If you want to launch a new beer in Brooklyn, N.Y., you might use your flamboyant 88-year-old grandmother as the brand's image.
When Ethel Goldschmidt's husband died a few years ago, so the story goes, she decided to use the money they had saved over the years to fulfill his dream of opening a brewery, which is how Ethel's Brew was born.
In one promotional video, Ethel, wearing skin-tight gold pants and a low-cut leopard-print top, is perched in the middle of an ornate floral sofa. Like an octogenarian Vanna White in Wheel of Fortune, she gestures toward a table where bottles of her beer are lined in a row. Lifting one to the side of her head, she points to the label on the bottle featuring her face and gives a toothy grin.
On her blog, ostensibly written by Ethel, she details her daily escapades, which include stripetease dancing and smoking marijuana (for medical purposes, of course), and her thoughts about, well, anything.
Ethel's persona is central to the beer's marketing campaign, which has drawn more than 700 Twitter followers since the account was created in mid-June. Her grandson, Seth Goldschmidt, who is in charge of marketing, says the Ethel portrayed in the ads is a true reflection of her personality – just slightly exaggerated. "It's kind of like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's completely him but in Technicolor. That's how my grandmother is."
It may seem like a gimmick but Mr. Goldschmidt hopes people will understand the sentiment behind the brewery. "A lot of people might see this as just a crazy old lady in hot pants," he says. "But these videos we put out there are really a celebration of doing what you want in life, not just shocking for the sake of shocking."
But Max Valiquette, managing director of strategy at ad agency Bensimon Byrne, says the marketing is too sophisticated for a small start-up. "These videos are very impressively created. ... I just can't see it being anything but the work of a larger company.
"It's very difficult to authentically connect to a brand that is fundamentally built around something that is not authentic," he adds. "But is she any less valuable or funny if she's made up?