Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The I. W. Harper Launch and P. R. Extravagance

This is how Diageo delivered samples of I. W. Harper to journalists and others this week to announce the brand's reintroduction in the USA. It is a little hard to see, but "I. W. Harper" is embossed on the lid. The covering is faux calfskin. The hardware is steel, medium duty. It's very nice.

Why such a fancy box to deliver two 100ml bottles, a glass, and some literature? It's a common practice, spanning my career (40+ years) and I'm sure many years before that. The idea is to make a splash, get attention, rise above all of the other things competing for a writer or editor's attention. The extravagance of the delivery vehicle is meant to convey the importance of its message. Sometimes it seems cost-be-damned. Also, no one seems to care about waste. After I've seen this thing, been suitably bowled over, and removed the two things I actually want, what am I supposed to do with the rest of it?

This isn't the most extravagant thing I've received. A few weeks ago, Jim Beam sent me a chair.

Also this week, Jim Beam sent me two 375ml bottles of their new Jim Beam High Rye and Rolled Oat bourbons. At the bottom of the enclosed literature it says: "To comply with FTC guidelines, if you choose to write about these products, please disclose that you received these samples without payment." I'm apparently supposed to tell my readers when I receive free whiskey samples, but it's nobody's business if I got a free chair.

From time to time there is a tempest in a teapot about producers providing free samples to writers. That anyone believes I would write something a certain way for the purpose of getting samples, or even chairs, is beyond ridiculous. Inches away from where the pictures above were taken, there is a stack of unopened boxes containing samples. I'm lucky, because I don't write about scotch. Those writers are buried in the stuff. As for people who cover all distilled spirits, or all alcoholic beverages, I can't imagine how they deal with the volume.

Before you ask, yes, I recycle.

Since I. W. Harper is a historic brand, established in the late 19th century when the whole idea of brand marketing was new, this kit is probably intended to evoke the sample cases whiskey salesmen, known as 'drummers,' carried on their sales trips. There is a great depiction of this in the film "Stagecoach" (1939).

Unfortunately, that connection was probably lost on most of the people who received the I. W. Harper package. Diageo could have sold it better, probably some creative director tried, but got overruled by brand managers worried about appearing "too old-fashioned." It's a delicate thing, re-booting neglected historic brands like Harper, Old Taylor, Old Grand-Dad, and Old Forester. You want the historic cred, which Harper has in spades, but you don't want to look out-of-date.

Speaking of Old Taylor, which is now owned by Sazerac, this week I also received a sample of the new E. H. Taylor Cured Oak. It's a 50 ml bottle. They didn't even include a press release (that was emailed last week). So how did it get my attention? They put a sticker of their buffalo logo on the outside of the box. That's usually enough.


Anonymous said...

Richnimrod said;

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck... I want to be you when I grow up!!!
I never thought (or think) your writings may be influenced by gifts or samples... You cut too little slack!
I might, however, be just a little bit swayed myself, if somebody were to send me samples... or maybe a chair even.
Then again, maybe I'd be as upright as you. Send me a sample of I.W. Harper and let's find out!!!
Thanx for all you do for all of us.

Justin said...

Cut the malarkey! How does it taste??????

Rob K said...

What are you supposed to do with the rest of it? Send it to me. I could use a decent case like that.

kjbeggs said...

Oh, the things i'd do for a free chair...

Christian Krogstad said...

Chuck, I'll remember this lesson and when I send you samples of any of my products, it'll be in used Mt Dew PET bottles, inside a FedEx shipper.

sku said...

The fact that Diageo still sends you swag after all you've written about them is pretty funny.

Andrew said...

Could you please elaborate on the Beam chair? How big was it? Can it fold? Is it made of metal, or wood? It it leather-surfaced, and does it have Fred Noe's signature on it? Have you received any other free furniture pieces in the past?

Chuck Cowdery said...

It's a Troutman. Solid oak, painted black, and big enough for my ample backside.

Anonymous said...

How is the Cured Oak?

Anonymous said...

The Harper case could be used as a carry-on when flying, especially if your name was "I. W. Harper" - easy for the airlines to trace if lost in transit :-/

Anonymous said...

Will the "Cured Oak" cure you of all that ails you (including any excess $$$)? ;-)