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.

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4 comments

  1. What ever happened to wine coolers?? Why arent they around anymore? Curious to hear your take on it…

  2. They are alive and well but not in the same way as when they were first introduced. In the US they have become Ready-To-Serve or Ready-To-Drink products like Smirnoff Ice.

  3. Why do you think Crown launched Crown Royal Black? I’ve seen a lot of consumer comments comparing Black to Special Reserve (as opposed to the cheaper versions of the brand). Would they be risking cannibalization of their higher end product?

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