'In 1973 I invented Baileys' - Meet the man behind the famous Irish drink
Life & Style

'In 1973 I invented Baileys' - Meet the man behind the famous Irish drink

HE is the ideas man behind iconic brands such as Baileys Irish Cream and Kerrygold.

Originally from South Africa, but living in London since 1961, David Gluckman has played a pivotal role in establishing some of the Irish brands we have come to know and love.

His book That s*it will never sell! provides a fascinating, and often humorous, insight into product development and how some of those household names overcame resistance to get where they are today.

“The title for the book is from a US pundit after his first sip of Baileys,” he told The Irish Post. “I wonder if he has revised that now.”

The idea for Baileys came to him in 1973 – after his earlier work as part of the Benton and Bowles team that came up with Kerrygold.

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Tony Reilly was involved with An Bord Bainne at the time, and Irish butter was being sold as bulk butter for blending with supermarket own brands.

“It didn’t have an identity,” said Gluckman. “It was on us to develop a new approach. Years later, when we were looking at launching a new drink we asked ‘what could we learn from that experience?’

“If you look at some of those early labels on a Baileys Bottle and the label on a pack of Kerrygold, there is a clear link,” he said.

“I used what I knew about how people saw Ireland; the cows, the green fields and the traditional image.

“Our success with Kerrygold inspired us and illustrated that there was a demand for Irish products that might otherwise be ignored or seriously undervalued.”

With 40 years in the drinks industry and having played a key role in launching brands such as Sheridans, Le Piat d’Or, Aqua Libra and Cîroc vodka, he is well placed to spot trends.

But he baulks at the link.

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“I wasn’t a trend seeker in the work I did," he says. "Generally speaking, someone would say I want you to develop a brand for me in a particular category.

"It was drink more often than not, but there were other things as well. And I would look at it and see if I could come up with something that didn’t exist and that could be relevant to consumers.

“There is tendency to think I was involved in marketing or campaigns. I wasn’t. My job was always to develop these new brands.

He adds: “If I was given a brief by an Irish client that said ‘I want a new Irish drink. What can you come up with?’

"My response was to come up with the taste for the drink, the brand name for the product and brief the packaging. I was a new product developer rather than a campaign man.”

Baileys is now a well-known Irish brand
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Whilst his success rate is very high, some ideas just don’t gain traction regardless of the hours of research or testing put in place to bring a product to market.

"Bottled draught Guinness was one we all thought had potential,” he said. “There was a funny plastic syringe, you poured this bottle of Guinness which was absolutely flat.

"Then you put a plastic syringe into it, drew it back and it created a perfect pint of draught Guinness.

“I didn’t come up with that idea, I helped the company to find out what was good about it and whether it appealed to people and bring it to market. But it was an idea that Guinness had come up with themselves.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The famous line about Guinness Light is ‘They said it couldn’t be done and they were right.’”

David Gluckman shares his life story in his new book
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As an ideas man, does he look at other campaigns for brands that might have an image problem and wish he had been part of their transformation?

“Skoda,” he says, without hesitation. “As cars, they had a poor reputation for a long, long time. But once they were taken over by Volkswagen, that changed dramatically.

"I think most people would be proud to drive a Skoda now.

“I think they did a wonderful job of taking a brand that people were aware of but didn’t particularly rate, and turned it around and made it respectable.

"I like that, I think that’s great.”

David Gluckman’s That s*it will never sell! is out now priced £25.