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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What makes a brand successful? — Part 1

When I first started working with Absolut in the late 90’s, the Swedes had an interesting expression about the brand. They referred to it as “an over night success since 1982.”

Absolut remains an iconic, powerhouse brand even amidst the churn and turmoil in the vodka market. Along the way, other “over night” success have appeared and faded.

So what’s the common denominator? What makes a brand break out of the pack either from the starting gate as a new brand entry or over time?

Let’s start with what it’s not about.

It’s not about market/consumer research. Absolut and Bailey’s failed in consumer tests. The old IDV company had a brand called Greensleeves that broke all consumer test records…have you ever heard of Greensleeves?

And, it’s not about big marketing and advertising budgets. Even when the mass media Dinosaurs ruled the earth, no spirit company could afford to break through the clutter. The advent of the digital communications era may change that but it will take time and patience.

Oh, there’s a good one as a success inhibitor – patience. The large spirits companies just don’t have the time or fortitude to nurture new brands or to enhance the growth of burgeoning brands. Throughout the system – from spirits marketers to sales people to wholesalers – the “book” is cluttered and the rewards come from the known winners.

The big companies are great at taking new brands and products and moving them to new heights. They buy brands they don’t create them. Once they buy a brand there’s an economic (or career) incentive to show it was a good move. That’s when things begin to happen.

But success from the outset depends on a visionary, tenacity and the trade.

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