Tequila Sunrise, Ascent, or Hype?

Wine and Spirits Daily had a story last week entitled, IS TEQUILA THE NEW VODKA?

Good question.

The article quoted a writer at the Washington Post who said… “A new trend emerges: the proliferation of ‘ultra-premium’ tequilas targeted at a club crowd that slowly has begun to trade in Grey Goose for Patron.” The article goes on to point out that “various social indicators, such as Al Roker claiming on the Today Show that Tequila is the new Vodka.” (I must have missed the announcement about Al Roker as social forecaster. I thought he did the weather.)

A few observations:

Drinking Patron at clubs at the expense of Vodka brands like Grey Goose is not a new concept. They are often interchangeable depending on the mood and occasion. Both brands are at the top of the heap in terms of being icons.

Further, it’s not Tequila, it’s Patron. Generally speaking, among most consumers, the Tequila category has three brands…Patron, Cuervo and all others. Remember the old adage? Consumers drink brands not categories.

Tequila will grow as it continues to be the focus of new product introductions and in that regard, it will be the new Vodka. I don’t have the actual data but I’d bet there have been more new Tequilas introduced in the last few years than Vodka. The shifts in Vodka preferences from the high end to mid-priced and value brands make new Tequila entries more enticing.

So, among most consumers, Vodka will continue to rule. Whether Al Roker thinks so or not.

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Control States

Have you been following the press about privatization of some Control States?

In case you haven’t, Wine and Spirits Daily (June 7th edition) has a great score card on what’s been happening.

NABCA has issued a resolution in support of Control States. No surprise but people I’ve talked with have wondered why they didn’t do this some time ago. WSD reports that 4 states (NC, PA, WA and VA) are looking closely at privatization. So the debate must be getting serious.

I’m not sure I know how I feel about privatization.

Those who want to keep government involvement argue about jobs and the need for industry regulation or control in their jurisdiction. But the NABCA resolution states, “there is irrefutable proof that alcohol control systems have a positive public health and safety impact on their communities.” Does this mean that the 32 open states are not doing a good job in protecting health and safety? Or, that the industry, unless governed by state officials, will behave badly?

Follow the money. As WSD points out, in tough economic times, states will look to a range of resources to increase revenue including taxes, fees and privatization.

Hey, look at California – on the ballot this November is a voter initiative to legalize marijuana. The tax revenue from sales is seen as a way to help the state’s budget difficulties.

Interesting that the economic climate has created change in government’s involvement in the social climate. But I guess it’s always been that way.

Here’s a thought if you’re working in a state store that gets privatized – think about moving to California.

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It definitely is not the advertising

I found Megan’s article on Constellation Brands in yesterday’s issue of Wine and Spirits Daily to be particularly interesting.

Here’s an excerpt:

Constellation may be one of the world’s largest wine companies, but its spirits brands had a phenomenal year.  Total spirits organic net sales grew 19% for the year, led by a 38% gain for its star Svedka vodka.  Svedka also recently launched it’s first-ever television advertising campaign “which marks an exciting milestone and serves as another example of how Svedka is setting itself apart in its quest to bring future fun to vodka lovers everywhere.”

The quote is from Constellation Chief Rob Sands who, in my opinion, is among the best executives in the business. Smart, knowledgeable and effective. But, obviously not an advertising maven.

Maybe it’s just me that thinks the ad campaign is ridiculous. It features a well-endowed, sexy, female robot (fembot) supposedly symbolizing the brand’s future achievements. If the marketing folks are looking to be more than a price driven brand and want to add image — keep looking.

Oh, and check out the TV campaign. I’m the guy who was there when Seagram and the industry decided to end the voluntary ban on broadcast advertising. This ad makes me think we made a mistake.

Svedka is a great brand built on hard work and smart marketing…excellent imported Vodka with high quality at a very competitive price. I’ve even been known to buy a 1.75L every now and then.

But its growth is not a function of the advertising. Its growth continues in spite of it.

Maybe mainstream advertising is not as important for brand building as it once was.

Just sayin’…

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