September 2010

Loyalty to the Crown

By: Fred Minnick

Black is not just a color; it's a status. The Japanese revere black as a symbol of nobility, rank and strength. It catches your eye and makes you notice tuxedos, limousines, designer shoes and handbags. Cadillac and Lexus commercials always show black cars, exploiting the color's natural, subconscious marketing power that has long been associated with the finer things in life. And now black is associated with Crown Royal, perhaps the most iconic spirit of past 100 years.

New Crown Royal Black joins the brand’s family of Canadian whiskies, shown here at Mission Liquor in Sacramento, CA. PHOTO: RYAN LELY

Launched in March 2010, Crown Royal Black has given whisky enthusiasts a 90-proof product aged in charred white American oak casks. Its caramel notes, a rich texture and Crown's typical smoothness make for an interesting complex finish that cannot be found anywhere else. This is the right flavor, the right name and at the right time, says Steve Beal, Senior Master of Whisky for Diageo North America.

"Brown spirits are strong right now, and Crown Royal is the leader of the pack," Beal says.

 Steeped in tradition since its creation for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939, Crown Royal products transcend every demographic boundary, according to Beal. "Some people say 'I'm not drinking whisky, I'm drinking Crown,'" Beal says. "Even though it's a Canadian whisky, it's part of the American fabric."

He's seen customers create clothes and blankets from the patented purple Crown Royal bags and paint their cars in honor of the deep Crown purple. Now that a new color, Black, has been added to the mix, how will the Crown loyalist react? Will they create Crown Purple and Crown Black plaid?

Beal says he won't be surprised by whatever they do. But one thing is for sure: Traditional Crown Royal drinkers are not switching to Crown Royal Black; they are adding it to their liquor cabinet. "Crown drinkers are very loyal. They are not switching from Crown to Black," reports Beal. "Crown Royal Black is what they enjoy when they're stepping up and stepping out. New consumers are coming to Crown because of Black's rich flavor, novelty and versatility."

Since coming onto the market, Crown Royal Black has won the hearts of mixologists and consumers alike. Beal credits this to the American public's longing for brown spirits and classic cocktails, such as the Manhattan and the Beautiful. That, and Crown Royal Black, makes one heckuva gift.

"We saw a big spike in sales around Father's Day," Beal says. "Crown Royal Black is more than just a gift. It's about feeling like you're a king all the time."




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