What's a girl got to do to get a beer round here?
Once, at a meeting at the Malt Shovel Brewery that went on a lot longer than anticipated, we realised we’d mislaid our studio manager. We eventually found him sitting on a stool under a brightening tank – he’d spent the afternoon with a full glass under the tap.
As we prised him up he said, “This is a dream come true” he said, “I can die a happy man now.”
He was gone three weeks later.
Apart from learning to be careful what I wish for, I finally understood a man’s obsession with beer.
You see, it took me back to the end of the production line at Arnott's, where fresh, warm Tim Tams came off the conveyor belt. I believe I still hold the record for the most Tim tams consumed on a factory visit.
I reckon as human beings we all experience the same emotions, but for different reasons. So anyone can sell anything if they get to the heart of what drives the consumer (even if they don’t know it yet).
And being a few steps back (or to the side) always gives a fresh perspective.
When I first won the James Squire account I was pregnant, so they had no idea that I didn’t drink beer. I had already created the brand concept when I freelanced at Principals, so Chuck Hahn had only one question for me, “Why should I give my beer brand to a woman?”
“Because men have been advertising tampons for years.” I very quickly replied.
Eighteen months later and free of breastfeeding, I had something else to get off my chest.
I confessed to Chuck that I didn’t drink beer, he said if he’d known he would never have given me the account. But we’d made quite a tidy profit by then.
When interviewed, Chuck said, “I think Jane has brought class, insight and sophistication that we may have not have had from a man. The James Squire drinker isn’t about posing with bottle of beer with a slice of lemon. Our beer drinkers are comfortable because they know there is flavour and a story behind the beer”.
But it was a hard sell. The marketing department had hired the Principals to create new premium beer concepts. When we presented our quirky little brand with a real life story printed on the labels they immediately asked where the gold foil was.
You see, back in 1997, that’s how you sold a premium beer, with a bit of glitz, a slice of lemon, and a very big TV commercial.
Two years later, Chuck was walking into pubs with a carton on his shoulder – his only advertising collateral the stories on the label.
Our first promotion was T shirts . Nothing mind-blowing you would think, but for some reason in 1999, marketers only ever sent extra large male t-shirts as beer promotions which swamped half the bar staff.
One simple observation got James Squire into more bars than any big ad campaign could.
This is why I marvel when creatives get their knickers in a knot over diversity.
I created the James Squire brand concept as a 36-year-old woman who had spent 20 years working with some of the most brilliant men on the planet, and in my spare time, I had got to know quite a number quite intimately.
So when I finally got a beer brief, I didn’t look at beer as it was, but the beer the men I knew wanted.
Who’d have thought that 20 years later that quirky little beer brand created by a woman would have over 30% of a market worth $370 million?
A market that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
But it’s really not all that surprising.
After all, women did invent beer in the first place.