I’ll be he was very happy he opted for equity in the company. That sounds like a good decision.
He was very happy. He did very well, way more than if I’d paid him.
There’s an irony here. You’ve said if you made good beer, you didn’t need good marketing. And yet today you are more intimately connected with the image of your brewery than anyone in the craft beer sector. You have a marketing story that is very much the story of Jim Koch. Do you take that approach to personalize the brewery?
No, if I’d wanted to personalize it, I would have put my name on it. I never had any desire to do that. It’s called Sam Adams, not Jim Koch. To some extent, it’s the media that wants to personalize the industry.
But you do your own radio ads, and your voice is recognizable and connected to your beer.
Do you know how that happened? I came up with the idea of doing radio ads, and went to find somebody to do them. It turns out that you needed to hire union talent, and that means they have to work under the union contract. You can’t just pay them a thousand dollars to do the ad. You have to pay them residuals, which means you have to track every time the ad runs. Back then, the whole company was four or five people, and I was damned if I was going to hire somebody just to track radio talent so I could write them a check every quarter.
So I said, I’ll do it. I can read. How hard can it be? So I recorded them. I couldn’t talk fast enough: I hadn’t learned to talk without breathing. They put it on reel-to-reel tape, then the poor engineer had to splice out all the pauses. They were just weird enough to be distinctive in a good way. They sounded different to any other radio ad. The voice was so clearly not paid talent, and it became part of the message that this beer is not coming from some huge nameless faceless corporation, but it’s a real guy.
So that’s how I got into that. It worked. And it was cheap. It was really cheap! And we could put it on whenever we wanted.