Baileys Irish Cream is a category king.

After 5 years it had 75 look-alike competitors at lower prices. This was crucial to its market-share success.

50 years later it has sold 2 billion bottles.

Back in 1973 the brief for creating the drink requested an alcoholic drink for export. With the caveat to use locally-grown ingredients for ready supply and lower costs.

The brief was wide open so the team brought an existing marketing insight to the table,
the success of Kerrygold Butter as an Irish export.
Could Ireland’s reputation for dairy produce be applied to an alcoholic drink?

Implicitly or explicitly the team endeavoured to create a new category of drink.
This led to experiments combining Irish whiskey with cream.
It had mixed reviews from consumer testing and titans of the drinks industry.

When the product launched the take up was slow.
As a new category of alcoholic drink, nobody knew or cared, they did not know what a cream liqueur was.
And so the campaign of promoting the new category began.
U.S. and Australian markets exploded first and the rest of the world followed.
But it’s worth noting that it took about 6 years for Bailey to proper explode.

Over the last 40 years, more look-alike competitors have presented themselves.
The absolute majority are lower in price, and can’t compete at the premium price of Baileys.
Competition is key to the Baileys success story. More completion points to the category leader.
Today, the hundreds of other cream liqueurs present free advertisements for Baileys.

Baileys is still growing. The category leader is so strong that it now lends itself to other products.
The myriad of food and Bailey’s pairings is vast, from chocolates to cheesecakes and even candles.
Baking in a different category leader for better positioning. Helping other brands in other categories compete.
That’s the power of a category leader.

It takes a lot of bottle to be a category creator. The process of gaining market traction and share can be slow to start. As it had for Baileys. The consumer has to learn about the new category and that should be your focus.

Most people don’t understand category design, not back then and not now.
A bottle of Baileys was presented to Abe Rosenberg, a successful U.S. liquor titan.
Rosenberg mocked the label and claimed, “That sh*t will never sell!”

That’s your opportunity.

Most executives either don’t understand category design or blankly dismiss it.