Marketing To Minors: P. Diddy’s Hand Cîrocs My Cradle

First—with the exception of a couple of my kids who may tune in to see if their names get mentioned—we’re all adults here, so let’s suffer no fools and yank no chains:  We all know how the merry mass-mockery of marketing works.

thai massageWhen you see ‘Escort Service’ in an ad, you think ‘hooker’; when you see ‘Thai Massage’ on a billboard you think ‘hooker’; when you see ‘safety, discretion and confidentiality’ in an ‘in-call specials’ cut on the back of Metro Times you think ‘hooker with an AIDS test’ and when you see a wealthy old cock-o’-the-walk with a trophy wife you think ‘hooker willing to work for Armani Privé couture instead of cash’. 

That’s just the way the game is played.  craigslist, for example, is not allowed to promote prostitution, but what do you wanna bet we can track a few down skulking among the listing weeds?

bacardi adBooze, where competition through advertising instead of price is the preferred strategy, is hardly exempt from such subliminal doublespeak.  And why should it be?  If I fall for ‘brand capital’—the collective positive association that people have for a specific product—and think that Coors beer will  convert my drunken old body to an energy pattern and beam it to Telluride with a 20-year-old ski instructor, or that with another snort of Bacardi I will find my arms between the thighs of prime feminine real estate, that’s my problem.

Still, my problem is not the problem.

black guy whiskyOver time, of course, brand capital depreciates.  Look at the bourbon ad to the right and tell me if your current bucket list includes becoming an obese plantation owner being served by a shuckin’, jivin’, gape-jawed skivvy.  So, the Great White sharks of Madison Avenue, who need to keep moving forward in order to survive, are constantly on the look-out new ways to segment markets, new images to create ‘personality’ for a brand (and hence, the brand user) and—perhaps most aggressively—new designer drinks that can be sweet-talked down gullible gullets and thirsty throats, especially, those of younger drinkers.

Why younger drinkers, who likely have less disposable income than their parents?  Because, like cigarettes, the younger you can hook a potential junkie with a caché flavor, symbol or promised personality reinvention,  the sooner you can reel them in and ice them. Thus, in the future, the less ‘individualized’ advertising expenditure said junkie will require. - Beer Tattoo BudweiserIn other words, brand loyalty is formed very early in a drinker’s consumption cycle, and if you’re able to tattoo ‘Budweiser’ on his/her wrist like a concentration camp victim’s while they are still in the blush of youth, you have them for life.

That’s the goal of successful marketers, and anyone who disagrees should call my suspension bridge broker for the latest listings.

Denial is Futile: Own It, Translation Advertising (Anheuser-Busch’s Agency)

baby-with-a-bottleSo—like the ‘One-hour therapeutic massage by Oriental twins Cinnamon and Serenity’ found in the ‘services’ section of craigslist, where amenities are available for a nudge and a wink—colorful packaging and splashy alcohol campaigns suggest to young people that they can tap into a fantasy lifestyle for a minimal outlay of cash.  Use of well-informed, precisely-targeted, youth-centered advertising vehicles like e-marketing, online ads, cable tv, even brick-and-mortar theme pubs and club bars, make sure that the message is hand-delivered to the young consumer.

And how young is young?  Consider this staggering stat:

11% of the alcohol in the United States is consumed by underage drinkers.

Even if the ads are ‘designed’ for legal drinkers (another nudge and wink), the idea that adolescents are not responding with the identical Pavlovian goose-step is criminally stupid.

Hitting Cîroc Bottom

Diddy's drug-of-choice.

Diddy’s drug-of-choice.

One of the latest groupie growlers to enliven the teenage night life is Cîroc, a fake ‘vodka’ that is essentially unaged brandy distilled from mediocre ugni blanc and mauzac blanc grapes from Gaillac and often blended with fake Skittles-ish flavors like berry and coconut which dilute it to a mother-approved 35% alcohol.

Such grape-based spirits have drawn the ire of European Vodka Belt countries (Poland, Finland, Lithuania, and Sweden) who petitioned the EU Parliament to categorize vodka’s standard-of-identity as being ‘made from grain or potatoes’ only.  As a wuss-wipe concession, since 2007, ‘grape vodka’ is required to state those words on the label, which is, of course, as absurd and confusing as ‘grape Scotch’.

Diddy being all swagger on the Diageo roof

Diddy being all swagger on the Diageo roof

Anyway, the same year that the Europarl was gacking down grape Koolaid, P. Diddy—our favorite pistol-packing, swagger-swinking, stampede-stimulating entrepreneur, who rose from from the gutters of Harlem to the glitter of Fifth Avenue—signed one of his numberless names (Sean Combes, Puff Daddy, Diddy, P. Diddy, Peckerhead Diddy) to a ‘groundbreaking strategic alliance’ with Diageo to oversee and manage all branding and marketing initiatives for then-struggling Cîroc.

For his contribution of name recognition and street cred, Penischnitzel Diddy would receive from Diageo a 50-50 profit split.  It promised to be a move of Mephistophelean genius, because, as Pricktard Diddy modestly reminds us,

‘I’m not just a celebrity endorser, I’m a brand builder. I’m a luxury brand builder…’

At fifty dollars a fifth, Cîroc—now the second best-selling ultra-premium vodka in the world—has undeniably found its niche among a hopper generation without much interest in the company’s touted ‘four distillations in column stills and a fifth in a traditional Armagnac-style copper pot still’, but rather in the fact that that five distillations produce a product so smooth that you can do shot after shot after shot as easily as slamming Nantucket Kiwi-Berry Nectar.

With a slightly different end game.

In 2011, Diageo Brand Ambassador, again re-naming himself (this time, ‘Cîroc Obama’), Pusswad Diddy introduced Cîroc Peach to his mesmerized minions of mostly minors, and it wound up being the most successful North American Diageo product launch ever.  With his endorsement, Cîroc sales leaped from 40,000 cases pre-Diddy to a current high of 2.1 million cases of Cîroc sold as of December, 2012.

Of course!  Ads for the product are offering an unspoken, unwritten and undeniable covenant:

Drink me and you will become like Sean Combes, whose drug-dealing father was shot to death outside the public housing project where Sean grew up and who is now worth (according to Forbes) $550 million.

Punk Diddy

Punk Diddy

However… consider the precise demographic that a guarantee of gangsta credibility appeals to.  I mean, not many gangs are recruiting new members among twenty or thirty-somethings, are they?

And—in no small measure the result of such an in-your-face media blitzkrieg—the sugary, sweet-tooth, childlike drink with grown-up consequences has been an unprecedented market success; my local liquor store tells me that they are selling a case per day.

P. Dickcheese, according the Cîroc website,  ‘…has heavily contributed to make this brand a household name…’

He Has Certainly Succeeded In This Household

On Friday night, my fourteen-year-old daughter Julia and a couple of her airheaded, if A-student friends, got ahold of a bottle of Cîroc Peach from one of their equally brain-dysfunctional ninth-grade buddies and proceeded to down the entire thing in the course of an hour.

The parents at home in the house where this took place were apparently as clueless as me, and by the time I even suspected anything was up, Julia was pretty much puked-out and passed-out.

She’s fine, which I am sure will help Mr. Diddy slip a bit more effortlessly into Slumberland tonight considering that it could have been worse: According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around five thousand minors die from alcohol-related issues each year (several hundred from overdose), and every day, approximately 13,000 unentitled drinkers between the ages 12 and 20 take their first drink anyway.

Fat, old, bald Diageo execs (top)

Fat, old, bald, white  Diageo execs (top)

Do I blame P. Diddy?  Or the fact that 48% of rap tunes mention the glories of alcohol?  Or the fat old bald white fucks running Diageo who couldn’t care less about my daughter so long as their bottom line remains solid?  Or the absurd ‘Downplay Reality’ tab on the Cîroc website (actually titled ‘The Century Council’) that goes to shamefully and seriously ludicrous lengths to show that teenage drinking is on the dramatic decline?

Or do I blame myself, earning a living spouting a very lax and lenient attitude toward alcohol while making endless jokes about the subject of overdoing it—of which Julia is doubtlessly aware?

Obviously much more the latter than the series of formers.  Which for me is drink—if not food—for thought.

And which, in the meantime, leaves me between Cîroc and a hard place.

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5 Responses to Marketing To Minors: P. Diddy’s Hand Cîrocs My Cradle

  1. Danny Moran says:

    I have read this article numerous times, and I can not seem to find the part where P.Diddy is at fault. All of the Ciroc advertisements, whether print, television, or out of home, feature ADULTS. I do not see anywhere where minors are targeted. I also can clearly see or hear the phrase “PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY” in all of them. If a 14 year old girl and her friends are getting drunk, regardless of what they are drinking, the only people to blame are the PARENTS! Just because you were an irresponsible parent, it does not give you an excuse to blame someone else for your shortcomings. Take a look in the mirror, and let me know whose fault it was that your 14 year old was puking and passed out, and thenm take the proper action to be sure that an incident like this (or far worse) does not happen again.

    • Danny Moran says:

      Please let me know when you as a parent start taking some responsibility, and actually blame yourself instead of inventing a scapegoat. That will make me sleep alot better.

      Also, be sure to never let your daughter watch a sporting event which might have a beer commercial, or the stadium itself named for a beer. This way, you won’t be able to blame anyone else if she has beer before turning 21.

      Get rid of your televisions, because she might see violence on the news and then commit a violent act herself. Will you blame the news network or take some responsibility yourself?

      Don’t let her see movies with a PG-13 or R rating. These might contain sexual situations or drug use, and then it would be the movie’s fault, and you can blame the director, producer, and actors if she becomes pregnant, gets an STD, or becomes addicted to drugs.

      Don’t let her ever go to an outdoor public place where an attractive person might be smoking a cigarette. She might start smoking, and you won’t have the person’s name who she saw smoking, therefore you won’t be able to shed blame from yourself to the other person.

      ……….Do you see where I am going with this?

      • intoxreport says:

        Uh, Danny Moron, if you actually read this article numerous times, you may have noticed the third paragraph from the bottom, where I blame myself far more than those who insist on marketing to minors. Oh, and in the course of your numerous reads, you may have also noticed that this incident did not happen at my house, but at the house of one of Julia’s friends where the mom promised me she’d be home all night–and was. She just was not inside her daughter’s room when the drinking occurred. I did all the due diligence I could think of to see that the kid remained in the ‘care’ of an adult all evening.

        Now, since I answered your question, suppose you answer mine: How does this scenario make me an irresponsible parent?

        And by the way, Danny Boy–remind us which division of Diageo you work for again.

  2. Your article sends a chill down my spine. My daughter is ten and trying desperately to be more grown up than she is. I know that in this little hamlet of Healdsburg, where wine is king and the mixological magicians entertain us all with their mastery, this is a very difficult subject. Underage and binge drinking is a big problem. Kids die. Bottom line. Kids die. Whether through poisoning, drunk driving, or pulling Rock Star and choking on vomit, Kids die. Celebrity endorsements, cartoonish advertising, and candy-flavored booze make our jobs as parents tremendously hard.

    What is the answer? Dunno. I try to show my daughter that responsible drinking has its place and that drunk people are stupid and dangerous. I can only hope that she will grow to know that beer, wine, and liquor have their place and that she needs to know that I will always protect her – as well as punish her – if she screws up. She needs to also know that I will have her back when she says “No” to irresponsible choices. As the mother in your post found out, we cannot always know what is going on under our roofs. We need to work to make sure that freedom of speech and commerce are exercised responsibly.

    I used to say that people who drank lame flavored liquors deserved what they got. Grow up, put on your big girl panties and drink the good stuff. Now I’m thinking that these flavors really do mostly appeal to youth and those looking for something to make a binge easier to get on. What to do? Dunno. Let’s keep the conversations going. Drink the good stuff. Work to try to make irresponsible celebrities with mediocre music irrelevant. Most of all…Love our Kids.

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