Where’s the alcohol section?

The late Bob Dubin once told me a story about the folks he had to deal with at Allied Domecq.

It seems they weren’t very happy with the way their brands were being run in the States (New York in particular) and one of their top ranking marketing people was coming over for a series of meetings to get to the reasons behind the poor performance.

A senior member of the NY sales team met the executive at the airport when he came through customs. He ushered him to his car and told him that the plan for the first day was to bring him to the hotel, get settled and then they would tour the market.

“I hope to see stores as they really are and not have one of your set up visits,” said the marketing guy. To which the sales person replied, “any store you like…you’re staying in Manhattan so lets start there. You choose.”

A few minutes went by and the visitor exclaimed that he needed to go to a drug store right away. “Please find one close by.”

Thinking that he must have had a headache or some other physical ailment from the flight, the salesman pulled off the expressway and stopped at the first drug chain store he saw.

He was gone for about 10 minutes then came storming out, got back in the car and complained loudly and bitterly that he had looked all over the store and couldn’t find any of their brands.

The salesman patiently explained that in NY, the sale of alcohol was not allowed in drugstores.

“But it is allowed in other states isn’t it?”

“Yes, in a few states” said the salesman.

“So, if you and your associates weren’t so damn lazy, you’d get the law changed, wouldn’t you?”

The salesman didn’t bother to explain.

Continue Reading

Why is it called Booze?

If you Google the origin of the word booze a number of explanations and origins come up. None of which I consider to be as interesting as the one I have heard.

The most common origin ascribes the word to either the Dutch or German word busen ‘to drink to excess’ or ‘to carouse’.

One of the most persistent “booze myths” traces the word to a Mr. Booz, a mid 19th century distiller from the Philadelphia area. Some say it comes from the Middle English word (circa 1300) ‘bouse’ meaning to drink.

One of my favorites is based on a promoter who promised free beer to anyone who came to one of his events. His name? Mr. Booz.

The one that makes the most sense to me (and didn’t come from google) is that its origin is said to go back to World War I and a contingent of ‘doughboys’ the nickname given to the American Expeditionary Force that took part in the war. These troops were in a southwestern French town with no alcohol to consume except for the local wine. The town was Buzet… as in Buzet Wine…as in “what’s this here booze?”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading