United States Beverage
By Molly V. Strzelecki
Remaking the Seagram’s ‘golden’ child
A  little more than two decades ago, Seagram’s Coolers hit the adult beverage scene and the company pulled actor Bruce Willis to pitch the fruity drinks with a memorable jingle. You remember it.
“Seeeaaa-gram’s! Golden Wine Coooolers!”
It was a catchy tune that caught the ears of consumers back in 1984, and future television ads featured actors Woody Harrelson and Sharon Stone enjoying a chilled wine cooler. But 20 years is a long time, and consumer tastes and preferences have changed since then. Despite the popular jingles and advertisements, Seagram’s Coolers suffered declining sales, along with the rest of the cooler category.
When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
When the 20th anniversary of Seagram’s rolled around last year, Stamford, Conn.-based United States Beverage (USB), the parent company of Seagram’s Coolers, decided a revitalization and repackaging of the product was in order. The biggest change was the bottle shape, moving from the recognized cone-shaped bottle to a sleeker, more contemporary beer-bottle style, which was a significant change for the brand. Punched up packaging added to the revitalization, with a tropical theme complete with colorful new labels, logos and carry-away four-packs that updated the product.
“The new packaging and beer-bottle style gives us the opportunity to attract a broader base of consumers,” says Justin Fisch, brand manager for Seagram’s Coolers. Those consumers include newer drinking-age consumers who are unlikely to be familiar with the original Seagram’s Coolers of the ‘80s, and male consumers, who traditionally were not cooler consumers but have joined the category thanks to the resurgence of flavored malt beverages during the past several years.
Though the cone-shaped bottle was an icon, synonymous with Seagram’s Coolers, it also was an older package and many consumers were ready for a change. While the brand is marketed primarily toward females, the new product has a broader appeal, particularly in light of the packaging changes. Fisch says the product now appeals to any consumer, “looking for a low-alcohol, refreshing, fruit-flavored product.”
Flipping over flavor
The brand’s new tropical profile also played a part in its consumer appeal, and the company used it to create a new image for Seagram’s. “We played more off the escapism-type feel [of Seagram’s Coolers],” Fisch says. “The brand connects well with our consumers, and since we made these changes we’ve had a fairly strong 2005 in comparison to the category.”
In February 2005, two new flavors were introduced into the Seagram’s Coolers portfolio: Pineapple Coconut Calypso Colada, which sports both a unique flavor and a bright blue liquid, and Strawberry Margarita.
“Both of these flavors came from extensive research with consumers and talking to our target audience, working with various concepts ... these two came out on top,” Fisch says. “They’ve been very successful [since their introduction] and represent about 15 percent of our year-to-date business.”
Fisch notes that the brand has had a very strong 2005 compared with the past three years, when the category had been on a downslide. The positive growth of Seagram’s Coolers has helped curb that decline for the category overall. And like many in the flavored- malt beverage category USB has learned that the cooler consumer is fickle and frequently experiments with flavors, requiring the company to continually innovate with new varieties.
“Consumers are obviously attracted to the new packaging; they’re attracted to the new bottle. Flavor variety is very important to a brand like Seagram’s and the cooler category,” Fisch says. “Consumers like to try the new flavors that are coming out every spring, and that lends itself to really proving why we were successful with the new flavors this past year. The cooler consumer is very loyal, but they believe in variety, and they are always looking for the new flavor that’s out.”
While they won’t disclose details, Fisch does say that Seagram’s will be rolling out more new flavors to add to the cooler line in the near future. The new look of Seagram’s Coolers was a much-needed change, and while there may not be a Bruce Willis singing — literally — the praises of the beverage, rays of light are shining for the cooler category in general and for Seagram’s specifically.
“This was a major shift for the brand and we’re reaping the benefits of this big decision, and consumers are responding well,” Fisch says. BI