Nostalgia can be fun. It also can be profitable if you work it right. Take wine coolers. Please.
The TV commercials for Bartles & Jaymes that were popular back in the 1980s (remember folksy Frank and quiet Ed chatting on the porch, then thanking you for your support?) have long faded from public view. Yet, the company remains No. 1 in the cooler niche with eight million cases sold in 2006, according to Impact, New York. Seagram’s wine coolers were No. 2 with more than five million cases.
Both Bartles & Jaymes — which is owned by Gallo — and California Cooler, which was on the market for a decade until dropping out in 1992, are gearing up for major marketing campaigns as we head into the warmer months that had been the best selling period for wine coolers.
Wine coolers are a bit fuzzy in description. B&J and Seagram’s, for example, both are malt beverages, but California Coolers are made from wine and fruit juice and are lightly carbonated.
Bringing coolers back to the top of consumer consciousness may be an uphill climb.
Wine coolers can appeal to young women who don’t like the taste of beer but aren’t about to buy a bottle of Bordeaux, Gerald Celente, director at The Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y., told Brandweek magazine.
"I’d go for younger consumers who are consuming many more alcoholic beverages a day. You have to allow them to discover it and think it’s hip."
And, "Wine coolers are perceived as passe. That crowd" — ages 35 and over, who had been the strongest market when they were younger — "isn’t looking for that anymore," Mark Ingwer of Insight Research in Chicago told Brandweek.
Nevertheless, Bartles & Jaymes is moving ahead by resuscitating some of the original Frank and Ed commercials — more than 200 were shot — and making them available on YouTube.com, for example.
And, B&J is interviewing actors to become the new Frank and Ed. The original Frank, David Rufkhar, died in 1996. The new team will make public appearances and probably participate in a TV ad campaign.
Majestic Brands is rolling out California Cooler in western states right now, then going nationwide in mid-May.
(William M. Dowd covers the world of adult beverages at billdowd.com)
c.2007 Hearst Newspapers