Blog: Olly WehringInnovation - never a bad thing, even in failure

Olly Wehring | 14 June 2007

Innovation, the Holy Grail of the modern drinks company. Get it right and you'll have the next Bailey's on your hands. Get it wrong and you'll be pulling an expensive failure off the shelves quicker than you can say Tia Lusso.

Rather like English football's fixation with 1966, the way we in the drinks industry hark back to the launch of Bailey's says more about subsequent failure than past glories.

Launching a successful innovation into an industry as complex as ours is no easy matter, driven as it is by fickle, fashion-led consumers on the one hand and staunch conservatism on the other. And, Diageo GB's announcement today that it is to withdraw three of its products from the UK market is further evidence of this.

The company has said it will cease production of Quinn’s fruit ferment and the RTD brands Slate 20 and Archers Vea. The unit said the brands “have not met Diageo’s stringent performance criteria”, with demand being lower than anticipated.

Quinn's was launched amid much fanfare. Indeed, when the brand was unveiled in March last year it was Diageo GB’s biggest product launch for five years and backed by an GBP8.5m marketing campaign - an expensive failure then.

A company with the marketing clout of Diageo can afford to take these sorts of risks. They are risks worth taking, though, according to the UK-based giant. Innovation remains a hugely profitable area for the business and has contributed over GBP1bn (US$1.97bn) of sales value over the last three years in the beer, wine and spirits category.

The question of how smaller players in the industry keep pushing forward the innovation agenda is of course less clear, but given the rewards it's a quest that continues to be worth running.


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