Jameson, Diageo and Seagram…

Having just returned from a holiday in the Emerald Isle, I thought I would share some thoughts, especially about my favorite topic.


Seagram had the distribution rights to this Irish whiskey for quite some time and, frankly, didn’t do much with it. With the exception of St. Patrick’s Day promotions and pushing the Irish Coffee drink, the brand went nowhere for years. I suppose it’s understandable, with millions of scotch sales at the heart of the portfolio, there was little room for this great brand.

Continue Reading

Follow the leader

This week’s issue of Advertising Age has a story about flavored whiskey with the headline “Brown liquors get shot of flavor as distillers look to broaden audience.” The sub headline – “Can cherry bourbon and Tabasco SoCo woo women without scaring off men?”

Right off the bat, a few things bothered me. Brown liquors? Careful Ad Age, your bias is showing.

As to the appeal to women, I suppose that’s correct but the real story is innovating the whiskey category to broaden its appeal – to all audiences, not just women – and to expand usage occasions as well.

Ad Age also forgot the brand that created the category in the first place – Wild Turkey American Honey that was launched in 2006 and has been a big seller since then.

Here’s my view on the flavored whiskey category.

When Beam introduced Red Stag by Jim Beam (Black Cherry), many people (myself included) didn’t think it would work. But I at least gave them credit for a brand extension rather than a line extension. What’s the difference? As my friends at Absolut used to say, if you add an extension, it must feed the brand not eat the brand. Extend usage and consumers without cannibalizing the core franchise.

Launched in 2009, Red Stag sold 100,000 cases that year and 190,000 in 2010. I’m told that by the end of 2011 the brand will have sold 500,000 cases since the launch. Further, according to Nielsen data, Red Stag accounted for 15% of all the growth in the Bourbon category in 2010. That, my friends, is feeding the brand.

The attractive thing about Red Stag is that it’s “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Flavors.” At 80 proof, it’s whiskey not a liqueur. It’s the only one on the market that’s whiskey according to the regulations.

Based on the success, the race is on.

Brown Forman has two entries in the market both interesting, but more whiskey specialty and liqueur than Beam’s entry. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a 70 proof product, has great reviews and is more expensive than Red Stag. Gutsy pricing move.

Even gutsier is the Southern Comfort entry – Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper. It’s a liqueur (like the base brand and the Lime extension) at 70 proof. As the name suggests, it’s certainly not fruity and is co-branded with Tabasco hot sauce.

The Evan Williams folks (Heaven Hill) introduced Evan Williams Honey Reserve and are launching a Cherry Reserve. Both at 70 proof, they are classified as liqueurs.

In addition to brands, the race seems to be between cherry and honey.

Which brings me to the Seagram’s 7 Crown entries – Dark Honey and Stone Cherry. (Can someone tell me what a stone cherry is? How is it different from a cherry without a stone? Sounds like a brand manager hoping consumers will add a “d” to the word stone.)

This one is worthy of some further comments, as though I could resist.

First, it’s probably a good idea – what do they have to lose and 7 Crown could use the face-lift. Second, the brands are 71 proof, not 70. That’s probably because the flavorings have alcohol and those amounts are not taxable. I think it’s called draw back credit. Third, it sells for $19.99 or about the same price as Red Stag. That’s more than gutsy — that’s chutzpah.

Flavored whiskeys could be just the ticket to revise and grow the whiskey market. It changes perceptions, increases usage and brings non-whiskey drinkers into the mix.

Somewhere, Mr. Sam (founder of Seagram) is spinning in his grave.


Continue Reading

Great Tsotchkes (aka Swag) I Have Known

In keeping with the theme of the last few postings on sales promotion, dealer loaders and assorted point of sale issues, I thought I would continue that theme particularly in light of the holiday season. The Advertising and Promotion Awards in the Nov/Dec issue of Beverage Dynamics also prompted me to address this subject.

First, for the uninformed, the Urban Dictionary defines Tsotchke as “free goods given by companies to consumers, buyers, trade-show participants or other target audiences to promote brand recognition or customer loyalty.”

So, here are some points of view on the subject including some picks and pans from yours truly…

The most consistent and impactful POS has to go to the Absolut folks, particularly their multi-case floor displays. In fact, Beverage Dynamics gave it 1st place for 2010. No wonder, since Carol Giaconelli at Pernod Ricard (and a Seagram alumnae) is among the most imaginative sales promotion people I know. Even after working on Absolut for many years and for different regimes, Carol maintains her creative edge.

While I’m on the subject, I suppose the Hall of Fame for floor displays with loader items has to be the Captain Morgan mirror. According to Sam Ellias, the CM guru back in the day, that promotion was a prominent reason for the brand’s early success. Apparently, all a sales person had to do was to show the mirror in order to get the question, “how many cases do I need to buy?”

I managed to find a photo online. Despite it’s popularity at the time, you can still get one on eBay for under $25.

Now to the pans…

There are lots of awards in Beverage Dynamics for co-packs, gift packs and cartons/tins. The so-called value added packaging. Sorry, but I still don’t get it. In this environment manufacturers expect to entice consumers with Tsotchkes? If you want to measure effectiveness go to a flea market or eBay after the holidays and you’ll find glasses, shakers and pitchers galore. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them came from retailers.

The Hall of Shame best/worst sales promotion item of all time came under my watch on behalf of Coyote Tequila. Don’t get me wrong the promotion item was great. It was a back bar pedestal with a howling Coyote as the centerpiece with a bottle on the base. Each time the bartender picked up the bottle a button was triggered and the sound of a howling Coyote was heard. Very cool. Very effective.

Just one small problem — Coyote Tequila tasted like crap. As the saying goes, “I wouldn’t drink it with your mouth.”

And now, dear reader, I have two questions for you.

Care to share your nominees for the best and worst promotions you’ve seen now or in the past? Either hit the comment button or send me an email.

Also, as I went through the 40 advertising and promotion awards by Beverage Dynamics, there were lots of first, second or third place winners from many major suppliers — Brown Forman, Heaven Hill, Skyy/Campari, Pernod, Bacardi and others. None were from Diageo. I wonder why? It could be that their market position and brand shares allows them to spend in other ways. That would explain the dearth of POS recognition. But no ads, traditional or digital, made it either. Huh.

As we used to say in Brooklyn, wait ‘til next year.

Continue Reading