|Agency: Young & Rubicam
||Author: Melanie Haslam|
'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-
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.
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
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.
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:
'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
A new campaign was required that could tackle this problem.
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:
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.
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
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:
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:
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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):
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'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).
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 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 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.
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:
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:
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
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.