Sweet and sour brand strategy

By: Jeanie Hendrie and Melanie Hollingsworth

From broke New Yorker to business tycoon, Bethenny Frankel is one example of the oft referred American Dream. Years of yo-yo dieting combined with failed attempts at becoming an actor, Frankel was once the literal embodiment of a starving artist. She spent her early years bouncing from one career to the other until her passion for food landed her in culinary school.

In 2005, Bethenny joined the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City, where her quick wit and no-nonsense attitude frequently left her co-stars cross eyed. Instead of gratuitous closet shots and fancy dinner parties, Bethenny leveraged her time in the limelight by focusing viewers on her dream of being a successful business woman. In 2009, during an episode of the reality show, Bethenny launched Skinnygirl Margarita – a ready-to-serve cocktail made with natural flavours and premium Blue Agave Tequila; and, at 110 calories per serving, a very manageable indulgence.

Since then, Frankel has nurtured the brand from napkin sketch to full-fledged business, selling its flagship product to Beam Global for $100 million early last year.

Pretty impressive, right? Pretty loveable too, and here’s why:

  • Skinnygirl found the white space. In a category known for its focus on men, this brand makes no excuses for its undeniably feminine target. And at a time when brands are targeting everyone for a fear of alienating anyone, Skinnygirl gets major credit for going all in on the ladies.
  • Skinnygirl delivers on its promise. A ready-made, low cal beverage that stays true to its inspiration. Spend a few minutes online scanning customer taste reviews and it’s no surprise why Beam coughed up the hundred mil.
  • Skinnygirl leverages a key insight. Beyond delivering on its promise of a good taste at a low cal, Skinnygirl leverages a key insight around women – that in the midst of juggling multiple priorities – they can actually have it all – if only just for a sip. It’s a message that Bethenny herself stands for – rising in just 3 years from self-proclaimed “broke joke” to owner of a $100 million alcohol brand.

Now before you run off into the sunset, margarita in hand, can I offer you a nice glass of wine? Or if that doesn’t do the trick, how about a dollop of face lotion? Wait a moment – don’t leave yet – take a cookbook too!

In an article featured in Forbes magazine, Bethenny discusses her plans to extend Skinnygirl into the wine category…and the lingerie category. She also references upcoming launches of an online personal-training service and a skin care line, each of which touts her famed Skinnygirl brand name.

“I’m creating a line that will market and sell my alcohol brand,” she says. Some may call this savvy cross-promoting, but we wonder if it isn’t a tad too much, too soon.

Bubble bath, personal training and lingerie…all under one Skinnygirl umbrella? Is Bethenny the next Richard Branson or is she just one punny named nailpolish away from Bieberland?

We’ll be keeping our eyes on this star as it rises…but like any good bartender, we suspect this Skinnygirl may one day learn that too much salt ruins a great margarita.