The Bard of Brands is dedicated to creating the unique brand experience in a crowded and dynamic market and activating it to create sales. Nothing is more true than the axiom "the story sells the spirit" and with the dominance of large brands and the resources they have on hand, that story becomes a small brand's competitive edge.
A recent report from Wm Grant & Sons, makers of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Hudson Whiskey, revealed that brand loyalty is dead, especially among the much coveted Millennial generation (LDA-35). Instead, these consumers are gravitating toward “unique experiences from the brands they engage with”. Multi-national spirits companies will inevitably use this to throw huge chunks of money at it, trying to differentiate in the market place by creating dozens of soul-less brands with manufactured experiences, many of which will fail. They can afford it; the small brand can't.
THE METHODOLOGY BEHIND BARD OF BRANDS
A story for its own sake is just a story, but for a brand it must sell product. I've created a simple methodology to discover your brand's narrative that keeps this at the front of our mind:
- Discovery: The process by which I understand your current state, your goals and aspirations for the brand and what, if any, value I would bring. We will discuss the entirety of your operation to the point of your comfort, but subjects for discussion will be: your distributor; case goals against target; depletions vs. sales; key account distribution, target demographic, etc. I do not charge for this and yet this process alone will help focus you on your sales goals.
- Approach: This is my outline, based on our Discovery, delivered as a Statement of Work. It elucidates what actions will occur, in what order, and how long it will take. It will focus on the goals we set during Discovery and what you can expect in return. It will include my fee and terms.
- Engagement and Contract: a simple agreement that keeps us both confident of each other's participation.
In April 2017, Robin Robinson and Jackie Summers of "Jack from Brooklyn" and creator of Sorel Liqueur, presented at American Distiller's Institute (ADI) in Baltimore, MD and gave a dynamic, informed and real-life look of what it takes to get and keep your product out on the market. On the last day of the conference, it played to a sold-out room and the comments ranged from "brutally honest" to "the best thing we saw here in 3 days". Here's an abridged version, check it out for yourself.
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Nobody Wants to Taste...what?
Why the "Bard"? It could be Shakespeare or Kesey; it could be Moliere or Saroyan, Mamet or Miller. The Bard is dedicated to the story, or more accurately, the narrative of the brand: the long, arcing, multi-faceted through-line that contains the stories, characters, drama, history and struggles of the brand. It is multi-dimensional; it is epic and poetic. It can contain legend and myth but it always rooted in a truth. And for a brand, it must have an outcome: it must connect in order to sell. It is the basis of a sales and marketing strategy, not a result of them. Those are about the "what" and "how". The Bard is about the "why".
Small brands have one unique advantage: their own personal narrative. This narrative is their own unique story, a force majeure that is more than just the basic facts of their process, technique, manufacture or genesis.
From tales of ancient civilizations and heroes to homespun anecdotes from around the kitchen table, stories reveal our deepest meaning, dreams and longing in their telling. Stories move people to action, to take a stand, to right a wrong or to dig deeper. Stories motivate people. And for a small brand, stories are the foundations of their success.
the story: systematically engaged to work
1. The narrative must be rich enough that it can be effective coming from the creator (distiller, blender, etc.) to the fourth salesperson in a far off market.
2. It must be flexible enough so that each tier in the distribution chain can get their own value from it: wholesale, retail/bar, and consumer with no break in continuity between them. Instead, it invites them all to be a part of this experience, to live in a chapter of this story.
3. It must survive production changes, product evolution and personnel replacement.
4. It tells us where to sell, to who and when. It is not “branding”; it is not “messaging”, it certainly is not “bullets”, but the foundation from which these spring. It abhors stupid, trendy marketing-speak, like "disruptive", and "meta" and other words that people bandy about with no meaning.
5. It favors education in a knowledge-based, smartphone-driven consumer environment, but it can have a well-spring of legend or myth. Combined, it must create more than consumers, it must create evangelists.
At the same time, who said a narrative shouldn't be fun? Here's one I did for a well-known Scotch whisky company that got the story across while still tweaking those who still didn't get it.