Those Seagram Folks

I was talking to a fellow Seagram Alum the other day and the conversation turned to what made Seagram unique and where people are today.

He pointed out that ex-Seagram folks occupy top positions in many companies in the industry.

He’s right; all of the top 5 spirits companies have former Seagram people in very senior spots. When you think about it further, the Seagram folks play important roles throughout the industry – suppliers, distributors, retailers and service providers.

I suppose it’s because of a number of things that characterized the company back in the day. Perhaps it was the combination of self-confidence (some would say arrogance) and humbleness. A belief that there was a Seagram way to do things and getting it done didn’t have to be in an overbearing manner. Strength of conviction combined with respect.

Me? I think Seagram people learned to adapt, survive, flourish and succeed because of the common enemy. Sort of like a successful person who grew up with dysfunctional parents but knew he could survive if he relied on his siblings. In short, it’s called camaraderie.

They did us a favor by shutting the lights.

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Brand Nicknames

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

http://adage.com/article?article_id=143351

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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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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