Some common denominators include:
1. Never heard of it before, but it touts a "heritage" of Centuries. It is made from an old-world process, perhaps by Monks. No, on second thought, Monks sounds too Gay. But the label is ornate and looks old-fasioned-y. Give it some sort of elaborate back-story. But no Gay Monks or anything.
2. Suddenly appears on the market, along with a huge advertising campaign, with trendy-looking young folks enjoying it.
3. Appears in all the bars kids go to.
4. You never see it drunk by older folks or appearing on the menu of a serious restaurant.
5. Cartoon characters and/or tag lines used to advertise it.
6. Sweet, often sickly sweet taste to the product.
Some Examples of the Products Pushed:
Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum: The "spice" is sugar, and plenty of it. Kids like it. It is not a real rum, and don't use it when making a real rum drink.
Southern Comfort: popular in High School circa 1976. A very sweet bourbon-like drink that is appealing to kids. It is not really bourbon, though, in the Maker's Mark sense.
Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill Wine: Girls in High School loved this. When they puked, though, it looked like they were barfing blood.
Reunite Wines ("Reunite on Ice"): a popular sweet wine when I was in college. Sweeter than Hawaiian Punch. Not really a wine, per se.
Heublin's Cows: a milkshake like drink from the 1970's that was widely criticized as being targeted toward underage drinkers. It tasted like a McDonald's milkshake.
Jagermeister: started being popular about 5-10 years ago, seems to be fading as of late.
Goldschläger Gold Liquor: Popular just before the Jagermeister crap became popular. Maybe the price of gold has driven it off the market.
Jameson Irish Whiskey: hyped like snot on The Daily Show and other youth-oriented outlets. Never heard of it until recently. Plugged by one of the characters on the wire. Has a cartoon-like character who performs super-human manly feats and always wins the woman. Not subtle!
Wine Coolers, Segrams Ice: Drinks that are not quite beer, not quite wine, just a lot of sweet to disguise the taste of alcohol. Remember Bartles & Jaymes? It was actually a division of Gallo.
Limoncello: a sweet lemon drink hyped by Danny DiVito. Message: Get Shitfaced!
Hpnotiq: a wine-cooler thing that comes in neon colors and tastes like Fresca. Aimed at girly-girls who have curly-Q initials on the back of their SUVs, in pink, of course.
Note the common denominator is SUGAR and a LOTS OF IT. Kids want sweet, not savory, and it takes a long time to develop a taste for Scotch or Bourbon. With beers, kids like sweet "lite" beers and not stouts, porters, or other more challenging beers. In the wine department, sweet wines like White Zinfandel (but not old-vine Zinfandel) trump drier wines. Sweeter Chardonnays, Rieslings, and Moscatos prevail. In the sparkling department? Cold Duck or something pink and sweet for the girls. I get a headache just thinking of it.