Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kingston Hall

On Wednesday I came across the New York City bar named Kingston Hall on the Internet and I think I must go check it out soon.
Kingston Hall's Homepage
  Judging from the pictures it seems as if it would be quite a treat.

The reviews suggest that the bar does not have any of the traditional iconography we have come to associate with Jamaica, like Bob Marley, or the liberation colors (red, green and gold), or even the Jamaican flag.  However, the beverage list and the food seem unmistakably 'yard' inspired, along with the post-colonial era decor.  It is definitely different, yet recognizable.

This bar is one of a number of businesses operated by The Church Group, who describe themselves as:

... a consulting firm that focuses on the concept, design and build-out of bar, restaurant and club projects. The Church Group currently operates Kingston Hall, Ninth Ward and Shoolbred’s, all located in the East Village of Manhattan. These bars are known and valued for their highly customized, transportive decor and atmosphere.
So far, Kingston Hall has acquired some enviable press and a good following to go along with that.  They are located at 149 Second Ave, New York, NY 10003 in the East Village.

The Pool Table

Go check them out!

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Made of Jamaica: Red Stripe

Undoubtedly, Red Stripe beer is one of those brands that is made of Jamaica.  For Jamaicans it will always be, "The Great Jamaican Beer" as the tagline proclaimed, having been brewed in Jamaica since 1938.

Photo source:

I was among the many Jamaicans who were disappointed when the majority share of the brand was sold to Diageo in 1993.  Though I was not a beer drinker, it was one of those brands that were by then a key element of the cultural fabric.  The beer had social and cultural significance and was an integral part of the identity of the Jamaican man and woman.  So, when the news of the sale was broadcast on the radio that fateful evening, it felt as if I was hearing the news that a family member had just died.

Well, the beer lives on, and Diageo has been consistently marketing the product, not least of all through its official YouTube channel, so that they can realize a return on their investment.  As someone with this history I must admit that, having viewed some of the advertisements online, I'm not feeling as excited as I would have liked, but then, the truth is they're probably not marketing to me.  What do you think of the advertisement below?

Check out di pants lengths pon di lead singer.  Smaddy get di seam right!

I don't quite know what it is when some marketers try to package the essence of a Jamaican to market Jamaican products.  Often it tends to be sorely lacking in appeal to the the Jamaican soul, even if the advertisements are humorous.  I really wonder why.   What in your opinion are they doing wrong?

There seems always to be a fake accent and a hybrid Jamaican rhythm few can connect to or identify with.  In my opinion, these things happen because marketers seem to think that the culture needs to be sanitized when applied in marketing beyond Jamaica perhaps because the lived experiences are simply too raw, inappropriate, unsophisticated and perhaps too harsh for their target audiences.  The irony is the hardcore fans of the Jamaican culture can spot these efforts and tend not to embrace them. The whole thing is unfortunate.

Merchandise Made of Jamaica
Having said that, I don't think all that has come with Diageo's leadership is bad.  The increased reach of the brand is definitely a welcome byproduct.  In a 2010 blog post titled, Licensing Brand Jamaica, I spoke of some opportunities that were passing by some Jamaican businesses and their brands.  At the time I said that the Guide to the Licensing World 2010, 18th edition only made mention of Bob Marley and Red Stripe beer as Jamaican brands involved in the licensing business.

To date, extending a brand into the realm of merchandise remains a very legitimate method of increasing revenue, but it seems only a handful of Jamaican brands that have figured out effective ways of extending themselves.  The video below is one clever advertisement executed by Red Stripe that pitches some of their merchandise offering, even if some of them are just gimmickry.

Made of Jamaica Merchandise at Retail
On May 26 during a walk through the isles of Target, the upscale discount retailer that sells high-quality, on-trend merchandise, I saw two categories of Red Stripe merchandise on the clothing racks,  some men's graphic tanks, and some board shorts.

The presence is modest yet effective.  One cannot say for sure that these products have a presence in all of Target's 1,700 plus stores across the US, but they do have a presence in Target's online store.  Nevertheless, their presence in store is an indication that someone perceives there is a market for these extensions of this Jamaican made brand.  I'm confident that the arrangement through which these products have entered Target's stores is through licensing, since Red Stripe is not in the business of making its own apparel merchandise.

Now, isn't this cool?  It would be even cooler if one could truly say this was a majority Jamaican owned brand.  I suppose things will remain this way for some time until more persons with the vision and courage emerge to truly shake up the way in which Jamaican brands with huge international business potential are handled.  For now we will settle with the half-victories and if we are not able to say, made in Jamaica, at the very least, we can proudly declare that it is "made of Jamaica".

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Urban Yard's Reggae Shop

We've been on a break from blogging for a while.  It has not been because of a lack of subjects, but sometimes a break is good.   We've been taking the time to re-focus and to re-evaluate so we don't lose sight of our goals.

We love Jamaica and things Jamaican so we're definitely going back to the roots and will be trying our best to focus on bringing attention to that love through merchandise, particularly Jamaican reggae music or rasta t-shirts. We don't think Bob Marley merchandise should be the only one in that game. We think Jamaican tees are the ultimate canvas for the expression of that love and we will be playing our part.

We have re-opened our Urban Yard Jamaica shop.  Go check it here, Urban Yard Shop.  Here are some teasers:

Come with us and feel free to share your thoughts on the journey.

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