Driving Southern Comfort

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Dana Allen may be a one-company woman, but she's no one-trick pony.

Currently vice president and global brand director for Southern Comfort, Ms. Allen has been with Brown-Forman Corp. since 1981, when she graduated from Vanderbilt University's business school.

A corporate vagabond who has moved seven times within the company, Ms. Allen started out making sales calls at San Francisco liquor stores. She became the company's first female state manager when she landed in Connecticut three years later.

Landmark product
Since then, the 44-year-old Louisville, Ky., native has rolled out Gentleman Jack, a high-end specialty and the company's first new whiskey in more than a century, as well as worked on new products.

But Ms. Allen's longest tenure has been on Southern Comfort, a previously flat-selling liqueur that she has helped to three consecutive years of growth. Unit sales approached 1.3 million in 2001, up 1% from 2000 according to Impact's 2002 Distilled Spirits Study. Increased investment from the privately held company has contributed, but so have Ms. Allen's initiatives: higher price (and thus profits) and different graphics as well as a new ad agency and strategy.

First U.S. TV campaign
By September, Ms. Allen's Southern Comfort will have expanded its emphasis from print to radio, outdoor and non-network TV -- its first U.S. attempt at TV advertising following the crush of other spirits marketers running on TV. Havas' Arnold Worldwide, St. Louis, won the account in January 2001 from independent ID8, Los Angeles.

"We've been around so long," Ms. Allen says. "People think they know what it's about, and all we've done is turn everything up a notch. We think we're poised to take it up even farther."

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