What the Bourbon Boom Can Teach You & Your Brand

Categories Brands & Ads, Entrepreneurship, StrategiesPosted on

Whether you partake in the beverage or not, any business person has to admire bourbon’s recent track record. Fortune magazine referred to the phenomena as the “Billion Dollar Bourbon Boom” explaining that 2013 sales reached $8 billion. In 2014, sales grew more than 7 percent, capping off a wave of nearly 50% growth over the past six years. Experts are even wondering if the industry is going to run out of bourbon. 2015 reports indicated that, “Kentucky Bourbon production hit a 48-year peak of 1.9 million barrels in 2015, up 315 percent since 1999.”

Bourbon’s recent renaissance has been fueled by everything from television shows like Mad Men (Joan Harris pictured below) to politics.

Just after the November 2014 United States Senatorial Election, this quote about President Obama and Senator McConnell appeared…

One day after his party lost control of the U.S. Senate, Obama told reporters he would like to share some Kentucky bourbon with McConnell. The invitation was quickly dubbed the bourbon summit and has received lots of attention as the two leaders prepare to either work with or against each other for the final two years of Obama’s presidency. – ABC News

Mila Kunis became the face of Jim Beam in ads (above and below).

There are many things we can learn from the power of the bourbon brand. Here are 4 essentials or observations that I think you might find useful as you work to unleash the power of your personal or organizational brand.

1. Simplicity

Bourbon is a fairly simple product. I’m not saying it’s simplistic – just that it has few ingredients – corn, wheat, water, rye and/or malted barley pretty much round out the list. There’s a lot of value in keeping things simple. Of course there are plenty of bourbon producers all with variations on the standard process. However, at it’s essence, the base product is arguably fairly straight-forward.

Compare that to your company’s offerings…

  • Do you create a straight forward product that people can understand?
  • Are your customers confused with what they are actually buying?
  • Do you make it easy for customers to do business with you?
  • Are your services clear?
  • Do you have too many SKUs, confusing names, or conflicting messages?

2. Mystery

There is something special that happens in that barrel. It’s a bit of a mystery. You can walk through a bourbon distillery and watch the bulk of the process, but you never see what really happens in the barrel. It takes time and happens behind the scenes. The same should be true for your company and your products/services. Great brands have a bit of mystery – “What is Apple going to produce next?” “What happens behind the scenes at Disney?”

  • Is there a bit of mystery around the magic your company performs?
  • Do customers look at what you do and say, “heck, we could do that”?
  • Is there something special you bring to the table that makes your expertise, process, capability something special?

3. Visibilty

One thing that bourbon is benefiting from is terrific visibility in the market. Right now, bourbon is everywhere. Have you ever watched an episode of Mad Men? Don Draper’s favorite concoction is an Old Fashioned – main ingredient: bourbon. As previously mentioned, President Obama is considering a Bourbon Summit. It was recently lampooned on Saturday Night Live. Even Johnny Depp and Jennifer Lawerence, both native Kentuckians, are know to enjoy an occasional bourbon.

  • What about your products – have they found their way into the right hands?
  • Are notable people using your service; not just because you are paying them to do it? They don’t have to be celebrities – just influencers who can help you get visibility.

4. Irreplaceability

Bourbon is not easily replaced or replicated. It can only be produced in the United States – that takes the vast majority of the world out of the mix. Many contend that the best is produced in Kentucky. Plus, the process doesn’t allow for people to quickly play catch-up. If something new hits the market, you can’t replicate it overnight. Bourbon ages in a barrel for years and does best in climates with hot summers and cool winters. True, there are many producers of bourbon, but entering the market is no easy task.

  • What about your team or organization?
  • Are you easily replaced?
  • Can someone enter the market, undercut your pricing, and start gobbling up your business?

These are just a few quick thoughts on bourbon. Again, you don’t have to partake in the beverage to benefit from its wisdom. If you do enjoy bourbon, here are a few items you might find of interest that are springing up as part of the bourbon cottage industry:

But as always, Think Responsibly!


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Share a Coke & Learn Three “Refreshing” Leadership Lessons

Categories Brands & Ads, Leadership & Management, StrategiesPosted on

Coca-Cola launched its Share a Coke® Campaign again this summer. If you haven’t seen it, odds are you simply aren’t paying attention. If you hustle to the grocery store, you will likely discover bottles emblazoned with first names – perhaps even yours. As a twist this year, coke products also feature a select group of last names. I doubt Leddin is on the list, but maybe your last name made the cut.

A while back, I traveled to Iceland to deliver a leadership workshop. While in a convenience store, I snapped this picture (see below). Take a look at the names on the bottles, depending on where you live they might be pretty uncommon. They certainly are different than the ones I found in the store closest to my home.

As I reflected on the picture I took of the bottles in the Icelandic store, I considered what made the campaign so effective and what leaders can learn from it. Here are 3 “refreshing” thoughts to consider:

1. Recognize people as individuals

Imagine picking up a bottle of Coke with your name on it. It’s not a generic bottle – it’s your bottle. We like that feeling of personal connection. It works, People will go from one store to the next to find their bottle.

The same concept applies with the people you lead. They aren’t just warm bodies in a cubicle maze or interchangeable parts in a machine. They are individuals, each with unique capabilities, hopes, dreams, and a wide-range of other characteristics that make up the human experience. Your people want to be recognized as individuals. You should know what matters to each of your team members. You should understand what motivates each person. Don’t assume you know; ask. You might be surprised by their answers.

2. Invite people to participate in something bigger than themselves

The Share a Coke® campaign invites people to join in the process. You can go to Coke’s website, search for your name, watch videos from around the world, share your thoughts, etc. People aren’t just buying a soda, they are participating in an effort, one that is bigger then themselves.

The same is true at work. The best leaders invite their people to participate. They ask them for their feedback on goals, they solicit how best to accomplish work, and they encourage team members to openly track and talk about work progress. Along the way, the team members build something together that they could not do on their own. As Stephen R. Covey wrote, “without involvement, there is no commitment.”

3. Create positive-memorable experiences

Coke isn’t simply satisfying someone’s thirst, they are working to create a great experience that extends beyond the moment. People get excited when they see their names, they save the bottle, and they talk about it. A memorable experience is created that doesn’t end when the bottle is empty.

Think about a great team you have been part of – you likely worked hard, accomplished things that truly mattered, forged enduring relationships, and created a few memories along the way. Ten years from now, your people won’t remember the specific goal your team is working on today. They won’t recall how many items sold, how much revenue generated, what costs were cut, etc.; however, they will remember what it feels like to work for you. They will remember what it was like to be on your team. Make their efforts a positive-memorable experience.

Do you want to know if Coke has a bottle with your name on it? Go to this site and see.