To some, the term “brand ambassador” conjures images of buxom young women stuffed into tight, logo-emblazoned T-shirts, deployed to hip bars and offering shots of a new, smartly-packaged, candy-flavored liquor to Millennials.
This is not me.
I’m the cad who ends up wearing the candy-flavored liquor when my saucy attempt at humor fails to cross the generational barrier and bounces off said T-shirt like a stone thrown at a trampoline.
I’ll never be a brand ambassador. In the tavern of brand marketing, I’m really more of a bouncer – at least when it comes to the “Sonoma” brand. When it comes to products that use the “Sonoma” name, I take it upon myself to ferret out those that adhere to our ethos, if not our geography, and pillory the rest in print and pixels.
To wit, I was dubious when I received a missive from the marketing people at Sonoma Cider, which proffers “organic, handcrafted artisanal ciders.” Hitting three buzzy keywords in a row suggested the handiwork of some fancy branding agency. The copy on the Sonoma Cider website reads like an outtake from the “Here’s to the crazy ones” Apple commercial. Imagine Richard Dreyfuss reciting “Out with the suits. In with the obsessives. The sages. The organic growers. The young rebels. The puzzle solvers.” It ain’t far from “The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers,” but hey, apple cider, Apple computers – there’s a relationship there, right?
As a fan of the work of TBWA/Chiat/Day, the firm that created the Apple ad, I was primed to despise Sonoma Cider, assuming it was some marketing ploy cooked up by a global beverage conglomerate having a creativity crisis – not to mention pirating the “Sonoma” name because it tested well with their target demo. So, when their press release arrived, followed by three bottle samples, the coinage “homocider” crossed my murderous mind.
Then, you know, irony. Turns out Sonoma Cider is Sonoma County-based and family-owned. And I dug it not least because the label design suggests a rustic version of the weaponry in the board game “Clue,” with axes, pitchforks and an anvil – pretty much everything a villager would need to hunt Frankenstein.
Here’s the lineup: The apple cider, presented as “The Hatchet” is a bright, not overly-sweet, refreshing alternative to beer with a nice clipped finish and no “Now And Later” candy factor, which mars most ciders for me. The pear cider, a.k.a. “The Pitchfork,” is fruitier tonic with a cream soda kiss and echoes of vanilla. But the granddaddy of all ciders is “The Anvil,” a bourbon cider with an apple base that recalls pipe tobacco, freshly-tanned leather and the pleasing aroma of a quality mustache wax. This is a bear hug of a cider, liable to get you talking about flint locks and scrimshaw if you’re not careful.
I wasn’t careful. My eyes crossed having sampled all three Sonoma Cider flavors and my mild dyslexia became a superpower. Reading the bottle labels, I realized I had struck the mother load of anagrams. Did you know that “Sonoma Cider” could be rearranged into “Rancid Moose?” This was only the beginning. There were other animals lurking in the letters, including some with money like “dime raccoons” and “monied orcas.”