week I get a guy coming in, generally in his 30’s, who made some money in some type of entrepreneurial venture, was out drinking with his buddy and the two of them decide they can do this…build a winner. It’s usually a vodka with an over the top package, a half-baked story and they say they’re out every night pushing the brand. Most of the time I think that they use the brand and their ‘ownership’ to impress the ladies.”

There’s an old rule in new product development. A winning idea needs to be unique and relevant. To succeed, a brand needs both.

Also luck, the byproduct of hard work.

Keep your eye on Cachaca, Sake and specialty products.

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And the winners are…

Two things came to my attention recently.

First, David van de Velde, founder of Ketel One and Van Gogh was kind enough to post a comment on the “What makes a brand successful” piece below.

Second, the trade magazines have selected the ‘hot brands’ and ‘growth brands’ of the year.

Got me thinking…

The very successful brands since the 1980’s came from entrepreneurs – Grey Goose, Ketel One, Patron, Skyy and so on. When those brands were getting started it wasn’t about bureaucracy, process or systems it was about hard work, tenacity, ingenuity and persistence. No gates, no silos…just determination to win.

Take a look at the current roster of hot and/or growth brands. Nearly all of the 14 brands identified by Beverage Dynamics as “Fast Track,” were created by an entrepreneur or a company not among the top 10 suppliers.

I guess the slogan should be “Build it and They Will Buy.”

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What makes a brand successful? — Part 2

The last posting dealt with what success is not about. Let’s turn to the positive side.

In my experience it’s three “buckets” in the following order – the manufacturer, the trade and the consumer.

Oh yes, in the booze business, before you get to market/sell a brand to consumers, you’ve got to pass through the first two gates.

Corporations/manufacturers ‘talk the talk’ about brand investment and new product development. But unless there is vision at the top, strong senior management support, tolerance for out of the box thinking and, of course, willingness to take risk – nothing will happen.

The people on the street can make or break a brand, even more than consumers. Sure, it’s about incentives but it’s also about involvement, managing expectations and re-orders not just placement.

Consider this:

A salesperson sells two cases of a new brand and the retailer moves 6 bottles in a few weeks. Chances are he/she will see the brand as a slow mover because there is a case and a half left. If the retailer had bought one case and 6 were left after a few weeks, the retailer thinks the product is “flying off the shelves”.

So far as the consumer is concerned — and by no means am I minimizing their importance – it’s about the trade influence, brand uniqueness and relevance. Line up all three of these pieces and you can actually hear the crack of the bat.

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