Spring Cleaning

The temperature has hit 80-plus in New York today. There’s no excuse – it’s time for my annual office cleaning column, where I look around my beverage collection and mine it for insight.

This year it will be especially poignant (for me, at least) as in July I’m moving to a new office a few blocks from my present digs. I have to clear out as much as I can before the move, and that makes for sober reflection of the huge collection of beverages I’ve amassed over the course of 21 years in the industry.

Why do I like to keep them around? They remind me of what constitutes a winner, and the fine line between success and failure. We industry pundits like to think that we know all, but that is not really the case. So, as I dust off my shelves, I’ll talk about some of the things that I find on this trip down memory lane.

Sometimes, you know a flop from the start. One of the earliest drinks that I knew was destined for the scrap heap was Virgin Cola and that whole line of soft drinks. They made no sense, had no real discerning taste, and the packaging was uninspiring. At kickoff, they parked a tank in Times Square – a fine metaphor for where the brand was headed.

The Trek line from Leading Brands was a little different – I thought it had a chance. It had good taste, nice functionality, and those carabiners. Little did I realize that young consumers would only want the carabiners: they stripped them from the bottles, leaving the drinks to gather dust on the shelves. More support in the marketplace might have lent it more security.

I could go chapter and verse about the dozens and dozens of energy drinks that were DOA due to their names, which didn’t exactly indicate unique value or selling positions: You need a reason for being, not a name like Pissed Off, Cocaine, Mercury,Radioactive, Spider, or Talon.

Hansen’s had some well-intentioned brands, working with many Native American tribes – but they were shot down by a bunch of do-gooders who felt the tribes were being exploited. I say it was just the opposite, an opportunity to create revenue and pride inside great packaging.

There were brands with the wrong packaging and names. Cricket Cola tasted great but made no sense, and the Hanks’ Infusions and Revolution 3D Multi Dimensional beverages in slim cans were destined to fail due to their incongruity. And what did “Multi Dimensional” mean anyway?

There was no defense for Defense, Purple made distributors and investors blue, and the only pop to Water Pop was the candy sucker on top.

On the other side, I commend Sparkling Ice, Starbucks, and Big Red for sticking to their guns and persevering. I hope that Jones makes it back because I’ve always loved their creativity, packaging and marketing savvy, and their holiday packs line my walls, as do the Evian limited edition collectable bottles.

I could go on and on, but it’s easier to invite all of you, when you’re in New York, to give me a call, to drop by the new place, so I can really show off the brands I’ve come to love and hate, minus the dust.