I first met Diane Fall (Hankins) in early 1982 when she visited me at my distributorship headquarters in South Texas. I had responded to an ad she had place in Modern Brewery Age searching for distributors to handle Warsteiner. We had dinner, and I committed to distributing Warsteiner in my area. That evening started a 30+ year relationship with Warsteiner.
Over dinner Diane and I learned that we both had come from a Coors background. She was a commodities buyer for Coors, and through a hops seller, Albert Jaenicke, a close friend and advisor (also a close friend of Cramer), had met Albert Cramer, owner of Warsteiner. Albert had wanted to open the US but didn’t have anyone to help him, but once he met Diane, he tried to convince her to join him. But Diane wasn’t ready. As circumstances would have it, however, Albert didn’t give up, and about six months later, Diane decided that the time had come and she agreed to assist Albert.
Diane started the agency in Denver, where she lived. Her first challenge, of all things, was when the TTB denied her label approval for Warsteiner. Not about to give up, she flew to Washington, befriended the staff at the TTB, visited them everyday for a week, bringing coffee and donuts, and by the end of that week, had the label approved! Her next challenge came in finding a wholesaler! No one was interested in the Denver area, so she came up with the idea of having a dinner while inviting all the Colorado Stroh distributors. Bill Coors and Morgan Guenther, VP of the USBA, were invited to the Brown Palace Hotel where the dinner was held. At the dinner, Bill wasn’t sure why he was there with the competition but encouraged the distributors to work with Diane. The result? Her first wholesaler signed up that night!
Diane’s business model was 20 years ahead of its time. Knowing that marketing was the real key to establishing Warsteiner, she decentralized her structure for sales, but she had a VP of Marketing. Diane oversaw the sales department which had key managers in targeted markets supported by the marketing staff. The Denver office coordinated logistics and support, and under this system, Diane was able to focus on sales/marketing. Her emphasis on marketing was the key to getting the brand well established.
After I took over the Warsteiner agency, Diane related some early stories about her efforts in trying to get Warsteiner into stores. One time, at a chain in Phoenix, the buyer wouldn’t authorize Warsteiner because of the “lack of media” support. So, Diane figured out the route the buyer took everyday to and from work. Then she bought four billboards, placed two facing each direction on the highway, then waited 30 days. The next time she visited the buyer, he was so impressed with the billboards he had seen on his way to and from work, that he authorized Warsteiner in all his stores!
Perhaps those of you who were around back then were fortunate enough to have participated in the famous Warsteiner pub crawls at the Las Vegas NBWA annual convention. Remember those great evenings hosted by Diane and her team? The pub crawls were by far the best vendor events I have ever attended, and I’ve been to a lot of them! Those crawls are still remembered with a smile.
Diane retired in 1997, after 17 years as President of Warsteiner, and moved to Florida with her husband Rick. She now spends her days with her grand kids and an occasional round of golf. I talk to Diane often and I have always considered her not only a close friend, but one of the true leaders in our industry. I’m sure I can speak for all of those who know her, Diane really is “The Queen of Beers!”
NOTE: (From Diane on Albert’s recent passing) “He was truly a visionary in the international beer industry. His leadership and willingness to take chances made Warsteiner one of the most respected and successful breweries. The number one selling beer in Germany (at that time) is something we were all proud to represent. His death is a huge loss to Warsteiner.”
Editors note (February 13, 2013): Diane passed away in January unexpectedly with her family at her side. She was my friend and will be missed.
LAST BLOG FOR THIS YEAR – NEXT ONE WILL BE JANUARY 8. HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR! Geoff