Messing with the Jewels

A reader wrote an interesting comment on one of the Crown Royal postings. The question was:

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?

Got me thinking. As some of you know I’m a wannabe playwright and I imagined this totally fictitious scene whereby the decision to introduce the line extension took place.

Messing with the Jewels

Characters:

Boss, Marketing Maven and Planner

The Boss enters the room and joins the others at a conference table.

BOSS

OK, what have you got for me?

MARKETING MAVEN

We’ve got a good idea to help the brand.

BOSS

Good? Not great?

MARKETING MAVEN

Just want to manage your expectations, chief.

BOSS

Look… the brand is slipping. Line extensions haven’t helped. So let’s go back to basics; why are we losing sales? (Pause) How do you intend to fix it?

PLANNER

Well, there are two factors at play among consumers.

MARKETING MAVEN

And a sales issue.

BOSS

What kind of sales issue?

MARKETING MAVEN

Our guys are the best in the business but they don’t understand the brand and what makes it tick…

BOSS

(Interrupting) Because of those damn line extensions. I don’t get it either.

MARKETING MAVEN

I’ll get to that in a minute. The other sales problem is that the brand doesn’t get enough focus. There are too many other priorities.

BOSS

That’s nonsense. Aw, all you marketing guys just want to blame sales. When I want an opinion about sales, I’ll give it to you. I repeat, what’s the problem and how are you going to fix it?

PLANNER

Consumers are drinking more whiskey but it’s Bourbon and flavored Whiskey.

BOSS

Okay, what else.

PLANNER

Consumers are confused about all the variations. In focus groups they tell us that they don’t understand the differences and we’re pissing them off. It used to be simple — better and best. Now we have original, best original, different betters, best better, saved recipe, and so on. Some believe it’s all marketing hype.

BOSS

Okay Maven, you created this mess. What are you going to do about it?

MARKETING MAVEN

Borrow a page from our Scotch brothers.

BOSS

Are you nuts? Don’t tell me you’re thinking of a Scotch line extension?

MARKETING MAVEN

No, no … Our Scotch line extensions are easy to understand. The price and quality vary by color… red, black, gold, and blue. We don’t talk age we talk color. Easy choice for consumers.

BOSS

So…?

MARKETING MAVEN

We’ll introduce Black as a line extension then gradually change the names of the other extensions to other colors. Wait until you see Purple.

BOSS

All right. Start with Black and show me a plan for the rest of the line.

The Boss leaves.

PLANNER

You got to be joking.

MARKETING MAVEN

Why?

PLANNER

That’s just going to add to the confusion.

MARKETING MAVEN

Nah, it will work. Besides, in a year, I’ll be off the brand and working on that Vodka.

PLANNER

Listen my friend, if it doesn’t work, a year from now you’ll be lucky to be handling the Tequila brand.

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