Here Comes Whiskey

Once upon a time when the folks from Mad Men ruled the earth, it was all about whiskey – Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, and Blends. Oh sure, there was the multiple martini lunch (Gin not Vodka) but for the most part it was the “brown goods” that ruled the home bar.

By the late 60’s, Vodka started its ascendency and today it is the single largest category of spirits. And, it’s rise practically wiped whiskey off the map. The so-called brown stuff became “my father’s drink” and a new generation of drinkers jumped on the “white goods” bandwagon.

But guess what? There’s a newer generation of drinkers for whom Whiskey can be a real alternative to Vodka. Spurred on by the emerging sub-category of flavored whiskey (Red Stag by Jim Beam, Wild Turkey American Honey, others) I think Whiskeys will continue to grow and at a faster rate.

Bourbon is the engine of growth but you can expect good old Rye to fuel the category. Who knows – Blended Whiskey may make a comeback.

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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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