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Skinnygirl: A Power Brand or a Fad?

Imagine enjoying a cocktail without having any of the calorie-related guilt. Natural-foods chef Bethenny Frankel did and now seems to be creating an empire for herself, starting with low-calorie cocktails. Her Skinnygirl Margarita, offering up only 100 calories for a four-ounce serving of the bottled beverage, already has made quite a splash. And, by targeting the female consumer, this low-cal cocktail is paying off in dividends. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Skinnygirl Margarita is one of the largest ready-to-drink cocktail brands in the United States. And it’s only been on the market for the past 18 months. Because of this rapid success Frankel has been able to sell her Skinnygirl Margarita line to Fortune Brands Inc. (reportedly for $100 million).

What made all of this happen? The success of the Skinnygirl low calorie cocktail clearly is tied to Frankel’s success as a reality TV star. After her first successful appearances on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” she became a popular cast member of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York.” It was during an episode of this series that she first introduced the Skinnygirl cocktail concept. And she continued to promote her brand as she moved on to star in “Bethenny Ever After.” The result is that the Skinnygirl brand has become a household name, thanks to her fan base.  According to the May 17 edition of Forbes Magazine, “Frankel has become one of the most well-known entrepreneurs on television by making her business everyone’s business.”

However Frankel’s success is due to more than a loyal fan base. It took commitment and hard work. Frankel relates that when she initially tried to find an investor for her Skinnygirl Margarita idea, each of the major alcohol companies turned her down saying women don’t traditionally buy “hard alcohol” products. Others may have seen this as a closed door, but Frankel was convinced that the adult female consumer was an emerging market for low calorie cocktails. So she decided that if no one would back her concept she would find a suitable partner and develop the business herself. And she did.

But Frankel doesn’t intend to stop with drinks. Reportedly she has retained rights to use the Skinnygirl brand for everything other than liquor and has big plans to do so. Will she be successful? Is Skinnygirl a power brand or just a fad?

Some food for thought (“Can Bethenny Crack A Billion?” by Meghan Casserly, Forbes.com, May 18, 2011):

          “Bethenny’s hit on some megatrends with Skinnygirl that are incredibly attractive right now: premiumization, convenience, low calorie and the targeting of the female consumer.”

          “Strategically, Frankel’s plan looks sound. Now it’s about execution. She’s created a marketable brand in a number of favorable sectors all seeing global growth. Even if she can capture just crumbs of each category she can create a very successful business (Douglas Lane, an analyst covering consumer goods at Jefferies & Co.)

Categories: Leadership
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