Will the Real Juan Valdez Please Stand Up?

To evoke authenticity, marketers use many tactics. Here’s how five pairs of industry rivals tackle the challenge.


Tactic: A Scandinavian- sounding name helps impart instant old-world credibility.
Truth: A Bronx entrepreneur dreamed up the appellation.
Risk: A competitor with a similar tactic, Frusen Glädjé, failed to last.


Cold Stone Creamery

Tactic: Happy scoopers spontaneously burst into song, evoking the nostalgia of old-time soda fountains.
Truth: There’s nothing spontaneous about it, as repeat customers discover.
Risk: With 1,300 outlets and counting, will the music turn monotonous?

Samuel Adams

Tactic: A craft-brew brand built around its Boston roots.
Truth: With sales booming nationwide, more than half of Sam Adams is brewed in Cincinnati.
Risk: Will Sam’s growth sour its “local” flavor?

George Killian’s Irish Red

Tactic: Looks like an import from Ireland.
Truth: Concocted by the folks at Coors, a big-company bid to breed an authentic sub-brand.
Risk: Does a domestic beer that implies it’s an import sound genuine to you?


Chevrolet Silverado

Tactic: TV ads use John Mellencamp’s hymn to American greatness, “Our Country,” to sell trucks.
Truth: Fending off foreign imports has been a protectionist impulse for decades.
Risk: Inspiring patriotism or a jingoistic jingle that sticks it to Toyota?

BMW Mini

Tactic: Revive the zippy do-anything spirit of a 1960s British icon.
Truth: Built by Germans who bought the dormant brand.
Risk: Could a brand for entry-level buyers erode BMW’s luxury cachet?

Colombian Coffee

Tactic: Create a fictional mascot, Juan Valdez, to promote “100% Colombian coffee.”
Truth: The original Juan wasn’t a coffee grower or even from Colombia; he was a New York–based actor.
Risk: A new generation raised on primo beans from as far away as Sumatra might not relate to a resurrected Juan.



Tactic: Create sumptuous cafés that sell a “coffee experience” along with $4 lattes.
Truth: Stores now use automatic espresso machines–something you’re not likely to find in Milan.
Risk: Starbucks is so mainstream, even its chairman worries it isn’t special anymore.


Tactic: Leverage its rich heritage to become the king of denim.
Truth: Levi’s ignored the craze for high-fashion jeans, and paid by losing millions in sales.
Risk: Can Levi’s stay “real” and still find its cool?

Abercrombie & Fitch

Tactic: Dim the lights and pump up the music to sell jeans to teens–and drive out their parents.
Truth: Started as a rod-and-gun outfitter for blue bloods.
Risk: A stumble could leave Abercrombie hurting for the over-25 set it now scorns.