Published on: May 10, 2018
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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Last week, we took note of a Wall Street Journal report that Diageo, owner of the Ketel One vodka brand, is going to address declining sales in the US by introducing a new vodka that isn’t technically vodka. Called Ketel One Botanical - which, I must say, is an awful name, unless you like the ideas of drinking flowers - it will be 30% alcohol by volume, which doesn’t even make it technically vodka.
Now, we can have a long conversation about whether this is a good idea, and I’m happy to participate in a taste test if anyone is interested. To be clear, even at my age I am a relatively new vodka drinker, so I don’t have the most developed palate … but I’m happy to be proven wrong in my skepticism.
What actually interested me most about the story was that Ketel One Botanical is designed to address what has been a persistent problem for a number of vodka brands - loss of market share to Tito’s, which has become a popular favorite.
FYI…Titos’ was an entry vodka for me, and I tend to order it when I’m out, though I also like Boru, which is from Ireland, the home of most of my ancestors. (It was an MNB reader who turned me on to Boru, and I’m grateful.)
After I wrote the story, I got a number of emails - most of them of the “Ketel One must be annoyed, since Tito’s is lousy vodka” variety.
But I also got a couple that reacted to this comment:
I may be wrong about this, but there is something about the Ketel One Botanical that somehow feels inauthentic. That’s what Tito’s has going for it - it feels entirely authentic, with a brand identity that has been baked in from the beginning. That’s hard to compete with, and I’m not sure that this new competitor will find it easy to develop any buzz.
The point of these emails was that Tito’s may not be as authentic as I thought, and a little research shows that it has been challenged by competitors for they say are false attribute claims - mostly the whole “handmade” thing, which simply cannot be true based on how much they make. To this point, best I can tell, lawsuits against Tito’s have not been successful … but that’s not what I want to talk about.
It was either Groucho Marx or George Burns - the internet is a little fuzzy about this - who once said, “If you can fake honesty, you’ve got it made.” The fact is that authenticity isn’t just something you have. It is something you have to effectively and consistently communicate, or it isn’t really worth very much.
I wonder if in a lot of cases, the problem that companies have in defining and communicating their authentic message is that they don’t know what it is. They don’t know their story, the compelling narrative that should be framing every decision and initiative. If you don’t know your own story, you can’t sell it.
If you are in the business of selling anything - whether it is a product or a point of view - you have to know your story. It is that simple.
It’s funny. When I think about vodka, I think about Marv Imus and the late, great Al Lees - two independent retailers who used to spend a lot of time together at retail events, and their nightcap of choice always was Grey Goose. For them, it was the best … the brand that spoke to them in a resonant way.That’s what every brand has to do.
- KC's View: