Big Idea or Bad Idea?

I caught a few seconds of Donny Deutsch a few weeks ago; some segment entitled Big Idea/Bad Idea.

Donny’s two participating guests were told of a new McDonald’s concept in California.  No more arches, no Ronald McDonald, no messy tables.  Instead, guests are presented with a Starbuck’s-like environment of cushy leather seats and plants and healthier food choices.
Both of the guests felt it was a Big Idea.  I thought they were insane; so did Donny.  This was, after all, McDonald’s, not Le Bernardin’s.
All this to segue into a story about Skyy Vodka.  My dad was a great fan of vodka.  He liked the taste.  He liked the clarity.  And mostly he liked the limited odor.  My dad was a man’s man who understood that the primary purpose of vodka was to dull the senses, calm the nerves and get one drunk.
I mention this to explain that I do not totally understand the concept behind Skyy Infusions, a premium, fruit-infused vodka made in five all-natural varieties and presented in a new slimmer pacKaging design.  Skyy’s senior brand manager tells us “all-natural is what’s hot right now.”
I am sure that she is right.  And I am sure that all the research supports the decision.  But I am equally sure [OPINION ALERT] that this move will not jump Skyy from its No. 4 market position to something loftier.  And even if it does, I contend that it is a Bad Idea in the long run.
It is contrived.  Skyy is not going natural because it believes natural is better for drinkers. They are not even going natural because they believe it tastes better.  They are going natural because they identified a new trend and determined that they can capitalize on it.  So much for brand protection.
By the way, I like Skyy Vodka.  It’s smooth, mixes well and is not unaffordable.
But please.  Lisa Pope of Pope Consulting says that the all-natural positioning is important. “It plays into the trends that are  happening in the beverage category as a whole, and fits into consumers’ needs at this time.”
Really?  Do consumers “need” vodka infused with natural ingredients?  I guess it is “healthier” than vodka infused with unnatural ingredients, which begs the question of what consumers have been drinking up until now.
Anyway, here’s my point, and I apologize for rambling: Skyy is a vodka, like McDonald’s is a fast food hamburger joint.  Getting rid of bad stuff and adding in good stuff is a good idea (not a Big Idea) because it recognizes that you care about your customers. But by-and-large, consumers drink Skyy vodka for a reason… just like they eat McDonald’s burgers and fries for a reason.
As my dad used to say, “Just be true to who you are.”

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.