Messing with the Jewels

A reader wrote an interesting comment on one of the Crown Royal postings. The question was:

Why do you think Crown launched Crown Royal Black? I’ve seen a lot of consumer comments comparing Black to Special Reserve (as opposed to the cheaper versions of the brand). Would they be risking cannibalization of their higher end product?

Got me thinking. As some of you know I’m a wannabe playwright and I imagined this totally fictitious scene whereby the decision to introduce the line extension took place.

Messing with the Jewels

Characters:

Boss, Marketing Maven and Planner

The Boss enters the room and joins the others at a conference table.

BOSS

OK, what have you got for me?

MARKETING MAVEN

We’ve got a good idea to help the brand.

BOSS

Good? Not great?

MARKETING MAVEN

Just want to manage your expectations, chief.

BOSS

Look… the brand is slipping. Line extensions haven’t helped. So let’s go back to basics; why are we losing sales? (Pause) How do you intend to fix it?

PLANNER

Well, there are two factors at play among consumers.

MARKETING MAVEN

And a sales issue.

BOSS

What kind of sales issue?

MARKETING MAVEN

Our guys are the best in the business but they don’t understand the brand and what makes it tick…

BOSS

(Interrupting) Because of those damn line extensions. I don’t get it either.

MARKETING MAVEN

I’ll get to that in a minute. The other sales problem is that the brand doesn’t get enough focus. There are too many other priorities.

BOSS

That’s nonsense. Aw, all you marketing guys just want to blame sales. When I want an opinion about sales, I’ll give it to you. I repeat, what’s …

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Crown Royal Part 2

The Crown Royal posting generated many emails and calls with additional comments, anecdotes and stories about the brand. I thought I would share a few.

They all amount to the same thing – the brand was built on creativity and consumer engagement with a large dose of cleverness.

Crown was one of the first brands to have outdoor ads that were “spectaculars,” defined as clever, out of the ordinary, with potentially strong stopping power. The most well known was an oversized, full dimensional bottle that filled an entire billboard. The caption on top of the bottle read “Not Actual Size.”  On the bottom it read “Too Bad.”

To gild the lily a bit a local team in the south decided to add two mannequins rappelling down the board as though trying to get into the bottle. Shortly after they went up they were stolen. Rather than get upset or simply replace them, a full-page ad was run in the local papers with the headline “Who are the dummies that stole our dummies?” The ad went on to explain that, “why would you risk your life to steal a mannequin when there was a giant bottle on the same billboard?” The result was great PR for the brand.

For many years Crown sponsored rodeo finals in Las Vegas until the cost of sponsorship became much too high. The event, with signage all over the arena, went to Jack Daniel’s. Not to be outdone, Reichardt and company decided that they were going to invest the cost of sponsorship they had been paying into ads and promotional activity and surround the event.  The result was that everywhere in Vegas that week – from …

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Crown Royal

Crown Royal has always been an iconic brand. But to me it’s been a bit of a mystery.

When I first met it as a consumer, it was the brand my grandfather served when company came over. Philadelphia Whiskey was his usual fare but his Crown Royal was special.

I’m not an historian on the brand but from what I can gather over the years, at the outset it had important equities but just needed a spark. The taste was great and unlike other whiskies at the time, unique packaging inside and outside, a back story about the royal visit to Canada and very aspirational look and feel. The spark occurred when oil workers from Canada working in the Gulf of Mexico (way before the current disaster) came to Gulf cities on their night off, with pockets full of money, and wanted the best whiskey they knew from home…Crown Royal.

As the story goes, this set off the growth and proliferation of the brand, primarily in the South.

It was marketed in the Seagram days in a classic brand-building manner. ‘Push’ and ‘pull’ efforts worked together successfully and the brand grew — even while vodka was growing by leaps and bounds.

The sales and regional marketing component, orchestrated by Jim Reichardt, was top of the game. All the activity was integrated and based on strategy, from the distributor focus to programming to ‘pull’ activity at retail. Above all, carefully thought through marketing innovations were introduced under Jimmy’s watch.

On the national marketing side, programs were developed to maximize the equity – especially the bag – and develop relationships with the core consumer. And, the advertising was that unique combination of …

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