French Connection will launch its own-brand range of premixed spirits. It's a good move. Growth is strong in the premixed spirits category, and the FCUK brand fits well with the image required to succeed in the market. The launch highlights FCUK's strategy of spreading its name as widely as possible, as brands become increasingly divorced from products and instead associated with a particular set of values.

UK clothes chain French Connection will launch a range of premixed vodka drinks using its FCUK brand. The drinks, produced under license by Matthew Clark Brands, will be sold in bars, clubs and off-licenses from this November onwards.

The move highlights the trend in the drinks market towards 'designer' premium drinks. Premixed spirits are a key category within this market as they are effectively bottled cocktails. Datamonitor expects premixed drinks sales in the UK to reach 142.1m litres by 2005, with the market growing at 7% per year.

The premium drinks that succeed are the ones with the right brand image; the label on the bottle matters more than what's inside. Major drinks companies have spent millions on promoting brands such as Metz and Reef, while seeking to leverage the existing equity in spirits brands for Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezer. This presents a strong opportunity for French Connection.

FCUK's clothing targets the same people as the premixed spirits brands, and has a young, trendy reputation. When people go to bars and drink premixed spirits, they often do so while wearing FCUK t-shirts. As a result, the brand should transfer well from clothes to drinks.

A particular advantage will be the FCUK brand's appeal to female consumers, which dovetails well with the premixed drinks market. In the UK at present, women consume 70.2% of flavoured alcoholic drinks.

Overall, moving into designer drinks is a sensible move for FCUK. It's best seen as part of a wider strategy of extending its brand as far as possible, as brand names become divorced from a particular product and instead are associated with particular values. Vodka drinks are just one step along FCUK's planned route to becoming the next Virgin, spreading its brand as far as possible.

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