We spend a lot of time at BevStrat looking at what other CPG businesses can teach adult beverage. The booze business is famously known for being behind the times, generational, and VERY slow to adapt. Suppliers are often growers, brewers, and distillers that have handed down the craft thru generations. Distributors are in many cases, “too big to fail” and thus slow to adapt and most often, the consumer is the first to demand change. When looking at Apple as a company, not having to go far noting my iPad, Apple Watch, Macbook Air, etc. – I often see Steve Jobs quotes and videos in my LinkedIn feed. Clearly a very smart man, he also had a wonderful touch for design and an intuitive nature with what consumers will want later and learn to need later. Very smart indeed.
One video this week in particular caught my eye and inspired this column.
In a public forum, Jobs was asked why his products are loved by so many consumers. At this time, (likely 2010 or earlier) he had one profound comment. Apple and visa vie Jobs design products for the consumer in mind first and not the engineers. This is something that I have been preaching for a decade for the booze business and still has relevance. When Jobs says it, it lends extra credence to what I am always trying to communicate. Make your brands for your end user, not yourself. Period. End Stop.
We encounter suppliers daily that are creating wonderful products. They are cutting the edge on spirits, wines, and beers. Even non-alcohol! But as often as we see the next “hot” brand we have to talk suppliers off the ledge of innovation. Because it can be done, does not mean it has to be done. Often times, it does not. The next XXXX is not always needed. An improvement of YYYYYY has never been asked for.
We had a client in our office months ago that created an alkaline based spirit. It was hydrating they said. It was cutting edge they said. It will get you feeling good while also hydrating you. It will change the way booze is sold, they said. What we said was…”who is asking for this”? Not the market.
Making a brand with the consumer in mind as a primary focus will always be a better bet. Marketing a brand with the consumer first mentality will guarantee that you have an audience to sell to. We cannot stress this enough. Do not create, market, and go-to market with a product that only you understand. If your brand and your brand message is not communicable in 20 visual seconds, then you have made a brand for yourself.
Look at all the commodity sellers in the space. Josh Cabernet, Tito’s, Sam Adams, etc. Besides being easy to know and pronounce names they are not re-inventing the wheel. These brands are communicating to the end user, price, product, quality, and value. The shelf is too crowded for fruit fermented whisky with hints of whatever. The shelf is too crowded for a unique Sonoma blend that is first of its kind. The account won’t buy it because the consumer is not asking for it. It is really that simple.
Distributors buy brands that can be sold. Accounts buy brands that can be sold. Consumers buy brands that can easily communicate the value of the brand and the brand story.
So simple but often overlooked.
It is ok to create and be unique, but your expectations should be the same. Unique brands take time. Time means money spent. Unique brands take story and most of all, unique brands take supplier involvement and understanding that consumer adaptation is slow if at all. Because your wife, neighbor, and cousin like your brand you will still need 10,000 others to buy and REPEAT buy your brand for success.
Think about your consumer drinking your item and work backwards from there. We use Apple products all day for things we did not know we needed. Skate to where the puck is going to be. That was Wayne Gretzky’s greatness! Like Steve Jobs, anticipate the solution and then create the need.
Three Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen, www.BevStrat.com
Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.
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