A Special Relationship

Running Your Bar With The Help Of Sales Reps, Brand Ambassadors & Consultants
by Philip Duff

Copyright © Liquid Solutions Limited, 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, carrier pigeon or otherwise (except for brief passages for purpose of reviews) without the prior written permission of Liquid Solutions Limited. For commercial use or reproduction, please contact consulting@liquidsolutions.org All photos, logos and other images are used by kind permission of the companies and people involved. Please email me if I have omitted crediting you/your firm. I drink, you know. The views and opinions expressed in this document are exclusively those of Liquid Solutions Limited unless expressly otherwise stated. No reference is implied, nor should one be inferred, to any person, company or brand (living or dead, extant or extinct) not specifically named in the text. In the text I have used he/his, but only because he/she and his/hers gets old real quick. As anyone who knows me will testify, I am a great admirer of the female sex, both in bars and out of them. What you are reading was a worthless, poorly-formatted pile of crap until it was lovingly nursed back to eBook awesomeness by Darcy O’Neil, creator of the world’s most-read cocktail blog and author of “Fix the Pumps” which you should click off to buy right now, and then subscribe to his fine blog. Thank you Darcy. Let’s do a shot of Buckley’s some time soon… philip@liquidsolutions.org

"...better drinks"

Table of Contents
About The Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Tune In To WII-FM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 First Help Yourself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 On-trade Brand-Building. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 The Cast of Characters – Who Wants What? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Working with Sales Representatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Representatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 The Parallel Universe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Private & Public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 To List Or Not To List . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 To List or Not to List . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 A Word To The Reps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 The Fake Listing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Branding Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Working With Brand Ambassadors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Who Are They? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 The Nature of Brand Ambassadorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 The Modern Brand Ambassador . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 The Life of the Ambassador . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 What Brand Ambassadors Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Working With Brand Consultants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Hiring Consultants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Things To Specify In A Contract: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Get More from Reps & Ambassadors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

Chapter 1: About The Author

About The Author
Philip Duff (that’s me), was going to become a doctor in his native Dublin but inadvertently got in the wrong queue. Starting bartending at the tender age of 15, he picked up a degree in marketing (useful) and French (not so much), then quickly spread his wings to become a bartender, trainer and manager in Dublin, London, New York and the Cayman Islands before inexplicably moving to the Netherlands in 1995. One of the mixology world’s first global brand ambassadors, Philip and his company Liquid Solutions create and teach award-winning training programs to more than 10,000 bartenders, sales & marketing staff and people who wandered in by mistake in 50 countries across the world (last time we checked). His drinks-business clients include Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, EuroWineGate, MaxXium, Beam Global, InBev and Heineken. In November 2008 Philip woke up to discover he had co-founded the Netherlands’ first neo-speakeasy bar, door 74 in Amsterdam (it had been a long night). By May 2009, door 74 had won the first nomination ever for a Dutch bar in the World’s Best Cocktail Bar category at Tales of the Cocktail, the only one that year from Europe. In December 2009 it won Best Cocktail Bar and Best Bartender at the Dutch Hospitality & Style Awards, and in January 2010, job done, Philip sold his interest in the bar to his co-founder. It’s a nice place, drop by when you’re in Amsterdam. As a consultant, trainer, writer, brand ambassador, training-program manager, bar founder, Irishman, womanizer and drinker, Philip brings a 360º perspective to the topic, and has recruited and trained over 30 full-time brand ambassadors.
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Chapter 1: Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements
This paper grew up out of the panel discussion “A Special Relationship: Running Your Bar With The Help of Consultants, Sales Reps and Brand Ambassadors” that I concepted and moderated at the annual Tales of the Cocktail symposium in New Orleans in 2009. My job on the day was to throw gasoline on the fires of discussion among my panel members, and it was a memorable session. Either on the day or since, each panel member helped enormously with this paper, so without further ado, thanks to: Antoinette Cattani learned the business from one of brand ambassadorship’s most revered figures, Sidney Frank. She now reigns supreme at Cattani Imports, who build brands in the US on-trade dollar-for-dollar better than just about anyone. Simon Ford is a bon viveur and the only person ever to win Best Brand Ambassador two years running. After helping build the Plymouth gin brand in the UK bar-by-bar, he chucked it all in to move to the USA and do the same again, from scratch, with quite staggering success. Simon now commands a team of 20 brand ambassadors for the noble Pernod-Ricard corporation. Philippe Rochez is the Export Manager for Chartreuse, long the thinking bartender’s herbal liqueur of choice. In the absence of dedicated brand ambassadors, he doubles as ambassador for Chartreuse in the many markets he visits annually, and—like Antoinette—brings a brand-owners perspective to the table.

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Chapter 1: Acknowledgements

H. Joseph Ehrmann is owner of both San Francisco’s multiple-award-winning Elixir and Cocktail Ambassadors, LLC. Uniquely qualified to tell it like it is from both sides of the street, H is almost as well known for running America’s most famous “green” bar as for being the Brand Ambassador for Square One Organic Spirits, LLC. Dilettante, gourmand, and globetrotter, Angus Winchester is one of the world’s best-known bartender-trainers and presenters, and has been a brand ambassador, and hired and trained brand ambassadors, in half a dozen countries around the world. He is currently the Global Ambassador for Tanqueray Gin, Executive Bartender at Nimb (Copenhagen) and El Presidente of Alconomics. Mauro Mahjoub is, as well as being fluent in about seventeen languages, the global ambassador for Campari and the owner of the esteemed Mauro’s Negroni Club bar in Munich, Germany. Like H, Mauro brings a wealth of experience to the table from both sides of the equation.

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Chapter 1: Acknowledgements

Sponsor No writing on the topic of brand ambassadors, consultants and sales reps would be complete without tipping our hat to the sponsor of the aforementioned panel at Tales, G’Vine Gin, the tastiest thing to come out of France since Brigitte Bardot put on a bikini. Available in two iterations, Floraison and Nousaison, G’Vine is one of the most successful modern gins around, and rather good too.

4

Introduction

“It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.” -- Niccolò Machiavelli

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Chapter 2: Introduction

Let me begin by saying that despite the tone and text that follows, I have the utmost respect for all the players in the bar business mentioned hence. Owners, managers, sales reps, brand ambassadors, consultants and bartenders; I love you all, you mad bastards, from the bottom of my heart. Hell, I am most of you, at one time or another. I mean no disrespect by referring to sales representatives as “reps” when they may well have more involved and demanding functions than merely pushing booze; similarly, there is a real job behind, say “On-Trade Relations Manager” that far exceeds the role of “brand ambassador”. For the same reasons I chose “he/his” over “he/she” and “his/hers”, though, I have chosen to use the terms owner/manager, rep, ambassador, consultant and bartender: simplicity and clarity. I have taken a bit of artistic liberty here and there, refreshingly free of anything even approaching political correctness. In plain English, I’d like you to smile from time to time as you read through this and even chuckle once or twice, so I have injected humour into some of my words. I am trying to be as entertaining and charming a version of myself in print as I am in real life. Should you wish to contact me and express your displeasure at some real or imagined insult, I ask only that you first consider this story from Scott Adams before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Adams, a globally-syndicated cartoonist, reports that when he draws a cartoon featuring, say, a clown being nasty, he will receive a hundred or more emails from readers outraged over his thoughtlessness for the feelings of clowns. None of those complaints will be from clowns. This paper was written for the bar owner/manager. We’re assuming you own or run a decent bar, which operates under the same sort of limitations as most small (and many large) businesses: undercapitalized, lack of training structure, over-dependence on key staff, no formal policies, manuals or good
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Chapter 2: Introduction

communication structure, staggering from day to day like Amy Winehouse from recording studio to rehab facilities. Change is difficult, expensive and scary. (In my experience, the game isn’t hugely different if you are bar manager of a massive bar or part of a chain; you just have to deal with office and corporate politics on top of all the issues just listed. What’s harder; not having a manual or time to write one, or having one that needs to be changed and which you’re not allowed to?) It’s enough to drive a man to drink (with gin, dry vermouth, Bitter Truth orange bitters and a lemon zest, please). If the bar has been open for a while, and survived, then there is another problem, the it’s-always-worked-fine-before mindset. Nobody – not the staff or perhaps even the managers – feels it necessary to change. The proper counter to this, of course, is to screw up your eyes and mouth and put your fingers in your ears and stamp your feet while screaming “IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ALWAYS DID YOU ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GOT, YOU MORON! If nothing else it will enliven the Monday pre-shift meeting. One key to business success is adapting to change, even anticipating it, instead of sitting around on your well-padded arse and moaning about how things were better in the old days. Running a bar these days means facing up to any one of a dozen challenges that literally didn’t exist a decade or two ago. Legislation has gotten tighter, staff more expensive, guests more experienced, cosmopolitan and demanding (while drinking less – people don’t drink like they used to) and suppliers more numerous, and desperate, than ever. At the same time, there are opportunities now that didn’t exist a decade ago either: you can outsource a very large part of your training program to brands, get paid just for selling certain brands, and use consultants to keep your bar cutting-edge.
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Chapter 2: Introduction

Tune In To WII-FM1
As a bar manager/owner, your first thought on hearing of anything new in your profession should be WII-FM – What’s In It For Me? How can I make some money off of this? There is gelt to be earned by making smart use of resources on offer. Do it right, and it’s like finding money in the street. Screw it up and it’s like trying to return a ten-year-old toaster without a receipt to an out-of-state Wal-Mart while wearing bloody overalls and frothing incessantly at the mouth as a damp stain spreads accusingly on the front of your pants.2 The modern bar owner/manager has to contend with a dizzying array of characters dropping by: brand ambassadors who aren’t sales reps, sales reps who aren’t brand ambassadors and consultants who aren’t either. They are, by and large, each expert in different things, in their own way, things you aren’t expert in. This expertise, enthusiasm, and their contacts, can all be harnessed for your benefit, if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort yourself. Thank you. Sitting comfortably? Drink to hand? Then let the festivities commence…

1 2

with thanks to Sullivan & Roberts. It’s hard, is all I’m trying to say. 9

First Help Yourself

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” -- William Shakespeare.

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Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

It is silly to think about sales reps, ambassadors and consultants helping your bar unless you have your bar running reasonably well yourself. Nobody can help you if you cannot help yourself. Indeed, very often accepting the help of reps and ambassadors for a poorly-running bar can actually make things worse, like sticking a band-aid on a festering, gangrenous wound. This is why most of those celebrity-chef-revitalizes-a-restaurant TV shows inevitably wind up with the restaurant going quietly out of business a few months after the show is taped; the problems ran far deeper than could be remedied by having a shouty chef bang on about fresh ingredients and cleaning for a few days. Is Your Bar Running Well? A Checklist... 1. Sales increase every year. 2. Profits increase every year. 3. You can pay all your bills on time, including taxes and your own salary. 4. Guests in your target-market segments are the majority of your guests. 5. You know how your bar earns money and where—food/drinks/entry charges/private hire/drink catering/bar training—and you know where the priorities lie. 6. You know who your target markets are, and what you do/do better than the competition to attract and keep them. 7. Service speed, accuracy and food and drink quality are at the same minimum standard no matter what time a guest comes in, no matter which day or who is cooking/bartending/serving. 8. There is a training program with manuals, a member of staff designated as trainer, spec sheets and checklists, for all the departments (bar, kitchen, floor, manager).
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Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

9. You have no trouble attracting, recruiting, training, managing and developing both staff and managers. 10. You can take a holiday for three weeks, relax completely while away and when you return everything is running the same—or better—than before you left. 11. You update the drinks, cocktail, and alcohol brands offered quarterly, taking the opportunity to review the service and prices of all current and potential suppliers. You set, or follow closely, trends in food and drink. 12. You are always planning at least two quarters ahead, and review your marketing strategy annually, keeping up to date with the bar business in your area/country and around the world by reading national and foreign trade magazines, attending national and foreign trade shows and visiting new bars, both nationally and – you guessed it – abroad. 13. You have statistics coming out of your ass. You know how many bottles of liquor you sell annually in each category, broken down by brand, and what you pay for each one; you know how many cocktails you sell per month, and by exactly how much sales increase for a cocktail if it’s featured on your chalkboard or as Cocktail of the Day; you know your monthly gross profit margin percentage, monthly dry-goods cost, sales per seat per hour per day, and every other statistic you can get my hands on. Perhaps this all sounds a bit too much? Appropriate for a large chain of mega-bars, maybe, but a bit over the top for a smallish single-unit bar? Here’s the thing. If you’re a small operator, you need to be more on top of all these things than a large operator; a large bar or chain of bars will have the comfy cushions of finance and cashflow that a smaller bar usually will not. Nothing in the checklist costs much to do, but everything makes your bar sales increase, raises profits, and future-proofs your concept. You are
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Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

failing as a manager/owner if you spend less than eight hours per week inputting, extracting, analyzing and acting upon such statistics. Armed with this very clear idea of what your bar is, you’ll be able to make better choices when in discussions with outside agents like reps/ambassadors/consultants. Remember, they can only help you run your business – not run it for you. And they have differing agendas to you. In the old days, there simply weren’t a tenth of the brands floating around that there are now. There were mega-brands available everywhere, and local brands available, er, locally, but very little else. There was no such thing as a brand ambassador or a bar consultant – at least, not with those titles – and sales reps were mostly slick-suited people with pricelists and promotional goodies. They didn’t much care where you bought a brand from because they worked for the only company importing or selling it. Reps worked for the big brands because little brands couldn’t afford reps. Everyone knew their place. In the last two decades, though, improved logistics made it possible to move anything anywhere for cheap. Media – largely the Internet – meant brand-owners could inform the global community of their brand with a few mouse clicks, and all of a sudden there were not just perhaps five or six reps in your area, but twenty or thirty, representing hundreds of brands, some monstrously large, some tiny. The big brands of yesteryear are lumbering mammoths now, with vast budgets at their disposal. Everyone is angling to be the next global brand, building it from the ground up, one bottle at a time. In your bar.

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Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

On-trade Brand-Building
The Holy Grail of a liquor marketeer is to have a brand that sells itself quickly and easily with minimum effort for a premium price and healthy profit margin – i.e., in a liquor store or duty-free outlet. Selling a brand through the on trade – bars, restaurants, clubs – takes a larger investment of money and effort and usually delivers a lower profit margin. But, building a brand in the on-trade creates word-of-mouth awareness and general publicity which helps (a) to get the brand listed in liquor- and duty-free stores and (b) to encourage consumers to pick Bottle X off the shelf in the store instead of another brand. Brands have been built in the on-trade since time immemorial. Michel Roux did it one bar at a time with Absolut vodka in 1979, repeating the success with Bombay Sapphire gin in 1988; Sidney Frank did it with Jagermeister, whose entire marketing strategy was reputedly suggested to him after observing Louisiana State University students partying with Jager. One of the most spectacular successes of the last few decades was Ketel One vodka in the US, which dared to both price itself significantly above Absolut (the then-market leader in the premium vodka segment) and to build the brand bar-by-bar, because they didn’t have the money for a full-blown marketing campaign. This was a risky strategy in the 1980s. Sons of the Nolet
14 The late Sidney Frank Michel Roux

Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

family (owners of the brand) personally gave tastings and trainings in bars and restaurants in order to get their brand listed. It worked so outrageously well that other brands began to be built using on-trade brand-building, famously the Grey Gooses of this world (Frank again). On-trade brand building became a marketing best-practice even for brands that did have the money for a full-blown marketing campaign, as well as for the hundreds of smaller brands that did not. On-trade brand-building is now somewhat a victim of it’s own success: everyone’s doing it, so it is no longer enough just to participate or just to have a program or just to employ a brand ambassador. As a brand, you must stand out, and be as ahead of the pack now as the Rouxs, Franks and Nolets were, more than twenty-five years ago. Few do. These days, even if you operate a Bar, Grill & Live-Bait store in East Asstickle, you can barely open the doors before being stampeded flat by majestic, roaming herds of charming, helpful people with iPhones and designer Converses, all of whom want just an hour or two of your time, preferably with everyone who’s ever worked at the bar in attendance as well. Every single one of them, every time you see them—which feels like “daily”—has got something new for you to taste, some new nugget of information to teach you. Have you tried the 12 year old? The 18 year old? The six-hour-old? How about this one? This is what they use at Milk & Honey. This one’s only available in Botswana, you know, but—you know what? This bottle’s yours. ‘Cause I like you.

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Chapter 3: First Help Yourself

The Cast of Characters – Who Wants What?
You, the owner/manager, want to build, maintain or increase sales in your bar, and although you probably have an idea of how you want to do that and with which brands, you don’t care which exact brands you sell to do this. The most important brand to you is the brand of your bar. Your first responsibility is to have a healthy business. Reps want to build, maintain or increase sales in their area, and although you might have a good working relationship with a rep, the rep doesn’t much care which exact bars he sells to so long as he achieves high sales and placement in prestigious bars. The most important brand to a rep is the brand of the company he works for. A rep’s first responsibility is to sell bottles. Brand Ambassadors want to make their brands better-known and better-loved in their area. The most important brand to an ambassador is, duh, the brand he works for. An ambassador’s first responsibility is to increase the fame and regard of his brand, which means having good relations with bars that sells lots of liquor, or are prestigious. Consultants should want to build, maintain or increase the business in your bar, but may well have different ideas to you about how to go about it. The most important brand to a consultant is the brand of his own company. A consultant’s first responsibility is to have a healthy business for his company.

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Working with Sales Representatives

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” -- John D. Rockefeller

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Chapter 4: Working with Sales Representatives

Who Are They?
Also known as: sales executives, on-trade representatives, on-premise managers, area managers, channel managers, etc. These are people whose job is to sell you booze: they are hired, trained and rewarded on the basis of case sales1. They control budgets and can give discounts. Usually, though, ultimately the sales budget comes from the total marketing budget.

Representatives
Relationships with a sales rep should be approached with an eye on the long term, because as time goes by a good rep will learn the ropes in every portfolio and category and get promoted upwards, their budget increasing with every promotion, until they can rain largesse down on you like hailstones. Sales reps will work for one of three parties: For an importer/marketer. In many countries the importer is the marketer and also the distributor. But in some countries like the USA, the importer might be just that—the importer. Marketing and distribution will be done by another party. Some countries, like Sweden and Canada, have government monopolies: the government becomes your importer. A rep who works for an importer will spend a lot of time developing and maintaining good relationships with the distributor, who will in turn have their own sales reps.
1 The standard unit of measurement in the drinks business on the marketing side is “a case” which refers to 9 liters of product, regardless if that’s the amount that might come in an actual case of that brand. So when a marketing director says to a sales rep “we sold 10,000 cases last year” he means 90,000 liters, whereas if a rep says to a bar owner “I can get you a good price on 5 cases” the rep means actual cases, which might be, say, 5 cases, each 6 x 750ml bottles. 18

Chapter 4: Working with Sales Representatives

For a distributor. Distributors market and physically distribute brands in a country, both brands produced domestically and imported brands. A typical distributor might have lots of different brands, hopefully none that compete directly with one another; mega-distributors will have dozens and dozens of brands in each category, most of which do compete with each other. In theory, a sales rep can sell all the brands of the distributor, but personal preference combined with the type of outlets he/she calls on will influence which brands an individual rep emphasizes. Hence, hairy old guys have to push Scotch, cute young girls usually get lumbered with the liqueurs, sharpdressed young chaps do vodka, bleached-hair Twitter-addicted partyboys call on the nightclubs, etc. Directly for a brand. Essentially, a single brand will have it’s own importer, distributor and sales force. A sales rep is usually a good-looking/charming (if you’re lucky, both) person, because that’s a big part of how they get hired. The best reps combine a friendly, attractive appearance with business skills and persuasion techniques: they really, truly DO want to become your partner, because then they will sell you more, and you will get a better deal. Because they can get moved from portfolio to portfolio (from wine to spirits, for instance) or from category to category (from nightclubs to fine-dining restaurants), a rep may appear to not know very much about your business; not necessarily because he’s clueless, but because each portfolio or category requires different, specific knowledge and contacts. Selling ultra-premium vodka by the magnum to strip clubs is a different ballgame to selling ultra-premium gin by the bottle to renowned mixology bars, and different again to selling discount wine to supermarkets in the ‘hood.
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Chapter 4: Working with Sales Representatives

The Parallel Universe
An interesting twist on the job of the sales rep in the 21st century is so-called “parallel goods”. These occur when several regions—which can be states, countries or other economic areas—have free-trade agreements, such as the EU (European Union) or NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Association). Here’s how it works: if say, Tanqueray gin is being sold very cheaply by a wholesaler in Germany, a Dutch wholesaler can legitimately buy a pallet or two and sell it to his Dutch clients. Bars love this because you can get really sharp prices on brands—but reps typically do not, because they are only rewarded for sales of their brand(s) through the official national distributor, which usually sells the brands at a higher price than an independent distributor who trades in parallel goods. Brand owners aren’t usually crazy about this either, as it cheapens the perception of their brand. It is, however, nothing less than good business practice for bars to buy their goods at the cheapest price they can find. It does mean you may get less or no “support"—in the form of listing fees, sponsorship, free bottles etc.—from the local rep if you use parallel-goods wholesalers instead of the official distributors. He may also take you off his Christmas-card list.
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Chapter 4: Working with Sales Representatives

Private & Public
When drinking in your bar, a sales rep should be a great guest. He or she should be well-dressed, funny, charming, drink well, tip well and respect the boundary between having a drink with colleagues or friends or clients in your bar, and doing business. It is uncomfortable, not to say unproductive, for a rep to start demanding why you don’t stock his brand after five cocktails with his college buddies. Be firm. Only discuss business deals during business meetings, in the daytime, with nothing stronger than sodas on the table. When a rep comes into your bar as a guest he is an honoured guest, must behave as such, and deserves to be treated as such, even though he may be (in his own mind) working, visiting bars with colleagues, staff, bosses or agencies. Never refer to his previous visit if he is with people you do not know, and always try to make him and his brands feel, and look, good in front of others. If a rep consistently whines about you not stocking his or her brand while he is a guest in your bar, you will have to take him or her aside and explain your no-talking-business-outside-meetings rule again.

To List Or Not To List
On the topic of stocking or not stocking brands: this is a choice that only you can make, and you must be led by your research into your target market. If you stock only the biggest, most familiar brands, you are reducing dialogue between your guests and your bartenders, and removing the possibility of earning a premium price; everyone stocks those brands, which reduces the amount you can charge for them. At the same time, you are increasing speed-of-service and—for some guests—making your bar more relaxed and comfortable, because they don’t have to deal with unfamiliar brands and
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Chapter 4: Working with Sales Representatives

reveal they don’t know much about liquor. If you choose to stock only unfamiliar—but great—boutique brands, you have a unique reason for guests to come to your bar, but your bartenders and servers will have to engage in much more dialogue and selling with the guest, which requires more training and product knowledge. A third consideration is of a more practical nature: you’ll need enough shelf space if you want to display more bottles. Depending on what is locally legal, reps have a varying array of incentives to get you to stock and sell their brands. Free branded promotional items, for instance, to help sell the brands: branded glassware, staff clothing, bar tools, menus and so on. My position on this is simple: only take a branded item if you absolutely cannot buy an unbranded one. The extra financial benefit of free cocktail shakers or glassware does not weigh up against allowing a liquor brand to invade your bar, and because everyone else does take the freebies, your bar will stand out all the more if you do not. If your bar is a good one, you do not need promotional toys or gimmicks at all: your staff can sell the brands.

EXTINCT

AROMATIC TINCTURE
“The Chemists Alternative to Bitters”

Bitters were traditionally used in cocktails to help relieve America’s raging case of dyspepsia, not as a flavour enhancer. Aromatic Tincture was created by chemists (pharmacists) for the purpose of improved flavour.

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Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant
Let me, if not detour, then certainly noodle around a little bit here. The word “visibility” to a rep or ambassador or brand manager is like the word “transubstantiation” to the Pope, or “lipgloss” to a Pussycat Doll. It is an article of faith, and beyond all rational debate. The drinks industry’s marketeers believe that brand visibility delivers sales: that having your brand plastered over every available surface in a bar will deliver sales of a brand quickly and easily, compared to the long haul of training bartenders to be knowledgeable and, indeed, educating guests to brand-call. There is truth in this: studies (that I can’t be bothered to look up the reference for - I’m far too busy betting on the horses and thinking about beautiful ladies) consistently indicate that more than two-thirds of guests have not made their mind up what to order when they approach the bar. And many, many liquor sales are made in places crammed to the roof with guests, booming and shuddering with music at a volume that makes the glassware vibrate. In such places, there is zero chance for a charming conversation about the relative merits of añejo versus reposado tequila, or whether Pikesville 80 proof is better than Rittenhouse 80º. In those places, visibility should deliver sales. But.....
Really? 23

Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

In my experience the “power” of having a brand visible is nowhere near so powerful in creating sales as is commonly thought. It is simply a business practice that nobody in the drinks business knows, dares or cares to challenge. It is, if not the Emperor’s New Clothes, at least The Emperor’s Flimsy G-String. Designing and updating POS (branded point-of-sale merchandising materials to you and me) gives brand managers something to do. An otherwise difficult to obtain bar tool will make a bartender’s eyes light up if he gets a free one, even if it’s branded, and there is nothing wrong with making bartenders happy. It can be cheering to see enormous displays of your brand and it’s bottles when, as a brand manager, you travel to foreign markets, alone and far away from the MILF2 you are married to. Undue influence to achieve visibility is sharply felt in the trenches: sales reps are put under stupid pressure to create “visibility” in “their” bars, and often reprimanded if, when showing visiting bosses and brand managers around town, the brands are not ‘visible’ enough. I’m not talking about just bottle displays here: I mean posters, neon signs, wall murals, branded straws, napkins, glasses, shakers, barspoons, jiggers, mixing glasses, spremaduras, knives (!), cutting boards, pour mats, bar caddies, fruit trays, bar towels, staff clothing, bar furniture, outdoor ashtrays, menu holders, menus themselves, check-holders and God knows what else. Vast, staggering sums are spent on these items and to what avail? Well, like I said visibility does work—a bit. I cannot believe it is worth what those items cost to make. Bear in mind, a POS item costs more to produce than the unbranded equivalent, because it has to be bought and then
2 Or HILF, of course, if H = husband… 24

Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

embellished with the brand. Often, the portion of a listing-fee agreement that doesn’t rely on volume of sales relies on “visibility”. I think this just helps the brand managers to feel like they are getting something in return for their investment; if it comes down to it, many sales- or brand-managers feel a bit sheepish handing over large sums of cash to a bar for the privilege of it selling their brand. Visibility seems like a plausible thing to ask for—it should work—and assuages their internal conflict. In my experience, in a booming, busy SRO bar, visibility does not make guests order brands very much. Not very much at all. In such bars, either the guests don’t care what brand they get, or they already know which brand they want, or they want a brand or (more usually) a drink they have just seen someone else drinking. Sure, sales of a brand go up in a bar where the brand is excessively visible—but how much of that is because the staff has been trained and the product is stocked, usually as an exclusive pouring brand, and how much is because there is an enormous display of bottles behind the bar? There is often little thought given to the negative effect created by counter-productive visibility. This is when a competing brand is served in/using another brand’s POS item (e.g. Havana Club & cola in a Bacardi & Coke glass, or a bottle of Taittinger in a Piper Heidsieck icebucket) or when the sign/poster/display/POS item is present but the liquor itself is out of stock or even no longer stocked. What you do see, often, is brand-overload. There is so much branding visibility in a venue that guests simply ignore it; everywhere they look there is a brand, so they ignore all of them. It makes no difference if the bar is overloaded with one brand or many; the result is the same. Often, if it is an upmarket brand, excess visibility serves to devalue it. A previously fine bar
25

Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

in Amsterdam, that romantic drug-crazed Venice of the North where I hang my hat, was closed for quite a while and reopened not so long ago. In the meantime it had been outrageously, ridiculously, mind-bogglingly over-branded, principally with an upmarket vodka brand and an upmarket gin brand from the same company. Let’s call them Green Gull and Delhi Ruby, shall we? There were Green Gull/Delhi Ruby pourmats, napkins, shakers, linen coasters, Green Gull ice-buckets every half-meter along the bartop alternating with Delhi Ruby bar caddies every meter...it was breathtaking in it’s over-branded-ness. You couldn’t move for the visibility. Knowing a bar stocks your favourite brand is a minor plus point for you as a guest—it saves you that frankly unforgivable second or two of having to ask one of the staff if they stock it—but ultimately over-visibility cheapens a premium brand. Visibility for brands is the same as makeup for ladies and aftershave for men; you really don’t need it, but a tiny little bit is fine, for your own self-confidence if nothing else. Any more than that works against you. Your friends won’t dare to tell you for fear of hurting your feelings—or because they wear too much as well—so you’ll slap on more and more and look sillier and sillier.
26

Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

Finally, there are several global trends that contra-indicate increasing investment in visibility: 1. Smaller, high-service high-dialogue bars. Neo-speakeasies are one extreme example, but also neighbourhood bars, 20–60 seat restaurants, etc. Talking—with each other and knowledgeable staff—is why you go there. 2. Diving birth rates and aging global population, especially in the US and Western Europe. Only the youngest, most inexperienced, visibility-led drinkers go to packed, noisy bars where dialogue is difficult, and that young generation is dwindling at a severe rate. 3. Lifelong brand switching. The accepted wisdom of marketing used to be the same as that of the Jesuits: give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man, i.e., brand choices made in youth will endure into maturity. This is no longer true, otherwise we would now be listening to digital Sony Walkmans, not iPods. One reason it’s not true, by the way, is the rise of the Kidult: the single, child-less thirty, forty- or fifty-something who spends all his money on himself and his various grown-up toys. It is, in short, no longer necessary or even desirable to try to bond a consumer to your liquor brand when he is young. 4. Increasing expertise among consumers in food and drink. 5. Increasing niche-nature of premium brands; a desire among consumers to hear and internalise the story and soul of a brand instead of simply having it’s name or logo thrust at them. OK, rant concluded. Deep breath…

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Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

To List or Not to List
Training is increasingly used as a listing incentive: stock our brands and you will get free training sessions from superstar bartender X, who may be an ambassador for the brand. We’ll deal with this in the Ambassador section but this can be very useful. You should value brand-sponsored trainings from a respected bartender as if you had paid for them. And on top of the incentives is Listing Fees. Kaaaaaaaaaaaa-ching! Firms will pay you money to sell their brands, and if you have a very well-known or successful bar, you might not even have to sell very much; it’s enough for them just to have you stock the brands, as a prestige outlet. Listing fees, though, are not always everything they are cracked up to be... Drink Firm XYZ has the brands A, B, C, D, E, and F. This year, they have gotten a nice big budget from the head office of brand A. They can give, you, say, €8,000 for one year up-front to stock brand A, have lots of bottles on the back bar and use it as a pouring brand. Great, right? Well, not entirely. XYZ will most likely also demand that you stock and use as pouring brands B, C, D, E, and F—essentially, giving these brands a free ride on brand A’s money, and making your back-bar display look exactly like a dozen others where XYZ have dropped some cash. XYZ will also demand that you buy the bottles from their recognized wholesaler in your country, which will sell it at higher prices than you would pay for the exact same bottles from an independent, alternative distributor. As much as 5 or even 7 euros a bottle more, to be exact.

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Chapter 4: The Myth of Visibility: An Undisguised Rant

Now, say you normally go through 20 bottles of liquor per week: ( x 5/bottle x 52 weeks = €5200). So the “free money” part of the deal is now only (8000 – 5200) €2800, which comes down to just €54 per week for a year. For that paltry amount you have sacrificed your whole back-bar and most of your pouring brands. Your bar looks like any other where XYZ did a listing-fees deal. On the one hand, you do get the cash up front, and eight grand up front can make a big difference—on the other hand, you only get one chance to make a first impression on your guests… Not all listing fees are done that way, though. In Germany, it’s common to do a deal where you agree to buy from recognized suppliers but at the end of the year you receive a euro or two per bottle sold. The amount you get varies, and it varies depending on how many bottles you sold: there might be a minimum of, say, 500 bottles, and if you sell more than that, you get a higher amount per-bottle. There are other benefits to taking listing fees: sales reps and marketeers will come by your bar more often spending money, and they may book more special events and parties at your bar (ka-ching!) at which you get bottles or even cases of free booze as well as a room-hire fee. The ideal situation is one where rival drinks firms will compete to pay a premium for you to stock their brands because of the prestige of your bar, where you are free to buy the bottles from whomever you like, and where it is decent brands that do not compromise the image of your bar. In all this talk about liquor brands, never forget that the most important brand is your own one—the brand of your bar. You can damage it by stocking stupid or inappropriate brands.

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Chapter 4: A Word To The Reps

A Word To The Reps
The best agreements are self-enforcing, where each party is motivated to fulfill their part of the deal, hence sales-tied listing-fees agreements are preferable to ones where money is paid up-front. One twist on this I have observed recently is using mystery-guest reports as an element of listing agreements; I suggested the very thing to a major brewery more than a decade ago. As a rep, especially with premium brands, you want sales but not at the cost of the brand’s image; how it is sold is often as important as how much is sold. Tying investment to hitting targets on a mutually-agreed mystery-guest report form, filled in by anonymous visitors from an external agency, makes the whole listing-fee situation transparent. The bar owner is motivated to sells lots of the brand (which can be tracked, as he is required to buy from official distributors) and to promote and serve it correctly (which is determined by the mystery-guest reports). Everyone wins, with the added bonus that the bar owner gets additional input on his own bar operation from the mystery-guest reports. And trickling the investment over the 12-month period makes it more likely that it will be upheld for the full period. You will often—perhaps always?—be accosted for listing fees from bars that have not yet opened. This is a gamble, and one on which you, the knowledgeable local rep, should be able to call the odds. Have the owners opened other successful bars? Run successful bars? Bartended in successful bars? What’s their business plan*? Marketing plan3? How’s their financing? If all the signs are good, you might be able to negotiate your brand a bargain: a listing at the new hot-spot for far less than it would cost if you tried
3 * No, not just what they say it is—ask to see the paper copies of these. Often, they will only exist in the prospective entrepreneur’s head. 30

Chapter 4: A Word To The Reps

to get listed after they opened and became the new hot-spot. On the other hand, the whole thing might crash and burn. My advice is, if it seems like a good investment, pay out monthly, and pay the first installment the day after the bar opens. This may sound unduly harsh towards fledgling bar owners, but a bar that has to depend on an upfront listing fee just to get the doors open is on very shaky ground anyway, and—even if it is a fine bar—may well not make it.

The Fake Listing
It happens occasionally that a rep will come by and drop off a free bottle because that night or the next night they are coming by with some guests, either their bosses or brand-owners or perhaps some out-of-town bartenders or owners. They want to give the impression that your bar stocks that brand. This may seem like a no-brainer, but as someone who was a bar owner and is a consultant to distributors and brand owners, I have mixed feelings.
31 Fakery is everywhere!

Chapter 4: A Word To The Reps

At least a dozen times a year on foreign trips I am taken around bars by the local reps, and while it’s nice to be able to drink your brand, it’s just as important to be able to scope out the bars that don’t stock it, and perhaps work out why they don’t. At the very least, you want to get a feel for the happening bars in that city or country. Once, on a business trip to Tokyo, the local rep took us to a huge, beautiful nightclub, the only one on the Ginza at the time. We were met at the door by the manager, who showed us some amazing eye-catching displays of our bottles behind all the bars, polished to a shine so high I saw myself reflected (it wasn’t a pretty sight). But here’s the thing. The club was empty, at midnight on a Saturday. I’d rather have been in at least one bar where I could see people ordering and drinking, even if it wasn’t my brand, than in an over-branded bar which doesn’ t reflect that city’s real drinking culture. If we’re going to visit six bars, I want at least one or two of them to be good bars that don’t stock my brand. From the point of view of the owner, it’s always nice to get a free bottle, and a paying group of guests is a paying group of guests—but bear in mind that the rep is getting a free benefit. He is giving the impression your bar stocks Brand X—without paying a penny in listing fees or other incentives. This blows a bit, especially if you have worked hard and risked money to make your bar a success; you are letting that rep benefit from your bar’s “brand” for dollars zero. My advice is only to cooperate with this fake-listing when 3 criteria are satisfied: 1. When a rep is a good, regular guest, who also brings business to your bar. 2. When a rep has helped you in the recent past with other brands/ budgets. 3. When it is a brand you would consider stocking anyway. ...and then only once. The rep should return the favour at some stage in the near future.

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Chapter 4: Branding Strategies

Branding Strategies
In each category of spirits you need to have a house brand (good quality, good purchase price, good selling price), one or more upsell brands (better quality, higher purchase price, even higher selling price) and one or more premium options (outstanding quality, high purchase price, high selling price). Typically, as quality and prices increase, the profit percentage will decrease: this is fine, because you bank money, not percentages. Your house brands will have the biggest impact on your Gross Profit (GP) percentage: if you’re shooting for an overall liquor GP of 75%, then your house brands should deliver at least 80% margins. You can choose one of three options for your house-brand choices: 1. Scare Tactics 2. Every Day Good Quality 3. High Roller Scare Tactics The nastiest house brands you can find: brands you’ve never heard of in plastic squeezy-bottles with labels that look like Charles Manson’s CAT-scan, that are little more than low-grade neutral spirits carelessly cold-compounded with cheap essences by drunken, balding apes in windswept warehouses in Hell. The idea is to scare guests into ordering the upsell brands. Not a bad tactic as it goes, but it can leave—literally and figuratively—a bad taste in your guests’ mouths.

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Chapter 4: Branding Strategies

Every Day Good Quality Good quality brands, usually well-known, for an attractive price. Using brands like this—the Absoluts, Johnnie Walker Reds, Tanquerays, Bacardis and Jim Beams of this world—will nudge guests to order the house brands, so you can charge a slightly higher price with these sorts of house brands compared to nasty ones. A downside is that guests may be less likely to trade up if the house spirits are already quite decent. High Roller This is where you, like, totally pimp your speedrail, dude, stuffing it with ultrapremium spirits and charging a higher price; your Kauffman, your G’Vine, your Old Grand-Dad 114, your Zacapa 23. This all but discourages trading up, and works best in high-service outlets suited to conspicuous consumption where there is little dialogue, i.e., clubs. But, just to hit that 75% GP, you’ll have to charge a fortune for a entry-level drink and will almost certainly scare people off who might otherwise have had a drink and possibly even traded up.

Managing The Relationship
It is worthwhile to see your relationship with a sales rep as a long-term one. The drinks industry is a fast-moving one, brands switch from distributor to distributor all the time, advertising & promotional budgets are reviewed and renewed annually, and all this means that even if a rep can’t do much for you now, chances are he will be able to soon. Be proactive in your dealings: when you have an idea for a promotion or a training or an event, write a one-page proposal, send it to him and then meet to discuss it. If you wait for him to come to you, he will come with the same promotional ideas being used all over town. Be a partner to the sales reps, and they will be partners to you.
34

Working With Brand Ambassadors

“A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.” -- Proverbs 13:17

Chapter 5: Working With Brand Ambassadors

Who Are They?
Ah, a topic close to my heart. There are too many boxing matches, beautiful women and tempting, lively bars in this world for me to be bothered doing too much research, but I’ve always felt Champagne Charlie to be the ur-Brand Ambassador. I’m excluding all paid-for celebrities who, ahem, endorse a brand: that’s just advertising. Charlie, that is, Charles Heidsieck, had a devious way to promote sales of his family’s eponymous champagne in 1800s America: he would drink it himself in bars, buy champagne for people, have an enormously good time, then toddle on down to the next bar and repeat the process. Ah, for those happy carefree days! Let’s take Charlie as an example. 1. He embodied the brand. Not only was he French and promoting a French-to-the-core brand, it was also his family’s company, and name. 2. He was showing people how to drink it – people who perhaps hadn’t drunk that much champagne before. At the very least, he was encouraging them to drink it. 3. He was, by all accounts, a good-looking chap, charming and a gentleman, centre of attention and generously buying (his brand of) champagne for people he saw as potential champagne-drinkers.
37 This image has nothing whatsoever to do with Charles Heidsieck or, indeed, brand ambassadorship. I was bored.

Chapter 5: Working With Brand Ambassadors

Because what, after all, is an ambassador? Ambassadors from one country to another fulfill three basic functions: 1. Represent that country. 2. Create, maintain or repair diplomatic communication. 3. Promote trade. And that’s exactly what brand ambassadors should do. They don’t sell directly, any more than you can order an Apple laptop from the US ambassador to Spain, but they do all they can to make it happen, soothing the oft-troubled relationship between bartender and local distributor, and creating demand from the bar owners and managers that will be fulfilled by the sales rep. For a long time, brand ambassadors were, like Charlie, members of the family whose name was the brand. With the rise of single-malt whisky in the 1970s, Master Distillers were rolled out to be experts on the product and the brand. They gave tastings and trainings and visited bars, but crucially they weren’t sales reps, and they were employees, not family members. Indeed, I know several master distillers whose ambassadorial role has expanded so much that I struggle to see where they get the time to supervise distillation any more.

38

Chapter 5: The Nature of Brand Ambassadorship

The Nature of Brand Ambassadorship
Because consumers are becoming ever-more marketing-savvy, being “an ambassador for a brand” is a much-bandied-about term in the hallways of marketing departments and advertising agencies. The thinking goes that everyone who works for a brand should be an evangelist for that brand, from the receptionist to the fork-lift truck driver, from the guy in accounting with the lazy eye to that enormously hot bird in HR. It is much the same principle as that of being a Scientologist. There is an interesting twist in the world of alcohol marketing, though. It would be nothing less than normal and reasonable for all employees of, say, Unilever to use one of that noble multinational’s soap brands. Everyone needs soap, and the range of brands marketed by Unilever can surely cover all the various needs and preferences of just about anyone. But you can’t very well expect anyone who works for you to drink liquor, let alone your brand.
In some fairytales, drinking isn’t just allowed on the job, it is the job…

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Chapter 5: The Nature of Brand Ambassadorship

Increasingly, drinking any alcohol at all, or even talking about it at work, is seen as a bit suspect; certainly talking about drinking, outside the cheerfully exuberant I-got-so-drunk-I-vomited-my-eyeballs-right-out-of-my-skull bastions of such witty discourse as the UK and Australia, is a no-no. This, plus the (righteous) ban on alcohol in the workplace and the rise in legislation protecting employees from discrimination and unfair dismissal, leads to a situation where liquor firm employees are under no pressure at all to be ambassadors for their brands, save perhaps at work-related events. Another element to this is geography. As we mentioned earlier, the rise in cheap and efficient logistics coupled with true mass-media low-cost communication means that just about every brand now has global ambitions. But the stuff has to be made somewhere. For brands based at
…while basing brands in a city allows every employee to be an effective ambassador for the brand. 40 Distillery-based brands often hire locals…

Chapter 5: The Nature of Brand Ambassadorship

or near the distillery, this means they are usually way, way removed from the bright lights and the big cities, distilleries of any size being forced to locate a long way from where people live and socialize. Because no-one likes to commute very far to work, that means hiring local people to work for the brand, people who very likely have no idea what’s going on in the cutting-edge bars on the other side of the world, the very bars where the brand would like to be popular. And because they’re in the countryside, there’s no local cutting-edge bars for employees to go to so they can learn. Even if they wanted to be, the employees cannot be effective ambassadors for the brands they make, because there are only other countryside people around to influence. Smart brands hire city-based ambassadors; really smart brands move the head office to a city so everyone who works there can absorb the drinks culture osmotically, leading to a large improvement in the quality of both creative input and constructive criticism. Most evenings after work in a city-based office, staff will go to good bars in that city and have a drink (which wasn’t possible when they were based in the sticks, because everyone had to drive home, there being little good public transport in the sticks, and strict drink-driving laws), ordering “their” brand and being good little ambassadors.

EXTINCT

ACID PHOSPHATE
“Rediscovering Lost Ingredients”

DAWNS BREAK COCKTAIL 1½ oz G'Vine Nouaison ½ oz Lillet Blanc Dash of Bitters Egg White Stir and strain with ice then add 3 drops Acid Phosphate.

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Chapter 5: The Modern Brand Ambassador

The Modern Brand Ambassador
And so we come to the Ambassador. Like a Master Distiller, he is an employee, and for the purpose of this paper we will assume that Brand Ambassador is his actual as well as effective job description, and that he has no other responsibilities. Many smaller brands have brand managers or marketing directors who themselves act as brand ambassadors, travelling constantly and promoting their brand through tastings, trainings and being the coolest person in the bar; Audrey Fort (G’Vine gin), Philippe Rochez (Chartreuse) and Crystal “de Canton” Fanale (Domaine de Canton liqueur) are three well-known examples. For more than a decade, the vertical rise in the popularity of cocktails has meant brand ambassadors are often hired from the ranks of well-known bartenders/managers/owners. They are hired for their fame, credibility and contacts among other bartenders/managers/owners, as well as for their skills in training bars, developing signature cocktails and organizing parties and events. Not to mention the good looks and charm that (presumably) helped them become successful bartenders. That said, there are several well-known and successful brand ambassadors who have never bartended professionally, but have bolted drink-, cocktail-, and bar-knowledge onto an existing skill set of sales and marketing to become very good at their job. There is a window of opportunity after becoming a brand ambassador. If a top bartender at the famous Bar X becomes a brand ambassador, he can profit from having been part of the Bar X success story for perhaps five years after leaving to become an ambassador. Just on the strength of that, people will come to his trainings, he’ll be asked to speak at bar shows, and

42

Chapter 5: The Modern Brand Ambassador

people will want to meet and have a drink with him. After a few years, a lot of the younger bartenders coming up through the ranks either don’t know about Bar X (because it’s since closed) or they know the current startenders at Bar X and don’t know he ever worked there—or care. An ambassador must not rest on his laurels after becoming an ambassador. He must catch up. If he is not up to speed with the office side of things, such as all the programs of Microsoft Office, he should follow courses. Read a book on brand marketing. Follow a course on public speaking. And one on business writing. Subscribe to at least two foreign bar magazines. Or, he may be a quite normal bartender who gets the job of ambassador for a brand and is subsequently promoted by that brand as a star mixologist; this happens a lot when the brand is based outside the big towns or important international cities, often when it’s based at the actual distillery. They’d rather hire a local they know than a big-city bartender they do not. The advice to such a bartender in that case is the same as for a hot-shot bartender, plus—if he isn’t already up to speed—to get up to speed on hot-shot big-city bartending. Visit the cities and bars and bar shows: befriend other ambassadors, go to their events, see how they roll and who the big dogs are. Or, he might not be a bartender at all—maybe he’s moved sideways from being a sales rep, or this is his entry into that world, the lucky sausage. He may well have the office skills, but need the bar moves. First, he should follow all the advice above. Then buy a copy of the Diffordsguide and invest about 200 in booze and bar tools. He should spend one hour per day for a week reading recipes and practising drinkmaking techniques while he makes and tastes cocktails, and then make at least one cocktail every eve43

Chapter 5: The Modern Brand Ambassador

ning for three months, holding a small cocktail party every two weeks to get feedback from friends. He should befriend a bar owner and ask if he may intern one night a week for a month to learn the rhythm of the bar. Follow good courses like B.A.R. (US) and WSET (UK). Go to all the bar shows, follow all the seminars, and read all the magazines1. In either case, a brand ambassador must use that initial window of opportunity to get up to speed on his new profession, keep re-inventing himself, learning new skills, creating new drinks, building a media profile, conducting new research, and generally maintaining and extending his position as a mover and shaker in the bar business. The job of ambassador makes keeping up to date easy: if he keeps his eyes and ears open while working for a brand he can learn everything useful about creating, distilling, packaging and distributing liquor, as well as creating, building and maintaining brands, plus his job entails reading all the magazines, travelling to all the countries, meeting all the bartenders and brand managers and going to all the bars and bar shows, all over the world. It’s practically a self-perpetuating job—if he keeps himself at the cutting edge.
1 Email me if you’d like a copy of the reading & visiting list I recommend for all trainers, ambassadors, brand managers and serious bartenders: philip@liquidsolutions.org 44 This photo contains four brand ambassadors, a trainer, two bar owners and three bar managers. Can you tell who’s who?

Chapter 5: The Life of the Ambassador

The Life of the Ambassador
The best brand ambassadors are schizophrenic, but in a good way: able to party until the small hours with hordes of bartenders and party animals (yet remain in control enough to pay the tab, tip, and thank the staff), then turn up in the office at 0830h, showered, suited and booted, able to sit in high-level meetings all day with bosses and brand owners, contribute in a timely and useful way, then write reports, proposals and evaluations in clear English and presentable formats. It is rare—very, very rare—to find someone who has both skill-sets. An ambassador should spend (at the very, very least) sixteen hours a week drinking in bars or at events. It is not possible to be a good brand ambassador and work 9-5.

What Brand Ambassadors Do
1. Personifying the brand. Brand ambassadors typically only represent one or two brands, unlike sales reps, who will have dozens. They are thus ideally placed to be “the guy from......”. This is important, because in my opinion, seeing someone from a brand drinking regularly in my bar has a large effect on whether I list their brand or not, quite apart from listing fees or other considerations. Increasingly, sales reps are being stretched thin, and you may see a brand ambassador more regularly than a rep, especially if the ambassador lives in your city. Brand ambassadors who work directly for a brand’s HQ often find themselves being sent to places that the regional or global brand manager has little time or incentive to visit, just to keep that country’s local brand manager happy that they get a visit from somebody from HQ.

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Chapter 5: What Brand Ambassadors Do

The larger the brand, the more this happens, because it takes longer for a chap to become a brand manager for a larger brand, by which time he has 2.5 children, a Volvo in the suburbs and little desire to travel more than is absolutely necessary. Often, a brand ambassador’s ethnic origin, interesting facial hair, language skills, visible tattoos or other personal attributes will contribute to him being hired, if those attributes are seen as being harmonious with the target market or brand’s marketing emphasis. 2. Being the “Yeah, but...”guy. You may like a brand ambassador but not his brand; for example “Yeah, brand X sucks diseased warthog ass, but Dave is a cool guy”. This is the purpose of classic ambassadorship; using personal charm, diplomacy and friendliness to smooth over underlying clashes. If things ever change and you happen to need Brand X, you already know it’s ambassador. In some cases, brand ambassadors maintain a brand’s popularity and credibility among the on-trade in situations where sales reps or distributors have somehow pissed them off; while switching distributors, for instance. In the simplest sense, a brand ambassador should be the coolest guest in the room, a focal point, not a wallflower, loved by fellow guests and bartenders alike, attractive, funny and charming—and drinking his brand, if the bar stocks it. 3. Knowing everything about the brand – and everyone. There is no reason why “brand ambassador” should not be a job title as respected as “master distiller”. A good brand ambassador knows almost as much about how how the product is made as a master distiller, plus everything about how it is marketed, all around the world.

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Chapter 5: What Brand Ambassadors Do

A brand ambassador can be partly judged on the size and quality of his network. At the top of his profession, a global brand ambassador should know every single significant bartender, everywhere in the world, certainly in the key markets for his brand, plus an awful lot of up-and-coming bartenders, truck-loads of writers, bloggers, TV producers, event managers and marketing agencies. Like in any profession, it takes time to build up a quality network, so all other things being equal, brand ambassadors get better at their job the longer they do it. 4. Increasing The Fame of The Brand To Sell More Bottles Brand ambassadors do a lot of things—teaching seminars, organising parties, giving interviews to the media—but it all comes back to making the brand better-known and better-liked so that more bottles will be sold. Everything a brand ambassador does should contribute to this goal. Brand ambassadors may very well teach seminars about cocktail history or mixology or whatever, but it is all for naught if it does not make the brand better-known and better-loved. The job is not to be a teacher or a historian; these are paths to take, not destinations. I have noticed this to be a shortcoming of many well-known bartenders who recently become brand ambassadors: they shy away from this essential, honourable commercial duty because they think it is somehow shameful or being a “sell-out” to be honest about wanting to make the brand look better and sell more. Or, they do it but with a knowing wink and make it clear that their heart is not really in it, which I think is just a shame.

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Chapter 5: What Brand Ambassadors Do

Private & Public All the same etiquette that applies to sales reps applies to brand ambassadors, of course. It is always a good idea for the brand ambassador to team up with local sales reps when visiting bars: this works well for both the brand ambassador (who can get introduced to the reps’ accounts) and the reps (if the brand ambassador knows significant bartenders in accounts that they do not yet service). Brand ambassadors typically conduct a lot of trainings for bartenders, liquor store staff, and sales and marketing team; the training might consist of brand information, marketing policy, company history, production technique, tastings and cocktails. Of course, these trainings are effectively paid for by the brand, but a good ambassador will only include enough “branded” information to get his point across, using the “bait” of objective, useful information to draw listeners in. An over-branded presentation is both tiresome to listen to and tiring to give. Managing The Relationship Brand ambassadors, like reps, get better, more knowledgeable, better-connected and more influential the longer they do it, and as we mentioned before, an ambassador should be an even more perfect guest than a rep. Ambassadors that work directly with global marketing can sometimes arrange deals and events that bypass local distributors; although this might piss said distributor off, it can be great news for you, the bar owner. That said, the key to a good relationship with an ambassador is to have a good relationship with the rep of the firm which distributes the brand.

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Working With Brand Consultants

“Consultants have credibility because they are not dumb enough to work at your company.” -- Scott “Dilbert’ Adams.

Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

The best consultants are experienced super-bartenders and managers with specialist knowledge who run their own consulting firm, selling their reputation and skills to brands and bars. For the purpose of this paper, we will assume ‘consultant’ refers both to someone who is hired by, and working for, you directly. There are only two good reasons for hiring consultants: 1. Your organisation is missing specific manpower or expertise which the consultant has: sales promotion, bar management, cost minimising, molecular mixology, whatever. 2. You want to “use” a consultant’s name to attract media attention or confer credibility on your bar.

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

Hiring Consultants
It’s key to hire someone who has experience of doing whatever it is you’re asking him for, otherwise he’s learning on your dollar. Visit bars where this chap has worked, both as a bartender and as a consultant. Are the programs still running? Still working? Especially look for situations comparable to yours: it’s all very well to run an award-winning cocktail program when your bar is attached to a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant, but how useful is that experience going to be in your raucous rock ‘n’ roll bar? If you are hiring a consultant to help you open a bar, for instance—and pardon me if this seems blindingly obvious—find out if he has run a bar opening before. Not “been part of an opening team” or “been there since it opened”, but actually ran the whole trajectory of developing the program, writing the manual, buying the goods, recruiting and training the staff, coordinating the opening, etc. Anyone who hasn’t—even if they are far cheaper than consultants who have—will be learning on your dollar. If you are hiring a consultant for business goals—sales up, gross profit up, costs down, etc.—is this someone who has done this kind of turnaround successfully before? Or was he just a manager in an already-successful bar, where the main job was not screwing up? Or just a bartender? If you are hiring a consultant for his fame, you need to be realistic about what you will get out of it. Really well-known bartenders hop from one consulting gig to the next, and the media follow them. If you hire a consul-

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

tant for a one-time gig, you will not get the full benefit of that consultant’s focus on your bar, and the cumulative effect of the media; all the press will come to your bar once and then hop off, following your consultant to his next job. This is most often what happens when a consultant is hired to write a one-off cocktail list. Commissioning a cocktail list is a quick and cheap way to use that consultant’s name, get media attention and impress your staff. It is also a missed opportunity to coach your staff to create the list themselves. Inexperienced or lazy consultants will write cocktail lists that jar with the essential ethos of the client bar, exceed the skill-set of the current bartenders, or that do not appeal to the target markets of the client bar—only to the consultant’s ego. And they are well within their rights to do so: it is the consultant’s responsibility as a businessman to make money, and yours as a client to ensure you get value for money. Buyer beware. If you are satisfied he can do what he says he can, it’s time to develop a clearly-defined brief. A good consultant will take as much time, gratis, as is needed to sit down with you and work out what it is that you need. Not just what you want (which may be unrealistic), or even what the consultant wants, but what is best for your bar. It is the mark of a good consultant that he will take time work this out, and not shy away from telling you truths you may rather not hear. Here’s a cautionary tale:

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

Average Bar hires Hot Shot Bar Consultant from Star Bar to install a cutting-edge mixology program in Average Bar, just like in Star Bar. Unfortunately, the lack of a mixology program in Average Bar is the least of their worries: there is no staff manual or consistent drink recipes, the bar is dirty and the bartenders are slow. Hot Shot Bar Consultant tries to tell this to Average Bar Owner, but Average Bar Owner keeps saying he wants those walnut Old Fashioneds and home-made bitters. Hot Shot Bar Consultant is inexperienced, so he accepts the contract, which fails spectacularly, because Average Bar frankly needs to be re-worked from the ground up before it can attempt a high-class mixology program. Hot Shot Bartender’s reputation suffers. Average Bar freaks out it’s regulars, pisses off it’s regular bartenders and has to pay Hot Shot Bartender’s fee as well. Everyone loses.

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

Things To Specify In A Contract:
1. Exactly what has to be done, expressed objectively, with a clearly defined time horizon and transparent criteria. Example: Increase total weekly sales by 20% within 4 weeks. 2. Who is going to do it. Increasingly, the best guy in a consulting firm will do the “pitch” to you: once you’ve signed, the project will be run by a much less impressive chap. Specify in the contract who is working on your project. 3. How achieving those goals is to be measured, objectively—column inches, awards, sales, costs, profits. 4. The amount and type of the fee, and the payment schedule. Is it fixed-rate? No-cure-no-pay? A percentage of increased sales / decreased costs? A bonus system? And how is it paid: how long are the payment terms? How much up-front? 5. Communication channels: you should have a single contact person at the consulting firm, and they should be answerable only to you. Weekly meetings / phone calls work best, with a monthly sit-down review essential. 6. Cancellation terms, and notice periods, in case it doesn’t work out. Make sure you only pay for work that’s actually been done up to the moment of cancellation. 7. PR. What rights do you have to use the person/firm’s name and logo? When will they be present to the public? For media interviews? On-shift? 8. Achieving lasting success. Will the program/changes continue after the consultant has ended the project? What are the guarantees? What systems will be left in place? Manuals? Trainers trained?

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

So, in the case of Average Bar, assuming that quality drinks ARE the right thing for it to be serving, and without completely re-engineering the whole marketing and concept of Average Bar, the brief might look like this: 1. Design and launch basic bar operations template at Average Bar: employee-, department- and manager-manuals, spec-sheets and check-lists, all executed and integrated within a six-week period. 2. Train staff and managers to internalise both knowledge and focus to consistently make and serve quality drinks (including mise-en-place), plus working a minimum of 20 full bar shifts spread over 6 weeks. 3. Achieve a 30% sales increase and a 20% gross profit margin increase by the end of week 6. 4. Review program after 3 months: if standards met, commence Phase 2: Cutting-Edge Mixology. This brief shows clearly what has to happen, who is involved and in which timeframe. Accountability should be further specified in the contract. For instance, “quality standards” could be assessed independently by an external mystery-guest agency. Success in training staff can be proven by benchmarking current sales, giving all staff both theoretical and practical exams, conducting the six-week program, benchmarking sales again, giving staff the same exams again and comparing before-and-after results to determine progress. Sometimes there may be a potential conflict of interest: a consultant may also work in some capacity as a brand ambassador, or his company may do a lot of business with a brand or distributor. There is nothing wrong with this if the consultant is honest about it from the start and does not favour any one brand over another while working on your project. It may even turn out to be positive if he can get your bar a better deal with “his” brand/distributor

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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

than you would have been able to get on your own. Remember though, the ultimate responsibility of ensuring you get the best deal is yours. Increasingly, a consultant will be an ambassador, hired full-time by a brand or distributor and sent out to build relations with the trade any way he sees fit. Many smart ambassadors offer exactly the same services as a consultant, free, but skewed to present their brands in a good light, perhaps dependent on your stocking them. This is more common when the bartender works for a firm with a wide range of brands instead of being a single-brand ambassador. You may ask yourself why hire a consultant, or pay for a training, when you can get all that free advice and training from ambassadors? Well..... 1. An ambassador/consultant will always try to present his brand, and the brands of the local distributor, in a positive light. You will have to filter out that emphasis to get the full picture. 2. An ambassador/consultant’s trainings tend to repeat themselves, and thus you get no exclusive information, or advice specific to your bar. 3. An ambassador/consultant will not usually invest a lot of time or effort in trying to work out what your bar really needs. He will also shy away from telling you things you do not want to hear. He is there to make you happy to see him and his brands, after all. 4. You won’t pay the same degree of attention to the advice of the ambassador/consultant because you have the feeling you are getting it for free. We humans never value the things in life that we acquire easily and for free as much as we do the things we have had to really earn and pay for. In a client-consultant relationship, the consultant must offer correct advice to be a good consultant – but the client must accept and act on the advice to be a good client. It is hard to be a good client when you think the advice is free. Talk, as the old saying goes, is cheap. 5. Usually the numbers do not work out. An example:
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Chapter 6: Working With Brand Consultants

If you stock Brand Y, you get free training sessions with Star Bartender X, who used to charge 800 per day as a consultant before becoming an employee of Brand Y. Yay! But wait: under the deal, you get 6 sessions per year, in groups of 15 attendees per training, in various locations, for 3 hours per session. So, effectively, you get: 6 sessions x 3 hours = 18 hours per year. Just over 2 full days, in other words. And not necessarily in your bar and not exclusively with just your staff. So let’s say the “consulting value” of X is now just 1.5 days, or 1200. Would you have hired Bartender X for one-and-a-half days anyway? At any price? Unlikely. Even a reincarnated Jerry Thomas himself couldn’t do very much for your bar in one-and-a-half days. The liquor firms I have seen championing the ambassador-as-free-consultant tend to be the ones with big budgets and common, mainstream brands. I should know – I’ve been that ambassador/consultant myself many a time. Another dodge is if your bar gets chosen to be a “test case”, where the ambassador/consultant really does come in and do some serious consulting and training work that’s then documented and presented to the rest of the on-trade in your area/country as a jolly good reason to stock Brand Y. In every test-case I’ve seen/executed, though, they/I chose extremely mass-market bars with absolutely zero liquor knowledge or interest among both staff and management, so that the gains documented will appear extra-impressive, or because the brand has fond dreams of converting entire swathes of mass-market bars to serve high-class liquor. There really is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

“I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealing and strict adherence to the view that, for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well.” -- Alan Greenspan

Chapter 7: Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

First off the bat, no matter what you’re buying - clothes, hand-jobs or bottles of booze - charm is an essential part of any business transaction and will result in better service, better prices and extras, and a better feeling when the deal is done. Do not feel you can be surly and charmless just because you are the customer in a transaction: you will get a worse deal. It is difficult for reps, ambassadors and consultants to come to you, trying to sell you something; imagine if you had to cold-call your guests at home instead of them coming to your bar! Put your visitors at their ease, be friendly and interested, take time to talk to them, and try to create win-win situations. Simple friendliness and charm should get you all you need from consultants you’re employing, but what about reps and ambassadors? 1. Deals Reps know their portfolio. They know it all, and they have a whole array of incentives, discounts and rewards at their disposal. They want to (a) sell stuff and (b) be able to say cool-sounding things back at the office. Give them the chance to do (b) and they will help you buy stuff. Ask them about the bargains in their portfolio. What kind of case deals are there? How about a deal based on annual sales? Or hitting sales targets? What about a sales contest? H. Joseph Ehrmann of San Francisco’s award-winning Elixir bar encapsulates it neatly when he says that the relationship with a rep depends on: “ ...constant communication. Work it like a true business partnership to meet each others’ needs, not a combative relationship where everyone holds their cards close.”

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Chapter 7: Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

Do your homework before meeting with a rep: find out what brands he represents, and make sure you know to the penny what you’re paying for them, and what prices (and deals) are being offered by competing brands for similar bars in your area. If a rep can’t do a deal at the moment, invite him back in three months when you’re reviewing your purchasing and brand options again. 2. Training Yes, I know you’ve had Diageo reps coming into the bar who didn’t know their firm owned Dickel or even what Dickel is. I know. But more and more, drinks firms are investing in training for their reps, and in the absence of a brand ambassador, your local rep may well know a phenomenal amount about certain of his brands. An ambassador certainly should. Arrange a series of trainings, say every second Monday afternoon, for your staff, incorporating trainings & tastings on a specific spirit category from a brand rep, followed by a written test created by the same rep. Feel free to schedule competing brand’s trainings (e.g. Gin X one week followed by Gin Y the next) on consecutive sessions. Voila, you have just created a zero-cost product training program for your staff which will increase premium spirit sales, with the bonus of making staff feel more motivated (training does that) while making the rep/ambassador feel more involved with your bar (not a bad thing at all). Push him: if possible, include category tastings, not just of his brand, and encourage staff to ask the kind of questions guests ask: why should I pay extra for this? How old is it really? Is there sugar added? Good ambassadors in particular live for these sorts of sessions.

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Chapter 7: Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

3. Tailor-Made Promotions Building on H’s comment about being in constant communication, if you can come up with an idea for a cool promotion or for brand visibility in your bar, your rep will likely jump at it AND maybe even make it into a “best practise” to be copied by other reps and bars. Write a one-page proposal detailing costs, benefits and time horizon, send it to the rep and schedule a meeting. The added value to you is that you thought of it and it was run in your bar first, and you will be positively flooded with out-of-area reps, marketeers and fellow bar owners dying to see your genius idea in action—and all those people drink, you see. You might even be asked to do some consulting work for the brand/distributor. An extra benefit is that the promotion will be unique to your bar, as opposed to the promotional ideas reps bring to you, which have usually been done all over the city or country. And—pardon me if this seems obvious—only organise events like promotions on quiet nights, to build trade. Reps and ambassadors may want to do events on Fridays and Saturdays, to reach more people, but there’s not much in that for you as a bar owner: presumably you’re already hitting capacity on those nights, so why not try to build the quieter nights? 4. Guest Bartending Increasingly—and this is a trend I heartily endorse—ambassadors are getting behind the bar for a shift or two as they travel around. This is a great deal for you: as well as lowering your staff cost it will increase your sales, as most ambassadors have both a good record as hot-shot bartenders and a large network. If the brand gets behind it there might even be local or regional media. This crowd, plus sales reps and their guests, will make it at the very least an extremely cool industry night on a night you’d otherwise be quiet.
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Chapter 7: Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

Go on, guess which one’s the guest bartender?

5. Media Now it’s time to prime the pump. As owner/manager of a successful bar, if you also have a good media profile, you’ll be regularly asked to contribute recipes and articles, perhaps write columns and even appear on TV. Why not share the love? Use the brands of the reps, and a branded bartool you got from an ambassador. Let them know in advance when the segment is transmitted or when the article is published: send them a link or a scan. This kind of thing is like gold to them: it raises their stock around the office (as well as yours - with their superiors) and that makes it harder for them to say “no” the next time you’re in a discussion. Do not leave having a good media profile to chance. Have a one-page press release with profession64

Chapter 7: Get More from Reps & Ambassadors

ally-photographed pictures of your bar, available in both high- and low-resolution, on your website. Send out press releases when you have a menu change, a special party, a guest bartender, when you win an award, when you almost win an award. Maintain an active list of journalists and media people; if you run a good bar you’ll be amazed how many of them drink there regularly. 6. Parties Also the province of the rep, many ambassadors are required to organise parties. Hosting that party at your bar is a no-brainer: guaranteed sales, a room-hire fee and usually a ton of free liquor as well. What’s not to like? Being pro-active makes all the difference. If you run a mixology bar, sit down with the rep and/or ambassador in January and plan out what unique parties they’re going to organise in your bar: Black Tot day in the summer, Repeal Day in December, World Cocktail Day in May, and so on. Starting early gives you the chance to pitch the idea to other reps/ambassadors if the first few don’t bite. If they DO bite it gives them time to whip up interest at head office (see “Media” above), especially if they need extra budget, and to make their superiors enthusiastic about the parties and your bar.
65 Many ambassadors spend a great deal of time organising parties…

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