John McGee: Bailey's is proof new ideas and marketing still vital
In May 1973 David Gluckman, a South African ad agency executive, and his colleague Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies, a talented copywriter and a quintessentially English toff, were tasked by a client with coming up with an idea for a new Irish alcoholic drink.
The client, Gilbey's Ireland - a post-colonial outpost of International Distillers & Vintners (IDV) - wanted to develop a new drink for the export market to take advantage of a favourable tax regime for exporters, which the Irish government of the day encouraged to help bolster a struggling indigenous economy.
From their newly-acquired offices on Greek Street in the heart of Soho, London, the pair discussed the brief with gusto. The lightbulb moment came within a matter of minutes, when Seymour-Davies suggested mixing whiskey with cream.
After a quick dash to a nearby shop to buy the two staple ingredients, they then set about mixing, tasting and taking notes. Although barely quaffable, they decided to add some cocoa powder to the mix to take the edge off it.
After a number of refinements, and with no Plan B in place, the pair settled on their concoction and a logo and label design - costing the princely sum of five guineas - were duly commissioned, while some old Jameson Redbreast bottles were used for the initial presentation to IDV's product tsar, Tom Jago.
When it came to choosing the name, it was decided that a family name, rather than the name of a place or thing, would work best. Initially the fictitious manufacturer of the product was going to be called The Dairy Distillery, Monaghan but it was a nearby Soho restaurant that would, unwittingly, lend its name to one of the most successful products ever to be manufactured in Ireland.
The restaurant was Bailey's Bistro and the new drink was initially to be called Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Liqueur (the chocolate part would later be dropped). When Gluckman and Seymour-Davies presented the product to IDV they liked it, although further refinements were made. When they travelled to Ireland to present to the Gilbey's team, which was headed up by David Dand and marketing supremo Keith McCarthy Morrough, there were high-fives all round and almost immediate buy-in.
The rest is history.
Gluckman fondly recalls the creation and subsequent success of Bailey's in his personal memoirs, That S*it Will Never Sell (Prideaux Press, £25) which has just been published. An entertaining read, it provides a fascinating back-story to the product's development and a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to get an innovative, though simple, idea from initial concept to stakeholder buy-in and ultimately on to the shelves on pubs and off-licences around the world.
Since it was launched, Bailey's - which is now owned by Diageo - has sold over 1.3 billion bottles worldwide and every year the company sources over 220 million litres of cream from Irish farmers.
Along with Kerrygold - a brand which Gluckman also worked with in its early days - it is one of the greatest marketing success stories to have emerged from this country over the last 50 years. It demonstrates the powerful role that innovation and marketing can play in delivering commercial success.
It was Peter Drucker, the so-called father of modern day business consulting, who once said that "because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs".
Unfortunately. Drucker's sentiments are all too often overlooked by many businesses that fail to embrace, never mind unlock, innovation and marketing as key business driver.
As Gluckman and Seymour-Davies have already demonstrated, good ideas that foster innovation and innovative thinking don't necessarily have to come from within an organisation itself: they can come from the fringes like the start-up community, staff, customers as well as marketing partners like media and creative agencies.
Nike's FuelBand, for example, was created by the brand's digital agency RG/A. Other agencies, mainly USA-based, have also met with some success in this space including Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which developed a line of premium rum called Papa's Pilar. Deutsch LA created the floral delivery service Bouqs.
Elsewhere, companies like Unilever have been trying to tap into the innovative thinking that exists within the start-up community through it's Foundry programme while MasterCard is scouring the planet trying to tap into the best minds in the fintech sector. And, quelle surprise, international drinks companies are now looking at buying smaller, more innovative and marketing-driven companies that have stolen market-share from them. They're doing this for one reason - to secure their futures.
And if they don't, then a very uncertain future lies ahead.
Sunday Indo Business