Seagram: Down Memory Lane—Part 2

Seagram and the War Effort

Welcome to the second installment of Seagram vintage posters, ads, and products. Like most companies at the time, Seagram participated in using its advertising and promotion efforts and money on behalf of the war effort. This included ads promoting the purchase of War Bonds and public service announcements.

(Thanks again to John Hartrey who contributed these ads from his Seagram vintage collection.)

Continue Reading

Seagram: Down Memory Lane—Part 1

Seagram Whiskies

There are a few of us Seagram alums that meet periodically for lunch, but mainly to tell Seagram stories and, well, laugh our asses off. I’ve tried to capture some of the stories in this blog and my book although I’ve barely scratched the surface.

At almost every lunch, John Hartrey never ceases to amaze us with his collection of Seagram memorabilia including ads, promotion items and brands. John, currently doing some industry consulting work, held a wide range of important marketing positions at Seagram, and handled some of the Cuervo business at Diageo, after Seagram closed.

At the most recent lunch, I asked John (make that, begged him) to share some of his treasures with this blog audience. It turns out however, that there are too many for one posting so we decided to share them in a number of articles or should I say, viewings.

Why Care About Seagram?

Well, if you didn’t work there or had any business relationship with the company you probably don’t care. But, consider this. Until its demise, the Seagram Spirits and Wine Company was the leader in the liquor industry in the U.S. It was not the largest, but for 50 years, the company set the pace and tone for the marketing of products and building brands. What Seagram did others followed, even to this day—broadcast advertising, enhanced point of sale promotions, education and true partnership with distributors and the trade in general. Plus much more.

So without further ado, here’s a trip down memory lane, starting with North American whiskies (Canadian and American).

Seagram 83

While I’m not an historian on the brand, what I learned online was it was introduced in 1883 and created by Joseph Seagram himself. This was before the Bronfman family bought the company.

{Click on images to enlarge them.}

Seagram 83
Newspaper Ad 1937
Newspaper Ad 1940

Seagram’s Crown Whiskies

Right after prohibition, Seagram introduce two blended whiskies—5 Crown and 7 Crown. Seagram 5 Crown was discontinued in 1942, presumably because of the war. Interestingly, Seagram 7 Crown was the 1st million case brand in U.S. history. Since its launch, it has sold over 300 million cases.

Seagram 7 Crown in a promotion decanter
Seagram 5 Crown. Never opened. Note the loss of liquid.

 

 

 

 

We will be continuing this series in the future. Part 2 will be Seagram Goes to War with vintage posters of WWII.

 

Continue Reading

Follow up: The Captain Morgan Story

Things I overlooked

captmorgan label
Lots of different labels over the years. Note the prominence of Puerto Rico as the origin of the rum.

Booze Business is about to become five years old and throughout that time, no story or posting has elicited as much comment as last week. From emails to comments to the Booze Business Facebook Page to LinkedIn, the story has generated interest, memories and opinions.

Some of the feedback pointed out a few aspects that I missed. So, here are some additional elements to the story.

The People Behind the Brand

I referenced Alan Feldman and Sam Ellias, partly because of their role in launching the brand and partly because of the insights they provided when I interviewed them. But I didn’t set out to provide a list of all those who made it happen in the beginning. The story was about all the people at Calvert who defied the odds and overcame the negative expectation to make this brand happen.

If I had set out to provide awards or recognition, I certainly would have mentioned Marty Bart and Shelly Katz who ran the company and its sales team. For that matter, I should have mentioned, by name, all the people who worked long and hard in bars and stores. But this was about people collectively rising to an event.

The Legal Aspect

Before Captain Morgan came along the designation for such products by the BATF (the regulatory body at the time) required that if a brand was not “Rum” it had to be designated “Rum Liqueur” or “Flavored Rum.” The development team insisted that the legal folks push the BATF with the “Spiced” designation and to everyone’s surprise it went through. That designation, “Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum”, meant that the flavor description could be used in place of “Flavored.”

Had the new products team backed away, the allure of “Spiced” would not have happened and Captain Morgan would have gone to the Seagram new products graveyard. To their credit, the legal department, despite their misgivings, agreed to try and the rest is history.

So, add interdisciplinary teamwork to the mix.

Peach

I left out an important subplot from the early days of Captain Morgan – a line extension that failed.

Along about the mid 1980s, a new cocktail emerged that swept the country. It was called the Fuzzy Navel and was invented by Ray Foley, a world-class bartender and founder of Bartender Magazine. The key ingredient was DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps. By about 1985/6 the suggestion was made by the owner to introduce Captain Morgan Peach Rum to capitalize on the Fuzzy Navel phenomenon. Bad idea.

Here was this swashbuckling, rogue pirate who came to life at drink nights in bars with trinkets (plunder) and his famous Morganettes — attractive, sexy and charming. Would this character be seen drinking peach rum? Much less be the purveyor of such a product?

Nevertheless, the owner insisted that this line extension be introduced. I don’t know who it was, but someone mustered up enough courage to suggest a test market before national rollout. To his credit, the owner saw the wisdom in the suggestion and agreed.

Leaving the image issue aside, the product had formulation problems and curdled on shelves in at least one market, Indiana.

Good thing it failed. It meant that ridiculous line extensions could wait for the current owner.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 5