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Reviving New York's Classic Beer Brand
In 1883, Sam Liebmann, the son of German immigrants, first brewed Rheingold Beer. The company flourished as an independent company under ownership and management by passionate New Yorkers and became the number one seller in New York for 40 years. Truly a classic, over 100 notable people from John Wayne, Ella Fitzgerald, James Dean, and Paul Newman represented the company in its ads.

The recipe for “Miller Lite” came from the brew masters at Rheingold, ending up at Miller through later ownership changes.

But intense pressure from behemoths Anheuser Busch and Miller forced the company to sell in 1963. Within 10 years, the brand had virtually vanished within the Stroh Brewing Company portfolio and had become a “price” brand.

In 2002, after almost 40 years of stagnation, the brand was again under independent ownership by passionate New Yorkers hoping to relaunch the fabled “Rheingold”. With “cheap” packaging, intense competition, and no positioning, the challenge was formidable.

Nearly 10% of the $50 billion beer market is concentrated in the New York area. We recommended a focused distribution strategy in that region which would be practical and profitable.

The target selected was adult males 21-28 who make up 30% of the market and are purchase influencers. A major challenge: this fickle audience shunned being “marketed to.” The dot-bomb syndrome and corporate scandals added to their cynicism towards big companies and forged greater attraction to small, independent “underdogs,” seen as honest.

To position the brand, we advised leveraging the unique combination of Rheingold’s 120-year New York heritage, small company independence andnative New Yorker management team. These core assets underpinned the brand’s core attributes of authenticity, unpretentiousness, honesty and independence, and fit closely with the target audience values.

In fact, Rheingold’s core brand attributes and values reflected the essence of “brand New York”, legitimizing its positioning: “New York’s classic independent beer.” Surprisingly, no other brand had nor could make this claim.

brandadvisors extended the positioning to a broad integrated marketing plan, which addressed beer color, alcohol content, bottle shape and color, crown type, label type, and identity as well as strategy for advertising, promotion, pricing, distribution, internet, and retail.

As a result of the work, the market capitalization doubled within one month of the program launch. After one year, the number of distribution outlets had increased 4900% and annual case sales increased 3370%.