The Cocktail Maker

Ariel Pfeffer: The Coctail Maker

It was 5:20 in the morning on a Sunday in January 1996 when Sidney Frank called his chief executive to break the news: “I have the name! It will be Gray Goose! I have had that trademark for years and I want to use it ” And thus was born one of the most incredible distilled beverage brands of all time. The Gray Goose Vodka, which was invented on that warm summer morning still had no distillery, no bottle and no ……… vodka !!

Yet exactly 8 years after Sidney Frank named a non-existent liquor, Gray Goose was sold to Baccardi for more than $2 billion in cash! 

Before the appearance of Gray Goose, it was Absolut Vodka who dominated the market widely and to get a market out of it the strategy should have been to sell it cheaper. Right? Well, Sidney Frank thought the exact opposite. “Why not price my vodka extravagantly higher than Absolut and have better margins?” At that time, Absolut sold between $15 and $17 a bottle and Gray Goose was released for $30.

But the story does not end there, because until now it only had the name. It was then that Sidney decided that the vodka had to be made in France. Why France? Because most of the vodkas came from Russia or the Scandinavian countries. And you had to differentiate yourself, create the value proposition. If you wanted to charge double, you had to give the consumer a good reason.

The philosopher Nietzsche explains that human beings look for a “why” in our lives. And in this case the “why” was referring to telling a great story. And a great story must be tantalizing, memorable, easily repeatable, and with all the ingredients that one wants a brand to have. 

For Gray Goose, the story was based on unbeatable quality. It came from France, where the most luxurious products in the world come from. The water he used came from the springs of fine crystalline waters filtered with limestone from the Champagne area. And finally, a distinctive bottle was designed with smoked glass and the silhouette of a goose. 

Flying, which displayed in any bar with a backlight stood out from the others and without a doubt, it seemed very expensive.

But the marketing audacity did not end there because they also put in the entire communication campaign that thanks to its triple filtering it was the vodka with the best knowledge in the world. And was it? Maybe yes, but by definition, vodka is odorless and tasteless. And the differences at an elementary level are practically imperceptible. In other words, one vodka does not have to be tastier than another. Much less within a cocktail as it is mostly consumed.

But with all this argumentation it was justified to charge much more expensive. And if it was so expensive it must be the best!

The next step was to tell this great story to the right people. This is how they began to publish advertisements in publications that reached the wealthiest classes and they began to hold marketing events in the most prominent fashionable nightclubs. The goal was to influence influencers. Those who then tell their friends what to buy and that when they have a great story to tell they do it repeatedly and with great enthusiasm. 

In a flowchart, the “influencers” convince the “early adopters” (the first to adopt a trend) who then convince the “early majority” (initial majority) who then convince the “late majority” (the great majority ) that finally convince the “laggards” (laggards). 

The influencers did their job well and the Gray Goose story began to spread everywhere. And along with the story, sales skyrocketed. The war was over. In the battle for vodka supremacy, Gray Goose had been crowned the outright winner. 

One could talk much more about this topic, but here the most relevant thing is that the marketing strategy was created first and, fundamentally, the value proposition, and then the product was created. It was the reverse of what almost always happens where, by force of circumstances, we are in a certain business that generally does not have a consistent value proposition.

What Sidney Frank did was a genius that the market ended up rewarding him with 2 billion dollars in cash. And one more detail. Do you know how old he was when he made that call to tell what the brand of vodka was going to be? 77 years!!!

There is no age to undertake and there is no age to dream!

And how do you feel when you read all this? What are you going to do in the next few minutes? Are you going to start building the great story of your product and thus build the great value proposition of your business or are you going to continue to be a passive spectator of the stories of others?

There is no passion that can be found in settling for a life that is less than what you are capable of living.

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