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 …

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