Agency: Young & Rubicam Author: Melanie Haslam

Croft Original

'One Instinctively Knows When Something Is Right'


Croft Original pale cream Spanish sherry was launched by IDV in 1966. As the very first light-coloured sweet sherry, it represented a challenge to both the conventions of a traditional, conservative market and the dominant brands of three, well-established sherry shippers Domecq, Harveys and Gonzalez Byass.

However, as we aim to show in this paper, it was the Jeeves and Wooster campaign, introduced in 1977, that fully realised the potential of this challenge. In the 197781 period, Croft Original advanced from being a small brand of limited appeal to be the second largest, mainstream brand in the Spanish sherry market.

This transformation of the brand's franchise was vital to the longer term health of Croft Original. In the 1980s, the Spanish sherry market declined and own label established a strong position. Under these adverse conditions, Croft Original was the only brand to substantially increase its market share, further narrowing the gap with Harveys Bristol Cream, the brand leader. Other, less well-placed brands suffered badly.


Sherries are defined by their country of origin. Only sherry imported from Jerez in Spain is permitted the designation 'Spanish sherry'. Other sherries include those from Montilla in Spain, Cyprus and South Africa. 'British' sherry is made from an imported concentrate.

Spanish sherry is of a higher quality and sold at a considerable price premium to the other sherries. Consequently, Spanish sherry is in many ways a self-contained market, operating largely independently of the other sherries.

Despite changes in the absolute size of the Spanish sherry market over the last two decades, there are three market characteristics that have remained essentially the same. They place Croft Original's performance in an appropriate perspective.

  1. Sherry Styles The Spanish sherry market divides into three broad sectors defined by the sweetness of the sherry. These are sweet (or cream), medium and dry; also called Oloroso, Amontillado and Fino. The volume shares of these three styles have been remarkably consistent over the last 20 years. The sweet sector accounts for 60% of the market, and thus is the most important sector in terms of volume opportunity and determining a brand's and shipper's market performance.

    In 1966, when Croft Original was launched, all sweet or cream sherries were dark in colour. The growth of pale cream has clearly been at the expense of dark cream sherries, not affecting the relative size of the other sectors, despite the fact that both medium and dry sherries are also pale in colour.

  2. The Importance of Christmas Volume Christmas is a crucial time of year for the sherry market. It brings in a large number of lighter/occasional sherry buyers who are stocking up the drinks cabinet for the festive season and buying for Christmas gifts. The occasional and less experienced consumer will tend to purchase a quality, premium brand that is a `safe' choice in terms of brand reputation and taste. Thus, Spanish sweet sherries, particularly the bigger well-known brands, are the main beneficiaries with over one third of their annual volume accounted for by the December/January period, compared with about a quarter for other sherries (see Table 1).

  3. Premium Priced Brands Some brands within the Spanish sherry market, most notably Harveys Bristol Cream, have consistently been sold at a price premium to the rest of the market. This premium pricing is usually part of a quality positioning that, as just noted, is most effective in the Christmas period. The combination of volume opportunity with improved margins means that a successful quality brand is a particularly profitable proposition.


% volume accounted for in December/January
Spanish sherry by style
Pale cream40383735353635
Dark cream38383835363735
Note: * England and Wales only
Source: Nielsen

The Spanish Sherry Shippers

Within this market framework, three major shippers have been prominent over the last 20 years: Harveys, Gonzalez Byass and Domecq. They all offer sweet, medium and dry sherries, but the relative strengths of the shippers vary by sector. Harveys has always been particularly strong in the cream sector with Harveys Bristol Cream consistently the leading brand of Spanish sherry. Gonzalez Byass, by comparison, has maintained a stronger presence in the Fino sector with brands like Tio Pepe and Elegante. But Domecq has not had such strong brands as Tio Pepe and Harveys Bristol Cream (this ultimately made their position in the market a very vulnerable one, as will be seen later).In 1966 these three shippers had two thirds of the market, good distribution and an established consumer base.


During the buoyant years of the 1960s IDV took the decision to enter the Spanish sherry market.

IDV recognised that the volume and profit opportunity lay in developing a well-known quality brand of sweet sherry. It would be aimed at mainstream sherry consumers, including the occasional, Christmas buyer. But this inevitably involved taking on the strongest brand in the marketplace Harveys Bristol Cream. A basis for differentiating the projected brand from Harveys Bristol Cream, and other sweet sherries, was clearly desirable.

IDV speculated that there might be an opportunity to capitalise on the trend from dark to light drinks evident among young drinkers, and on the perception that dry drinks (which tended to be light or pale) were more sophisticated than sweet ones. Their suppliers in Jerez therefore developed a product with the sweetness of taste preferred, but with an increasingly fashionable pale colour. This proposition was as yet untested in the older, more conservative sherry market.

Recognising the need to give a new sherry a brand heritage and pedigree, the decision was taken to launch the product under the Croft House name. Croft had been established as a port shipper since 1648 and had some presence in the UK, although only with a limited distribution and consumer base. Croft Original was launched in 1966. As a quality brand, it was priced at a premium to other Spanish sherry brands, but retailed at 510p less than Harveys Bristol Cream. This targeted price differential has since been maintained as far as possible. The packaging has remained substantially unchanged over the years.


The Spanish sherry market grew strongly over this period, imports increasing 34% between 1971 and 1976. Croft Original grew ahead of the market, slowly but steadily building share so that by 1976 it held an estimated 3.6% of the market.

As Croft began to grow, other shippers also saw the opportunity and introduced their own pale cream brands. 1974 saw the launch of San Domingo from Gonzalez Byass, followed in 1975 by Spanish Sun from Domecq.

In 1976, despite its growth to 3.6% brand share and good distribution (eg 83% sterling distribution in multiple grocers), Croft Original was still a relatively small brand in the Spanish sherry market. So far, it had mainly attracted the more experimental (and less loyal) regular sherry drinker. The brand needed to strengthen its position in the market vis-à-vis competitor pale cream sherries, and widen brand usership to the targeted mainstream and ultimately more conservative sherry drinker. Growth of the brand was also essential for Croft Original to exploit the seasonal Christmas volume opportunity.


Early Advertising

Initially, Croft's position in the marketplace was built on being pale, not a dark cream sherry, delivering `a little Croft Originality'. When the other pale cream brands were launched in the mid 1970s this proposition was no longer competitive.

The key issues advertising had to address were:

  • To give Croft (still a relatively new name in the conservative sherry market) real sherry credentials so that it would be a credible premium-priced mainstream contender, especially versus Harveys Bristol Cream.

  • To continue to present paleness as a positive virtue in a market still dominated by the perception that cream sherries were dark, while also establishing Croft Original as the superior pale cream sherry.

'Dressage', developed in 1975 and the last execution before Jeeves and Wooster, sought to resolve these issues. However, in doing so it adopted an overtly upmarket stance. Although this execution implied (from the timelessness of the setting) Croft's permanence and heritage, nevertheless mainstream sherry consumers remained unconvinced that Croft had real sherry values and the credentials that were necessary to compete effectively against the established brands:

'I think either they are trying to seduce me into drinking a drink which has been drunk in directors' dining rooms for years, or on the other hand they are trying to rip me off by pretending they are'.
(IDV Qualitative Research 1977)

A new campaign was required that could tackle this problem.

Jeeves and Wooster 19771989

Advertising Strategy

The role of advertising remained to promote Croft Original as the superior pale cream sherry, with real and accessible sherry credentials and heritage.

The communication objectives were defined as follows:

  1. The product: paleness to be equated with quality.

  2. The drinker: sophisticated and stylish, able to recognise the good things in life.

  3. The brand: prestigious and long established.

The targeting remained unchanged, aiming at the mainstream sherry buyer. The primary target was described as the regular sherry drinker who kept a cream sherry in the home. It was thought that the secondary target, the occasional Christmas sherry buyer, would follow as the size and stature of the brand grew.

Creative Development

The creative idea developed used PG Wodehouse's characters, Jeeves and Wooster. The 1930s period scenario provided the brand with heritage and pedigree. But the problem of poshness and exclusivity evident in `Dressage' was avoided. The use of wit and humour prevented the brand from being seen as either elitist or aloof.

The relationship between the likeable but basically inept Wooster and his butler Jeeves, the arbiter of good taste and discernment, provides a platform for projecting the quality of Croft Original and the stylish sophistication of its drinkers. The use of the end-line developed for 'Dressage', 'One instinctively knows when something is right', was continued as an appropriate summation of the brand's quality positioning.

The first execution in the series 'Suit' (1977), focused directly on the paleness of Croft Original. By drawing a comparison with Wooster's loud suit, the inimitable Jeeves leaves us with no doubt as to the discerning quality of Croft Original:

Wooster: 'I say, top hole, but why is it that colour?'
Jeeves: 'I imagine, sir, so that one may discern the quality of its taste merely by looking at it'.

The next three executions in the series, taking us up to 1981, all focus on the same theme of establishing the superiority of the visual appearance of the product. This is further illustrated by another comment from Jeeves:

'One can tell a great deal, sir, just by looking at things. Your Croft Original, for example, with its light delicate colour. One glance at the sherry tells one all one needs to know about the quality'. (1981)

In total, 12 Jeeves and Wooster commercials have been developed. The campaign has proven to have real staying power and is flexible enough to carry a variety of more specific messages about the brand.

For example, later executions continued to reinforce the quality and sophistication of Croft's paleness, but in order to amplify the benefit over dark creams, increasingly linked paleness to modernity:

'now Croft Original with its light delicate hue has become ... the absolute thing'. (1981)

A message of 'modernity' was entirely credible within the period scenario of Jeeves and Wooster, but it would have undermined the status of the brand to the sherry drinker if delivered in any other way.

Also, some executions were more directly aimed at Harveys Bristol Cream, referred to as 'the old brown stuff' in 'Aunt Agatha'. (1982) The only departure from the dark-light contrast over this period was one execution developed to deliver a swipe at 'pale imitations', a response to the growth of own label.

Media Strategy

Television has been the only medium since Croft's launch, with buying concentrated around the crucial pre-Christmas sales peak. The same media strategy was continued with Jeeves and Wooster, being the most effective way of reaching our target and building brand saliency and image.

Harveys Bristol Cream has traditionally been the biggest spender in the category, with an advertising share of 23% in 1976 compared with 8% for Croft Original. With the launch of Jeeves and Wooster, share of voice increased, so that by 1981 it was 20% for Croft Original versus 25% for Harveys Bristol Cream.

During the 1980s, Croft Original maintained share of voice at levels above 17%, narrowing the gap or even spending somewhat more than Harveys Bristol Cream when Harveys were supporting their new brands Finesse, Tico and John Harvey.


The evaluation of the Jeeves and Wooster campaign falls into two phases: 19771981: Jeeves and Wooster realised the brand's potential in an older, conservative market where there was not a natural dynamic towards lighter, more modern drinks (unlike wine and vermouth for example which have a more youthful orientation). This was crucial for the health of the brand during the 1980s.

19811989: Jeeves and Wooster continued to sustain the brand and grow share at a time when the market was in severe decline and brands were fighting the growth of own label. The less well-placed brands suffered disproportionately.

Phase 1 Developing a Mainstream Brand: 19771981

The Spanish sherry market was buoyant up to 1981, imports peaking at 6.4 million cases in that year.

In this period, Gonzalez Byass and particularly Domecq lost share to Harveys and Croft. While Croft continued to grow share to 1981, 1978 was a notable turning point for Harveys, which for the first time saw its overall share decline.

  1. Developing the Brand Franchise The most significant effect of the Jeeves and Wooster campaign was to build the size of Croft's consumer base. Up to 1976, growth had been slow, with virtually no growth at all between 1976 and 1977. However, after 1977 there was a substantial increase in Croft users from 2.4 million in 1977 to 7.5 million in 1981. Over the same period, Harveys Bristol Cream's consumer base remained relatively flat.

  2. Brand Sales and Market Share Croft's ex-factory sales grew strongly between 1977 and 1981, increasing by 88% to 631,000 cases. With a market share of 3.6% in 1976, Croft Original increased to 6.3% in 1977 and 10.7% in 1981, whereas Harveys Bristol Cream lost some share for the first time, from 19.6% to 18.5%.

    Other pale cream competition failed to make any real headway, with Croft Original accounting for over 80% of pale cream volume.

  3. Distribution and Rate of Sale The very substantial improvement in Croft Original's market performance in 197781 was largely due to the Jeeves and Wooster commercials with the increased advertising weight put behind them (of course, if strong sales growth had not been forthcoming, the increased support could not have been sustained).

    The product, its packaging and pricing relative to the competition remained the same as in the first ten years of the brand's existence. The only other factor that changed was distribution.

    Before Jeeves and Wooster, Croft Original had already achieved wide distribution in 1976 in multiple grocers 83% sterling distribution versus 96% for Harveys Bristol Cream. By 1981 both brands had virtually the same distribution.

    From the high distribution base of 1976, the effect of the additional distribution on Croft Original sales up to 1981, while positive, could not account for such a large sales increase. This is supported by the data we have on rate of sale (see Table 2).


Croft Original35.536.638.7
Harveys Bristol Cream77.973.868.3
Source: IDV/Nielsen

Thus between 1977 and 1981 Croft Original developed from being a small niche brand to become the second largest brand in the sherry market with broad based consumer appeal. It did so by growing at a faster rate than the rest of the market, and taking share from dark cream sherries and notably from Harveys Bristol Cream. This allowed the brand to face the problems of the next decade from a position of strength.

Phase 2 Fighting for Share: 19811989

Two factors had a significant impact on the market in this period. First, the market went into decline from 1981 with a temporary recovery in 1984/85. The total number of sherry users declined by 22% between 1981 and 1989.

The second factor was the significant impact of own label. It increased from an estimated 3% of the market in 1979 to take 27% in 1985 and 29% in 1989. Own label was represented in all three sectors of the market, with both dark and pale cream variants.

As well as having to sustain its position vis-à-vis own label, Croft Original was directly challenged by Harveys who launched their pale cream, Finesse, in 1983.

Against this background Croft was the only shipper to continue to build share. Harveys share, which had peaked at 33% in 1978, declined to 28% in 1989.

Domecq, who had market leadership in 1970, declined consistently to hold only 4.0% of the market in 1989. Gonzalez Byass was rather more resilient, in part because they had developed stronger brand propositions than Domecq but also because they were more dependent for market share on the Amontillado and Fino sectors, which were unaffected by the activity in the cream sector (see Figure 10).

Further Building the Brand Franchise
Whereas both the market and Harveys Bristol Cream began to lose users in 1981, Croft Original continued to recruit to the brand up until 1987.

Importantly, the nature of those users has changed over the last decade. As the brand grew, it attracted the more loyal mainstream sherry drinker (more `most often' brand users) and also drew in the occasional buyer. Thus its profile is now less dependent on the regular, more experimental sherry drinker and is much like that of Harveys Bristol Cream (historically representing the mainstream sherry brand choice):


Croft OriginalHarveys Bristol Cream
User Base (000's)6,3688,65715,87511,145
% most often brand users68788178
% lighter sherry drinkers60757179
Source: TGI

It is also worth noting that although the size of the Croft franchise increased substantially over the 1980s this was achieved without compromising the quality credentials of the brand. That Croft was able to maintain its upmarket profile also helps to explain why the brand has been in a better position to weather the market conditions of the last decade.


Croft OriginalHarveys Bristol Cream
(Index v adults)1980198919801989
Source: TGI

Brand Sales and Market Share
Croft's ex-factory sales peaked in 1983 at 692,000 cases, held reasonably steady to 1987, and have declined only in the last two years. However, Croft Original has been the only brand to consistently outperform the market and continue to build share, narrowing the gap with the brand leader Harveys Bristol Cream.

Despite the impact of own label, the launch of Finesse and the continuing presence of Gonzalez Byass, San Domingo, Croft Original has continued its domination of pale creams. The share growth of pale cream over the 1980s has predominantly been due to Croft Original's performance, and has been at the expense of the dark creams (see Table 5).


Croft Original13.012.613.614.515.415.716.5
San Domingo2.
Double Century
Pale Cream0.
Own Label-
All Other4.
Total Pale Cream20.621.623.525.126.526.226.9
Total Dark Cream36.335.033.334.532.231.931.0
Total Cream56.956.656.859.658.758.157.9
Note: *England and Wales only
Source: Nielsen

Having made the transition to a 'safe' mainstream brand, Croft Original is fully able to capitalise on the Christmas market volume opportunity. Croft Original and Harveys Bristol Cream are now the two key brands to benefit from purchases by the infrequent once a year sherry consumer (see Table 6).


Croft Original14.520.315.419.815.720.816.520.7
Harveys Bristol Cream17.925.917.224.318.926.118.524.0
Source: Nielsen

Competitors' Distribution
Croft Original's share growth in a declining market is a notable achievement. Of the other three shippers, Domecq has fared particularly badly. But until the last few years, Domecq's poor sales performance has not resulted in a loss of distribution (see Table 7). And the other two have fully maintained their distribution base. Thus, Croft's share gains have not been gained easily by taking over displaced purchases from competitors losing distribution: they have been won.


Croft Original10099100100100100100
Harveys Bristol Cream100100100100100100100
Gonzalez Byass98989594969797
Note: *England and Wales only
Own Label with approximately one third volume share over this period.
Source: Nielsen

Croft Original has consistently pursued a premium pricing strategy maintaining only a 510p price discount to Harveys Bristol Cream (see Table 8). With other cheaper brands always available, and particularly own label in the 1980s, price in its own right has not contributed to Croft Original's share gains. Rather, price has been consistent with the brand's quality positioning and contributed mainly to its profitability.


Dec/Jan period
All Spanish
Croft OriginalHarveys Bristol Cream
Source: Nielsen

Croft Original has reinforced its position as the superior pale cream sherry, continuing to build market share at the expense of dark cream sherries and narrowing the gap with Harveys Bristol Cream. The other shippers fared less well. Domecq in particular, being more dependent on cream volume than Gonzalez Byass, paid a heavy price for not having a strong quality brand.


Croft Original delivered the sweet tasting sherry most people's palate desired, yet it looked dry and therefore potentially a more sophisticated and contemporary drink. The contribution of Jeeves and Wooster was to present this seeming paradox to consumers in a credible and motivating way, and thus realise the potential of the brand in a conservative market where there was not a built-in dynamic towards lighter drinks (as evidenced by the static share taken by Amontillado and Fino sherries).

From the start of the campaign, Jeeves and Wooster equated paleness with quality. This quality message was reinforced by the 'posh' period setting of the campaign, which also gave the brand sherry credentials and heritage. The concept of paleness was later expanded, associating it with modernity (and dark with old-fashioned).

A message of modernity within the conservative sherry market was only credible within the traditional setting of Jeeves and Wooster.

A brand personality study conducted in 1986 illustrated that the image of Croft Original was of a more stylish, sophisticated and fashionable drink (more like dry sherries in fact), whereas by comparison Harveys Bristol Cream seemed more old fashioned. Despite the similarity in sweetness of Croft Original and Harveys Bristol Cream, consumers believed they were drinking a drier product:


Harveys Bristol CreamCroft Original
Very sweet16-
Medium sweet2517
Medium dry144
Very dry-4
Base: Brand users
Source: NOP, 1981

Jeeves and Wooster gave consumers licence to respond to the imagery associated with drier products, endorsing users as more sophisticated and discerning, without asking them to compromise on preferred taste. Thus, Croft Original developed into a good all-round brand to offer guests whatever their sweetness preference:

'Some people are embarrassed to ask for a sweet one as it's less sophisticated. So if you ask for Croft, you don't have to let on!'
'Croft is good because you can have it as the only sherry. They ask for dry and you give them that and because it's pale, they don't realise it's sweet'.
(IDV Qualitative Research 1984)

With such a long-running campaign, the Jeeves and Wooster characters now represent the positive brand values of Croft Original. In 1989 executions still continue to be enjoyed and hold the attention of consumers:

'Croft Original advertising has high spontaneous recall and many consumers remember specific details of different executions with great clarity. Jeeves and Wooster embody the Croft brand values of discernment, enjoyment and good taste. At the same time individual executions are engaging and humorous'
(IDV Qualitative Research 1989)

While both Croft Original and Harveys Bristol Cream have benefited from advertising investment, only Croft Original has maintained a consistent strategy and campaign in the late 1970s and 1980s. The effectiveness of Jeeves and Wooster has been enhanced by this lack of consistency from Harveys Bristol Cream.


Between 1977 and 1981, Jeeves and Wooster transformed Croft Original from a small niche brand (which already had good distribution) to become the second largest, mainstream brand in the Spanish sherry market. The campaign realised the brand's potential in a conservative market where there was not a built-in dynamic towards lighter drinks. It achieved this by presenting Croft Original as a quality brand and paleness as a positive virtue in a market dominated by the perception that cream sherry was dark. The period scenarios of Jeeves and Wooster convinced consumers for the first time that Croft Original had real sherry credentials and heritage, and thus was a `safe' choice, allowing the brand to capitalise on the Christmas volume opportunity.

As market conditions tightened, further growth was dependent on Croft Original maintaining its position as the pale cream sherry and taking share from other brands. Jeeves and Wooster continued to reinforce Croft Original's superior positioning and had the flexibility to deliver more focused messages, such as those targeted against 'the old brown stuff'. The communication of Croft Original as a more contemporary and sophisticated drink for discerning drinkers successfully sustained the brand, so that it continued to build its user base of more upmarket sherry drinkers up to 1987 (when sherry users had been declining since 1981). Croft Original is the only Spanish sherry brand to have consistently built market share during the 1980s, largely at the expense of dark creams and in spite of pale cream and Own Label competition.

Other less well-placed brands suffered disproportionately. The failure to build strong consumer-led brand propositions, through consistent advertising strategy and execution, meant decline for the brands of some shippers, notably Domecq. Croft Original's health as a brand is a direct consequence of the relevance and quality of communication from Jeeves and Wooster, and the flexibility and durability of the campaign. After 13 years, Jeeves and Wooster continue to communicate the qualities of the brand for those consumers who believe 'One instinctively knows when something is right', and the campaign continues to be the best remembered and best loved advertising in its category.