Booze Stupidity Down Under

Buffalo Trace Newsletter had a reprinted story today from an Australian newspaper (Perth Now) that really is one for the books.

Here’s the headline:

THREE WA (Western Australia) men suffered horrific burns after branding themselves with novelty branding irons given away as part of a Jack Daniel’s promotion.

Apparently these geniuses branded their backsides with the words “Old No. 7 Brand” which was part of a barbeque promotion. Not surprisingly they ended up in the hospital for surgery and emergency skin grafts.

Also not surprisingly, The Royal Perth Hospital surgeon called the promotion “an irresponsible cocktail for disaster.” The event also engendered a series of calls for legislation to “halt irresponsible alcohol promotions.” I suppose that they think that before launching the promotion, the Brown Forman Australia folks sat around saying, “I wonder how many idiots we can get to burn themselves with the branding irons.”

It reminds me of the case in Texas where someone drank a 750 ML of Jack Daniel’s in one sitting and then died of alcohol toxicity. The family sued. The courts said something like, if you are dumb enough to drink so much alcohol in so short a period of time, no warning label will stop you.

In Australia, a government official said, “…At the end of the day, how can we legislate against that level of stupidity.”

The branding iron has a warning sticker that says – this can cause serious skin burns; do not touch metal parts with fingers, skin or any flammable material; branding iron will remain hot long after being heated.

They forgot one important warning:

ONLY A BLOODY IDIOT WOULD BRAND THEIR ARSE, SO BE CAREFUL

The culprit
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Jack’s New Home

Brown Forman just announced a revised and revamped package for Jack Daniel’s. Bloggers and industry observers are starting to weigh in on the pluses and minuses, so I thought I’d jump in as well.

Once upon a time, manufacturers were frightened of package changes. Concerns about loss of heritage and denigrating the brand’s equity were always the main “don’t do it” arguments. But the most damaging concern was “what will the consumer think.” Over the years, I’ve even heard it said that a package change would suggest a product change and result in erosion of appeal among consumers.

Baloney. Well, sort of.

If a packaging shift involves walking away from the key elements of a brand’s equity then it is doomed. The best recent example of that is the fiasco with Tropicana. The main icon, an orange with a straw, was removed in favor of a nondescript glass of juice. As you may recall, the package change effort was a disaster and Pepsico reverted to the original in a hurry.

However, if a manufacturer evolves or tweaks the packaging by removing the clutter, making it less wordy and updating the message, I believe it enhances the consumer relationship and brand equity. I haven’t seen the new package as yet but from what I’ve read, the new Jack Daniel’s look does just that. Good for you for making the brave call.

One last thought — I call it the chicken soup approach to marketing. Turning a brand’s performance around based on packaging changes, major or minor, is like chicken soup when you have a cold. It may not help but it can’t hurt.

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