December 5, 2008 marked the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. Recognizing that this historic date represented the ultimate news hook around which to position trendsetters in the fast-growing craft of classic cocktails, we developed a 12-month integrated marketing program designed to position Eastern Standard’s bar program as one of the country’s best.
When Eastern Standard (ES) opened its doors in June 2004, the bar program consisted of six well-developed cocktails. Under the guidance of Bar Manager Jackson Cannon, the program expanded to an ongoing menu of approximately 60 handcrafted cocktails, made up of both old-school and original recipes and using the finest ingredients. While attention and accolades began to pile up, our goal in 2008 was to, once and for all, push the program “over the top” — establishing Eastern Standard as the definitive place for classic cocktails and cocktail education throughout the United States.
December 5, 2008 marked the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition, the period widely considered to represent the death of America’s cocktail history. Over recent years, a handful of small watering holes, mostly located in NYC, had begun to celebrate the cocktail’s history and bring back recipes that’d been lost for generations. Eastern Standard, with its 45-seat “all walks of life welcome” bar and lounge, was seen as a local leader in this national trend. However, the cocktail menu as it stood offered little in the way of description or explanation, requiring customers to proactively engage in a dialogue with the bartenders in order to understand the offerings. While this was no problem for hardcore cocktail fans, we felt an opportunity existed to introduce handcrafted cocktails to a larger group of people who would otherwise order wine, beer or a standard vodka soda out of a sense of intimidation. Our strategy was to position Jackson Cannon as an authority on the revival of classic, handcrafted cocktails, while also educating customers and increasing their comfort level. The program consisted of several elements, including:
Prohibition-Era Cocktail List: To position ES early on as the go-to place for news surrounding the anniversary, we proposed a menu of 12 cocktails that were popular or developed during the Prohibition era. Beginning in January 2008, each month featured a different cocktail, offered at $7.50 instead of the regular cocktail price of $10 — which, in addition to playing off of the anniversary, gave customers incentive to try something outside their comfort zone. Unlike the restaurant’s regular menu, which offers little more than esoteric commentary on each cocktail, this Prohibition menu included a brief paragraph with fun, historical facts about each drink. To add to the program’s “pitchability,” we created a flight of all 12 cocktails for $75.00. Finally, because the list was truly intended to serve as an educational tool, the back of the menu provided information on other elements of the year-long program, as well as recipes to encourage at-home cocktail making. To further reinforce that message, menus were printed on card stock in order to encourage guests to take them home.
We worked directly with the bar manager to ensure the menu met our concept-development and pitching needs. We also handled the design, layout and printing of the menu, ensuring every element clearly cemented the restaurant’s expertise.
Mixology Lessons: To further support our positioning, we recommended that ES hold an educational series of mixology lessons right before the anniversary, pricing each class at $75.00 per person and limiting class size to eight participants. By limiting the number, we created a sense of exclusivity — much like the speakeasies of the Prohibition era.
Roaring 20’s Dinner Party: As a final news hook, we recommended that ES hold a bash on Thursday, December 4, leading into the date of the actual anniversary. The idea was to turn ES into a speakeasy, with a prix-fixe dinner of 1920’s-era food, appropriately paired cocktails and era-appropriate music and dress. We assisted with event design, coordinating everything from invitations to décor and party favors.
Our work garnered substantial media coverage in both traditional and new media throughout 2008. However, as we suspected when we began developing the program in 2007, it was during November and December — the months leading up to the actual historic anniversary — that we truly saw our efforts bear fruit. In those two months alone, we achieved approximately 213 placements totaling more than 120,750,000,000 impressions and worth more than $4,931,474.00 in advertising value.
Most importantly, our work has continued to have a substantial impact on our client’s bottom line. For the first six months of FY09, which represented the latter half of our Prohibition program (July 1, 2008-January 1, 2009), bar sales were $1.634M. During the same period in FY08 (July 1, 2007-January 1, 2008), bar sales were $1.346M. This represents an unheard of 21% increase in sales year over year.