Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thinking Short Term

I was in a meeting the other day where a marketer mentioned that a well-known American label was going bankrupt and that they were interested in buying it.

This particular label/product was made in America ever since its inception.

The potential buyer was going to change this and start making the label overseas.  “Who’s really going to notice,” was their response to my question of why do that.

“Besides, we can make it cheaper overseas.  Won't more people prefer paying less than paying more because it is made in America?”

By the numbers, and, in the short term, the potential buyer is right.  But, in the bigger picture, long term, he’s wrong.

Long term, once people realize that the brand isn’t really the brand anymore, they’ll stop buying.

Which reminds me of the story of Black Star Beer.

The Blitz-Weinhard brewery in Portland, Oregon wanted to produce another label.  They came to Hal Riney, the legendary adman out of San Francisco, who was doing the Blitz-Weinhard and Henry Weinhard advertising at the time.

They said do some advertising for us for this new label.  Hal asked how this new beer might be different then beer that was already out there?  

They said it really wasn’t.  It be just like the other beer made at the Blitz-Weinhard brewery in Portland, but they'd put a new label on it and have advertising create the difference.

Riney said that’s not how good advertising works.

It's bullshit and people see through bullshit.

Riney knew that you can’t create a difference that isn’t there.  Sure, advertising might be able to sell this new beer for a year or two, but then, it would fail.

So Riney asked the marketer a simple question. “Do you want to be successful for two years or twenty?”

The answer was the latter.

Riney’s suggestion was to build a brewery so this new brand will have an actual story to tell. 

And, that’s what happened.  In Whitefish, Montana, the Black Star brewery was built (see story here).

It took around a year to build the brewery.  This was 1995.

Today, Black Star is still going strong.

Which I'm pretty sure won't be the case for the American made label that this marketer now wants to make overseas.

People always forget how easy it is to kill a brand.

And, how hard it is to make one.

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