SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

'Most interesting man' keeps drinkers thirsty for Dos Equis

When you’re “The most interesting man in the world,” guys want to stop and chat. Men and boys stop actor Jonathan Goldsmith every day, all aspiring to be the ultimate “man’s man,” which he has been ably portraying in Dos Equis beer ads since 2007.

Goldsmith, a 72-year-old actor with hundreds of TV credits, including more than a dozen appearances on “Dallas” and on action/adventure series like “Adam-12,” “The Rockford Files,” and “Charlie’s Angels,” calls his recent success with Dos Equis a blessing to which he is still growing accustomed. Accordingly, he happily obliges requests for autographs and pictures, which have become a daily routine.

There are still times when the power of the ad campaign from EuroRSCG is demonstrated in a novel way. Like the aging gentleman at Dan Tana’s restaurant in Hollywood, who gently pulled Goldsmith aside to say thanks. “Because of you, I got this,” the man said, gesturing toward a female companion nearly 40 years younger. Or the cane-wielding octogenarian who upon recognizing Goldsmith on a Manhattan bus, tapped him on both shoulders as if to knight him, adding, “When I come back, I want it to be as you.”

Dos equis ad
Actor Jonathan Goldsmith says the ads have brought him unexpected popularity.
If you’ve watched any sports on TV, then you have seen the campaign, which marketing types are calling “iconic” after just three years. Since the campaign launched, Dos Equis sales have become just as interesting as the character — they are up double digits every year of the campaign. The brand, imported by Heineken USA, has never sold more domestically. Beer Marketer’s Insights figures, which combine amber and lager, show Dos Equis growing in the U.S. from 655,000 barrels when the campaign began in 2007 to around a million barrels last year, enough to make it the No. 5 import beer brand in the U.S. Even that much growth gave Dos Equis just 0.5 percent of the U.S. beer market, which has been shrinking for the past two years.

A measure of any successful marketing campaign is when it becomes a part of pop culture. Now there are almost as many ersatz “interesting man” ads on the Web as there are genuine ones. For the record, “His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards” and “He is the only man to ever ace a Rorschach test” are bona fide; “Fish try to catch him” and “He defeated the previous Iditarod champion with a sled pulled by a single Chihuahua,” are not.

The character succeeds because he is every man’s fantasy. The guy is James Bond with a PhD; a suave, debonair, mysterious, cosmopolitan gentleman; well-versed and always well dressed. And as Goldsmith reminds us, “He also gets all the great-looking chicks.”

The advertising grew out of research that showed imported beer drinkers were tired of beer advertising cliches. “They were looking for something different,” said Dos Equis brand manager Ryan Thompson. “They wanted to be seen as interesting and as leading interesting lives, so that’s what we gave them.”

Goldsmith, who was born in the Bronx, almost missed out on what has become the role of his lifetime. After several auditions, the casting director wanted to go with someone younger. Barbara Goldsmith, then his agent and now his wife, successfully convinced the director that “the most interesting man” had to be someone with a wealth of experience. Accordingly, Dos Equis may be the only beer ads that don’t depict the 21- to 34-year-old target consumer. Dos Equis ads are also among the few in which the spokesman admits to using competing products. Every ad ends “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. …. Stay thirsty, my friends.”

Explained Dos Equis’ Thompson: “The character isn’t a mirror of the consumer, but someone they can look up to — a guy with a life well lived.”

Another round of “most interesting” ads was shot in late December and should air in March. Even as the campaign and the brand reach new heights, Goldsmith is looking in new directions. Reed Bergman’s Playbook Inc., until now a sports marketing shop, has branched out into entrainment by taking on Goldsmith. Last month in New York City, Goldsmith schmoozed media and Madison Avenue types, including some from Fox Sports, NBC Sports and Marquis Jet, seeking new avenues for the actor, not the spokes-character. Dos Equis owns the character and the trademark, but Goldsmith’s face is now renowned and carries with it desirable connotations of luxury and taste. Seeking new opportunities means walking a tightrope, but both marketer and actor say they are respecting that line.

“Clearly, the character of ‘most interesting man’ belongs to Dos Equis and there is no way we would impinge upon that, but there are extensions to his legacy as Jon Goldsmith the actor, both with mainstream media and corporate America we are exploring,” Bergman said. “He is the modern-day Ricardo Montalban.”

Goldsmith says he has already turned down many offers, including those from competing beverage brands or requests to play a similar character in films or movies. “I respect what Dos Equis has done for me and I don’t want to diminish the character or become a sight gag either, so we’re very selective,” he said, during an interview at a midtown Manhattan hotel. At the same time, he’d prefer to leave behind an acting legacy beyond just the “most interesting man.”

“The window is open,” he said, “but it is not going to stay open for me as long as it will for a 30-year-old.”

Of course, that 30-year-old couldn’t possibly be as interesting.
Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.
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