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A tale of many brands.

As magazine publishers we are aware that the snapshot of beverage alcohol retailing that we compose and present to our readers in each issue is only an image of a brief instant. Blink and it is gone--and we are working on the next issue. This truth seems particularly poignant at the moment as it affects the marketing companies and the brands that the business revolves around.

Over the past couple of years, we have witnessed stepped-up consolidation of the big wine and spirits marketing companies on a global scale. In the U.S. we've seen changes in distribution forcing even greater changes in marketing and sales, in some cases creating confusion in the form of out-of-stocks. Many of us sense a rolling over of the generations, a landmark changing of the guard at top executive levels. Look, for example, at the significant retirements that have taken place: witness Sky Spirits with the passing of the torch from Tony Foglio to Gerry Ruvo; turn to Future Brands where Mike Donohoe has made way for Steve Bellini; look at Bacardi USA where Eduardo Sardinia has retired and John Esposito has taken the reins.

Most emblematic is the death this past year of Sidney Frank, whose life and career had a tremendous impact on the industry. Who more than the man who envisioned and engineered the marketing of Grey Goose vodka could be called a Master Builder of Brands? Brands rule today just as they have for decades, although the names have changed. No one dreamed that the mantle of Riunite might ever be worn by something called Yellow Tail.

Focus on a more important difference between then and now, however. Look at almost any one of the elite, ultra-premium brands. You can call this one Grey Goose, that one Crown Royal, or any one of scores of other names. Name aside, this is the high quality but nonetheless eminently affordable and immensely popular luxury item. On the other hand, you have Yellow Tail or Smirnoff or other dozens of well-known names. Their quality is impeccable, too, their marketing is also mass, but a certain assumption of superiority is pointedly absent.

Intentionally, this shutter click ignores the many value brands. We know them. We profit from them. But they are not within the frame of the marketing picture that defines this moment. Our through-the-lens image of 2006 is defined by the luxury/popular dichotomy because our marketplace is defined socially by the evolving cocktail culture with its head in the clouds of new drinks created by world class chefs while its feet remain in the day of middle-class home entertaining.

Take a look at our pages. Use our picture of the moment and make it work for you. Next issue, we'll bring you something different.

Charles Forman, Vice President and Group Publisher
COPYRIGHT 2006 Bev-AL Communications, Inc.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:BY THE WAY
Author:Forman, Charles
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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