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Pharrell Williams: Diageo’s ‘critical and avoidable mistakes’ killed Q Qream dream

By Elaine WATSON , 15-Jan-2013
Last updated on 16-Jan-2013 at 10:00 GMT

Pharrell Williams was 'instrumental in the development of the cream liqueur, from the taste and bottle design to the marketing and advertising'. Picture: Q Qream website

Pharrell Williams was 'instrumental in the development of the cream liqueur, from the taste and bottle design to the marketing and advertising'. Picture: Q Qream website

Pharrell Williams claims he created Q Qream liqueur “to celebrate the beautiful, independent and sophisticated women of today”. However, the dream went sour after partner Diageo did not keep to its part of the bargain to make the product a success, alleges the hip hop star.

In an amended complaint filed in federal court in New York on January 3, Williams says that 18 months after signing a three-year deal to produce and market the liqueur - which was devised and promoted by Williams - Diageo North America ditched the brand, blaming lackluster sales.

According to Williams, the blame for the brand’s disappointing performance should be laid squarely with Diageo, which he claims failed to meet its contractual obligation to use its commercially reasonable efforts to market and distribute Q Qream throughout the three-year term of their deal.

Williams, who is seeking $5m in damages for breach of contract, alleges that “it was Diageo North America's critical and avoidable mistakes that hampered the success of the Q Qream business”.

Diageo promoted Q Qream as ‘club drink’ despite Williams’ ”repeated objections

For example, despite Williams’ “repeated objections”, Diageo promoted Q Qream as a ‘club drink’ instead of a “high end, leisure class beverage”; failed to fix bottle top malfunctions; and failed to distribute it in key target market locations, claimed the singer and producer.

He also alleges that Diageo executive Steve Rust had always been against the product.

“It was no secret to Pharrell Williams, within Diageo North America, that Steve Rust, Diageo NA's SVP of Joint Ventures and Strategic Relationships when the Agreement was made, and now Diageo NA's President of the Catalyst Group), was never in favor of going forward with Q Qream.

“In an August 2011 meeting with Pharrell Williams’ representatives regarding various problems with Diageo NA's marketing initiatives, Mr. Rust had an outburst in which wittingly or unwittingly, he made very clear that he never wanted to do the Q Qream deal in the first place.

“That sentiment never changed, despite his being overruled…”

Q Qream: ‘Every detail was crafted to celebrate women’

Q Qream: Developed to 'celebrate the beautiful, independent and sophisticated women of today'

According to a press release issued by Diageo about the partnership with Williams in July 2011,  Q Qream, “an ultra-premium cream liqueur”, Williams was “instrumental in the development of the cream liqueur – from the taste and bottle design to the marketing and advertising”. 

It added: “With Qream, every detail was crafted to celebrate women - from the elegant design of the bottle, inspired by royalty, to the delicious flavor and silky lightness of the liquid, to how the brand will be marketed.”

The beverage comes in two varieties, Strawberry Creme and Peach Crème.

A Diageo spokesman told Foodnavigator-USA: "It is unfortunate that the plaintiffs chose to bring this lawsuit, as Diageo  believes that the plaintiffs’ claims lack merit. 

"QREAM Créme Liqueur continues to be available for sale as one of the many new-to-world brands originating from Diageo’s innovation pipeline."

Click here to visit the website for the brand.

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