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Stay thirsty, my friends

In 2006, sales of imported beer began to dip as craft beer became more and more popular in the United States. Dos Equis, owned by Amsterdam-based brewer Heineken, was one of the imported beers that saw declining sales, especially when pitted against its similar tasting competitors: Coors, Budweiser, and Miller Lite. Knowing it had to do something drastic to differentiate itself, Dos Equis upped its advertising game and launched a new ad campaign— commercials that featured an older bearded, debonair gentleman, dubbed "the most interesting main in the world," who found himself in outrageous situations like surfing a killer whale, slamming a revolving door, and finding the Fountain of Youth, but not taking a drink because he “wasn’t thirsty.” Every ad included the tagline, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” with the sign-off, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

The “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign was remarkable because it took a polar opposite approach than that of every other beer brand. While Budweiser was making ads directed toward young guys who like to party, Dos Equis opted to feature a Hemingway-esque worldly figure that consumers could aspire to be.

Evident through seemingly endless Halloween costumes, memes, and skits on Saturday Night Live, the clever ads and witty one-liners created a cult-like obsession with The Man:

  • “His blood smells like cologne.”

  • “Once a rattlesnake bit him, after five days of excruciating pain, the snake finally died.”

  • “He can speak Russian . . . in French.”

  • “He gave his father ‘the talk.’ ”

  • “If he were to punch you in the face, you would have to fight off a strong urge to thank him.”

  • “Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect.”

  • “He lives vicariously through himself.”

  • "He bowls overhand."

During the first two years of the campaign, Dos Equis sales rose more than 22 percent, while imported beer sales on the whole dropped 11 percent. During the campaign’s nine-year run, sales tripled.

As I talk about in Strategy First (this Dos Equis story comes from the book), the most important ingredient to business success is building a winning strategy, relative to the competition. The three central components of strategy are customer value, market potential and execution. Dos Equis couldn't really differentiate its beer from the many similar tasting ones, making it hard to compete on customer value. So, instead, it very successfully centered its strategy on execution, specifically marketing and building its brand.

Strategy First, my friends.

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