Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's Not About You It's About Me; How To Turn Pee Into Gold

Somehow, I had the tremendous fortune to grow up in Southern California.  My grade school years were spent in Huntington Beach where we lived just a quarter-mile from the beach.  My older brother owned what seemed like a massive (to me) six-foot surfboard.  On days when he was out I would gather a couple of friends to sneak my brother's surfboard out of the garage and carry it down to the beach.  We'd take turns learning to ride a few waves and then hurry it back to the garage before he returned home.  One day we dinged the board on a rock and I blamed it on my sister.  Somehow, he actually believed that until I finally confessed decades later.

Fifth grade saw mom and dad divorce, I remember crying real hard on the curb outside my house when they broke the news.  How could mom and dad not love each other any more?  After a couple of years of bouncing back and forth and the introduction of step dad I finally settled in to live with my father up the coast in Redondo Beach.  By now I was entering 8th grade and began to make friendships that still exist to this day.  Guess that's what happens when your family splits up; your friends fill in the holes.

Once family life settled down I enjoyed some truly care-free years in Redondo.  My friends and I enjoyed the beach at every possible moment and learned some valuable life skills; body surfing, rollerblading, how to toss a frisbee and the proper way to celebrate the magic of a sunset.  We also discovered the wonders of our neighbor to the south; Baja Mexico.  We'd go to Baja to surf, eat fish tacos and enjoy cheap Mexican beer.  Our favorite was Corona, primarily because in the 80's you could get a six pack for less than $2,  We would laugh and joke how it looked like we were drinking pee primarily because it was the only beer that came in a clear glass bottle.  Of course, when we returned back to the states we would only order Heineken. Holding that green bottle said a lot about who you are.

Corono began exporting to the US in 1979.  To be like other American brews they packaged their product in short brown bottles with "Made in Mexico" prominent on the label.  Not surprisingly, sales were disappointing.  The company took note.  A few years later they reintroduced the product in the clear longneck bottles that surfers and tourists to Mexico had become familiar with.  Corona's research revealed that American college males preferred this because it reminded them of another liquid.  Instead of backpeddling Corona stayed with the traditional look.  In 1986 the brand exploded with a new ritual; young men would order a bottle of Corona with a slice of lime.  Instead of emptying the contents into a mug they would smash the lime into the bottle.  Competitors figured this fad would quickly pass and to hasten it a rival started a rumor that the beer was contaminated with urine.  Young male consumers quickly laughed this off.

Embracing it's new image and attitude Corona examined its slogan "Go For the Border".  They decided to scrap it and hired Jimmy Buffett, who was already a consumer, and rolled out the "Change Your Whole Latitude" campaign.  The company also took note of the number of Mexican immigrants moving into the US.  They even took a secondary holiday; Cinco de Mayo and transformed it into a national event and excuse to enjoy Corona.  Never once during this process did Corona change what was in the bottle.  They did take note of how consumers were enjoying their product and adapted their packaging and marketing to meet those trends.  Take a moment to think how your company can do that today as you raise your bottle and toast the "Drinko of Cinco".

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