Here’s the perfect cocktail for marketing a spirits’ brand

By Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder The BAM Connection, Brooklyn


Like a rum and coke or a gin and tonic, to successfully market a spirits’ brand it takes a mix of two main ingredients: branding and tasting. The first drives the awareness and buzz, the second closes the deal. When it comes to wooing new drinkers in this very fickle category, the brand must be on their lips and over their lips. Without both, it comes up dry.

Branding is not just advertising product attributes

It’s very cool that you are triple-distilled or vapor-infused or aged in oak barrels from France. That makes you an interesting, quality product, but it does not make you an interesting, provocative brand. You can’t just talk about the product attributes, you must establish a powerful, unique point of view, a tone, an attitude…a brand. This will be a drinker’s first encounter, the initial spark that intrigues them enough, or not, to reach for a bottle in a liquor store or ask for the brand by name in a crowded bar where their own image is on the line. Not an easy task.

No one ever switched to a new spirits brand without first tasting it

An ad can spark them to try it, but the critical moment of truth comes when they taste and decide if they like the product or not. For that reason, tasting programs are critical and essential. You must get the liquid into the mouth of your prospective drinkers.

Here are two examples where I think spirits successfully mixed branding and tasting. Both are from personal experience.

Captain Morgan followed this strategic cocktail brilliantly

The spiced rum had strong branding campaigns done with healthy budgets. Campaigns like The Captain Was Here and Got a little Captain in you? set the brand apart as a lovable rogue offering young swashbucklers a drink that matched their fun-seeking attitude. The brand then combined this with thousands of grassroots, turnkey tasting events like “Keys to Adventure” where the brand quick-hit bar after bar with a Captain in full regalia, and a few Morganettes handing out tastes of the juice itself. The provocative brand campaign combined with the massive and consistent tasting helped the brand grow from 800,000 cases a year to over 9 million.

Brockmans, a gin and night like no other.

Again, it starts with very strong branding behind the “Like no other” platform, driven almost exclusively by a high-engagement social media campaign. Combine that with unique, “like no other” tasting events like the McKittrick Hotel Supercinema party where Brockmans became the first sponsor to join the hotel and their 1400 guests on an extravagant night of fun themed around the movie Clue. The private Brockmans’ lounge generated hundreds of tasting opportunities of a gin like no other, on a night like no other. This combo of branding and tasting has helped Brockmans become one of the fastest growing gins globally.

It’s a rather simple concoction, to achieve success in the uber-competitive spirits category, it’s best to mix one-part branding and one-part tasting. Cheers!



Making business versus making creative: MBA versus ADD

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.59.46 PMMaking business and making creative are two vastly different affairs that require two completely different sensibilities and modes of operation. This has never been more clear to me than it is now, two and a half years out from opening my own agency. In large agencies and companies, it is much easier to compartmentalize and departmentalize jobs: businesspeople make business, creative people make creative. However, in entrepreneurial companies (aka smaller), you must often do both, and you quickly realize you can’t daydream your way to new business, nor can you “negotiate” ideas into brilliant existence. Also, in this new world of marketing, it becomes abundantly clear the most effective workers are the creatives who understand how business works, and the business people who bring a creative flair.

Here, in my opinion, are several ways the business process and the creative process differ. Hopefully, these can help you better toggle between the two worlds.

  • Overall, making business has a harder edge, while making creative has a softer edge. Making business calls for an aggressive attack mentality, where you “go for it.” Making creative needs a passive, laid back mentality, where you “let it come.”
  • When making business you must close deals, show no feelings or emotions, and reveal nothing. When making creative you must open yourself to all feelings and emotions, expose your heart, turn on every receptor, so you can sense and feel those elusive messages coming from the cosmos, then gently let them in.
  • Making business, requires a lot of talking, speeches, meetings, negotiating, so you can move someone to your point of view, squash their concerns, get them to sign on the dotted line. Making creative requires a good amount of quiet, so you can hear the voices, the angels whispering their creative secrets.
  • Making business involves acquisitions and takeovers, power trips and powerpoints, BHAGs, bottom lines, cold cash and hard knocks. Making creative involves, pretty pictures, daydreams, storyboards, color palettes, subtle turns of phrase, and swaying to the music.
  • Business mostly happens in board rooms, working in offices, on golf courses. Creative mostly happens in showers, walking the dog, on subways.
  • The tools of business are Excel charts, graphs, latest news, stock tickers, MBAs and best practices. The tools of creative are Photoshop, stupid youtube videos, odd factoids, a scene from a Gilligan’s Island episode you watched 30 years ago, a Picasso you saw at the Met yesterday.
  • Making business means being punctual, buttoned up, getting it done. Making creative means being ADD, a procrastinator, getting there eventually.
  • Making business means working the room. Making creative means doing everything in your power to avoid the room.
  • Making business is a friend of constant interaction, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to make quick, dynamic decisions, and time is of the essence. Making creative is an enemy of constant interruption, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to get into a flow, go deep, way down past the obvious to where the original ideas lie, and that takes time.
  • Making business is packed with pressure to hit your numbers, constantly grow the revenue, increase the margins. Making creative is loaded with pressure to turn a blank page into a breakthrough idea, catch lightning in a bottle, and do it by Thursday.
  • When making business, you march toward a deal fueled by determination. When making creative, you meander toward an idea led by inspiration. Because making business is driven by competition, it’s about winning and losing, you “win” business. Other than award shows, making creative is not driven by competition, it’s about creating something artistic, funny, beautiful or moving. It’s not a contest with an absolute “winner.” That’s like asking who wins between Michaelangelo and Leonardo Davinci?

By no means do these two endeavors split clearly down the middle, some of each exists in the other, but the business process and the creative process remain decidedly different, and you must be in a very different mode to achieve each. Understand this, and you can more easily shift from one to the other, and be a more versatile thinker who embraces this beautiful yin yang.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, The BAM Connection

TheBamThinks #21

Knowing what should change, and what should never change.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.39.09 AM
(The most finely tuned skill in advertising…and life)

In this ever-shifting world it is deliciously tempting to change everything all the time. Human nature is smitten with things that are new. People assume if it’s new, it must be cooler, more advanced, better. In many cases that’s true, but in many cases, that’s absolutely untrue. Often times, we get new for new’s sake.

By no means is this an entreaty to stay stuck in the same ways over and over again. We must develop the delicate ability to understand what should change and what should not, and refuse to get caught up in the blind, sweeping momentum of change where people chase the latest ephemeral nonsense whether it merits pursuit or not; where “old” automatically means bad, and “new” instantly equals good.

There are many reasons why people “over change” in business. The first reason is because they can. Change is there for the taking. Let’s do it, let’s change, let’s do something different because doing the same thing is boring…even if it works brilliantly. The second reason: because I’m new. New people always want to change things. That’s why they showed up. Change is the way they leave their mark. Third: the impact of those three little letters N-E-W. “New” remains the second most powerful word in marketing, behind only the king of all words, “Free.” Lastly, and most importantly, people change because they lack a clear understanding of and respect for the deep-rooted unchangeables of a brand.

Here’s how I think the change dynamic works in advertising.

I see marketing on a continuum from brand essence to strategy to campaign to execution. The closer to brand essence, the less you change. The closer to execution, the more you change.

Key elements that define the brand should almost never change. Every company has their version of these…brand essence wheels, brand pyramids, brand arrows, mission statements. These are the principles that stand for generations, why they founded the company, the images inextricably linked to the brand. If these are to change, one random person cannot do it on a capricious whim. 11 keys should turn to launch that missile. Strategy should be well conceived (measure twice, cut once), then stuck with until it no longer works, or it wears out. Campaigns that support the strategy can change more often, so long as they are always true to the strategy. Geico is a great example of this. From the Cavemen to the Gekko to the “Happier Than” to the current “It’s What You Do,” the campaigns have changed, but the strategy has remained constant: 15 minutes could save you 15%. Executions should change regularly and often. That’s the whole point of “executions,” especially in today’s real-time world. Take some shots, do some analytics; use what works, dump what doesn’t.

So next time you’re faced with a decision to change something or not, ask yourself a simple question: am I changing this because it should be changed or because it can be changed. If the answer is the latter, don’t do it, then turn your attention to something that needs to be changed…because there’s always something.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, The BAM Connection

TheBamThinks #20

2,596 Bottles of Wine on the Wall (Or how to market in the world’s most overwhelming category)

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.41.23 AMIn the majority of commercial categories there are a handful of real competitors. Walk into a supermarket to buy some bread, and there are probably six or so to choose from? Toothpaste, four or five real players. But walk into a wine store, and wow, there are hundreds, even thousands of choices. According to, there are over 60,000 different labels on the market. Dare I say no category has more competitors than the wine category? It creates a singular dynamic that wine marketers simply cannot ignore. They must develop a plan to separate themselves out form the overwhelming mass of competition. Otherwise, they’re just hoping and praying someone stumbles upon their bottle amidst the thousands. Not a good business plan.

Even as America gets more and more savvy, choosing a wine remains one of the most confusing and intimidating acts to the average consumer. Please note the word “average.” I am clearly not talking about wine connoisseurs. I’m talking about the average person who wants to enjoy some wine, and feels very uncertain shopping the category. In other words, the vast majority of wine drinkers.

It’s hard to know a lot about wine because there’s a lot to know about wine:
different winemakers, brand names, varietals, blends, countries, terroir, vintage, cork, synthetic, screw top, boxed wine, reviews 88, 91, by who? Little blurbs, posted on shelves, probably written by the brand, so of course they will sound good. Or they are written by the proprietor, which can be helpful, but also doesn’t mean you’re going to like the particular brand recommended. Wine is a very subjective taste. Like they always say, what’s a good wine? If you like the way it tastes, it’s a good wine. And of course, you can Google it on your phone while standing at the shelf. Then you just fall into the infinite abyss of the internet, and could be searching wines forever.

Consumers get hit with this onslaught of information: combine that with their tentative knowledge, and it becomes so overwhelming, most people just end up picking a wine the same way they pick a horse at the track: this one has a pretty color, a guy told me it’s a winner, I dated a Kim Crawford in high school, my uncle’s nickname is Toasted Head.

So what’s a wine marketer to do?

Never has branding been more important than in the wine category. Okay, relax purists, this doesn’t mean cheapen the fine art of winemaking with the dirty business of advertising. It means having a distinct point of view for the brand, a strong position, no matter if you advertise on TV, or simply talk to people one on one at the winery. It’s fairly simple, if you don’t know what your brand is all about, how can any consumer?

From my experience, here are two pieces of concrete advice that make a huge difference in establishing a brand POV for a wine.

1. Use the name and label unabashedly.
It’s the billboard, the calling card, the first thing everyone will see, the last thing they will remember, and the one thing no one else can own. Dig into it. Why is named that? What is the story behind it? What is the graphic on the label? Why was it chosen? Name and label are invaluable assets to a wine brand. Take them, inject them with relevant meaning, then work outward from there, so the meaning resonates with the largest amount of people possible. Many marketers make the mistake of doing the exact opposite. They work backward from some lame, generic wine insight or observation — people like to drink together, Italian and French wines have cache — then they create an idea that could work for dozens of other wines, just plug one in.

When you work from the name and label outward, you have a much more unique starting point, and much better odds of creating a distinct brand. From there, any marketing you choose to do, whether it be a TV commercial, or good old fashioned one-on-one sell, the story is singularly defined. So when a consumer sees it in a wine store or on a restaurant menu, they think, “Oh, I know that one.” Which brings me to my second piece of advice.

2. Never underestimate the power of familiarity.
Go back to the overwhelming information being downloaded on the average wine consumer. They are desperately fishing for familiarity, some trigger, some tidbit of pre-existing knowledge, a previous experience, some name they’ve heard of, label they remotely recognize, anything that helps guide this impossible decision, and point them to a particular brand they can feel good about buying, and proud showing up with. Maybe they’ll even have a one-line sound bite to go with it that makes them look modestly wine savvy as they hand it to the host.

I believe wine purchasing is a combination of familiarity and discovery.
Yes, people like to discover, but discover what they are vaguely familiar with already. Otherwise it’s a blindfolded stab in the dark, a total crapshoot. Like at the carnival, they might as well throw a ring at a bunch of bottles, and buy whichever bottleneck it lands on.

So give them a tight brand that comes from the name and label, and works as a signal at the moment of purchase. That will greatly improve the odds that they will remember, and hopefully purchase, that one in 2,596 bottles of wine on the wall…yours.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, Baiocco And Maldari

A few examples of wines I have worked on:
•Bella Sera has a twilight sky on the label, and means “beautiful evening” in Italian. So we created the perfect wine to end the day at magic twilight, relaxing in the Italian style.
•The Federalist has engravings of Founding Fathers on the label. We put millennial guys through the same filter, and used that imagery to connect them to the revolutionary thinking of their forefathers.
•For Black Swan, we used the beauty and dark exoticness of the swan as the defining metaphor of the wine itself.
•On Santa Margherita, we used the timeless, sophisticated name and label to create a classic that will always be here and loved.

TheBamThinks #19

The Art of Attraction and Transaction. Great advertising is about these two things. Period.

Yin YangIn the world of marketing, at any given moment, you’re either trying to attract people to a brand, or trying to get them to transact, and purchase the brand. There is nothing else. All the brilliance of art and copy, all the amazing creative technology exploding around us is about driving these two things. That’s it. That’s all there is.

At this exact minute, how many people are in the market, and actively looking to buy your product or service? I’ll bet it’s somewhere between 1% and 10%, depending on the type of product or service you offer. If you sell something that is not used daily, and/or is durable, it’s probably 1%. If you sell something that’s used daily and/or is disposable, probably closer to 10%. If you sell tires, 1%. If you sell toothpaste, 10%.

Create an attraction
Unless you plan on ignoring the other 90-99% of consumers, you must create advertising that draws people to the brand, even when they don’t need it. It must create an undeniable attraction to be part of the action, and make them want the brand, or at least remember the brand when they need it in the future.

To create an attraction, the advertising must do more than simply list the benefits of the brand. That may work for the small percentage interested now, but the larger percentage will blow it off in a second. The message must be true to the product or service, but break the confines of the package or the walls of the store to capture something with larger life context that still pertains to the product, but broadens the appeal of the communication beyond ONLY the product. It must engage them, and matter to them now, even when they do not need the brand. From there, it must draw them in with some intriguing creative: an arresting visual that stops people in their tracks, something hilarious they want to pass on to others, something moving that connects with their soul, and causes them to comment, brilliant design they want to post, a clever turn of phrase they want to retweet.

Then attraction is patient. It doesn’t push for the sale right now. If that happens, great, and there should always be an opportunity for someone to transact, but its goal is to set a brand vision, to inspire, to entertain, to motivate, then somewhere down the road, because of the accumulated goodwill, to make the sale. It’s money in the bank.

Create a transaction
This is for the 1- 10% looking to buy right now. You better have the mechanisms in place to close the deal. This creative should shorten the distance between consideration and purchase. It should make it easier, faster, cheaper; and trigger transaction now.

To create a transaction you must be single-mindedly all about the product or service. They are here shopping for the brand at this very moment, don’t distract them with anything else but how to buy. Many times, transaction leans on creative technology to help make the sale by finding the location, delivering a discount, showing up on screen right when someone is considering that exact product or service. Transaction knows what button to push to drive the purchase. And it’s not afraid to ask for the sale.

Transaction is urgent. It wants the purchase now, and does everything it can to help get it immediately. It knows the ultimate goal of all advertising is to put money in the register.

Brands need the essential yin yang of attraction and transaction, not just one or the other. Create all the attraction you want, if no one transacts, who cares. Put all the transaction opportunities in front of them you want, but if you haven’t created an attraction, no one will pay attention. Think of all the ads you ignore each day…an astounding amount.

So look at all your marketing pieces, and ask yourself: is this helping me attract people, or transact people? It better be doing one, the other, or both.
Because the ultimate goal of every advertisement is a sale. The only debatable point is a sale now or a sale later.

The art of attraction and transaction. Everything else is distraction.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection


6 things to do so you’re not a jerk at work

photo Jerk1. Don’t be a jerk.
Whether they cop to it or not, the majority of people absolutely know when they’re being a jerk. They hurt someone’s feelings, make someone look stupid, argue for no real reason, throw someone under a bus. And when it’s not that obvious, there’s a visceral feeling in your gut that tells you I’m not being a very agreeable person right now. With the rare exception of a small group of oblivious humans who are completely unaware of other people’s feelings, most realize when they’re being a jerk, even if they pretend they don’t. You know. Look in the mirror, and don’t be one.

2. Keep your ego in check
I believe ego is the #1 producer of jerkdom in business, and the #1 thing that brings men down. Yes, some women, too, but I find overblown ego is a largely male flaw. Maybe it has something to do with testosterone or alpha-dog dynamics. Whatever the reason, it inspires epically wrong decisions. Just read the paper about the executive, or politician-du-jour whose career is ruined because of some horribly misguided, ego-driven choice.

Keeping your ego in check is easy to say, but very hard to do. Besides the inner workings of the male psyche, often times credit leads to raise, promotion or bonus, so people try to make it all about them, what they did. Point that spotlight right over here. What they don’t realize is everyone wants credit, to feel good about their efforts. Yes, it’s okay to take some of the credit if you actually deserve it, but taking all the credit only causes people to dislike you. So don’t be driven by ego. If you make it all about you, others will make it all about what a jerk you are.

3. Be all about the work
It’s amazing how much time people spend on everything but the work…the politics, the gossip, the griping, the frivolous, task-avoiding conversations. Just think how much the quality of the work itself would improve if they shifted all that wasted effort to making the job better. Don’t get me wrong, a small portion should be given to politics, so you don’t get naively blind-sided. And griping is your right as a worker in America. Just limit the time, please.

When you’re so deeply concerned about things other than the work, it taints your decision-making. If you care more about sticking it to someone else, protecting your job, or trying to look good in front of your boss, people don’t respect your decisions because they know they are wrongly motivated. If you care about the work, and nothing but the work, the people may not agree with your decisions, but they respect them. Pretty simple stuff.

4. Know where your job ends and someone else’s begins.
Some people focus so much on making sure colleagues are doing their jobs that they screw up their own jobs royally. How annoying. Worry about what you’re doing. Get that right, then if there’s any time left, which there really shouldn’t be, perhaps offer to help others with their jobs. Even then, you’re probably not qualified.

No task is completed in a vacuum by one person. It takes an assembly line of activity to get to the result. Do your part. Let others do theirs. Because when everyone performs his or her own particular expertise, the job almost always goes more smoothly, and turns out higher quality.

5. Respect that great ideas can come from anywhere.
I see this storyline all the time: Sally or Jimmy are labeled as “good workers” but not the ones who come up with big ideas. Don’t write people off like that. Now yes, big ideas are more readily available to some than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t have them. You never know.
Rather than dismissing some outright, be opened-minded to ideas from all directions. And if you’re the boss, rather than pointing the finger at other’s lack of ability, perhaps look at yourself. Are you inspiring them enough? Giving clear, motivating direction? Recognizing their nuggets that can be turned into gems? Or are you just looking for the easy way out where people walk in with brilliant, finished ideas, neatly wrapped in a bow? Good luck with that one.

6. Listen, then decide.
If you’re the boss, you get paid to decide. That’s your job. But that doesn’t mean you must be an autocrat, and only consult your own head when making a decision. Listen to the people who work for you, if you hired properly, they should have lots of good ideas and valid points. Then, even if you don’t use their thinking, they will respect that you actually listened and considered it. Not that hard.

Remember, it’s easier than you think to not be a jerk. And don’t kid yourself that you didn’t realize you were being one. You choose to be a jerk. And you choose not to be.
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection

It’s official! The BAM Connection launches in Dumbo Today.


For immediate release:

The BAM Connection opens in Dumbo with a singular vision:
Simplicity Liberates Creativity

New York, NY – June 25, 2014. – After years working in the big, complex, multi-layered agency world, Rob Baiocco and Maureen Maldari officially launch The BAM Connection today in Brooklyn with a single mission: the tenacious pursuit of creativity through simplicity.

Baiocco and Maldari, two former Grey executives, have spent years driving billions of dollars in value for national and international brands like Captain Morgan, Pringles, Aquafresh, DIRECTV, Botox and E*Trade. They now vow to use that vast experience to take a necessary and unwavering streamlined approach to branding and content creation.

“The world of marketing is way overcomplicated,” said Baiocco. “And all that complexity sucks the life out of ideas, gets in the way of speed, and strangles creativity. Simplicity liberates creativity. And from there, the ideas just explode outward.”

“When you’ve lived, and fought that complexity everyday, you know how to eliminate it,” added Maldari. And I’ve gotta believe clients will rejoice because they must be exhausted by it.”

The Bam Connection opens at 20 Jay Street in the hotbed of the digital tech triangle of Dumbo. “It was time big branding crossed the East River,” said Maldari, a born-and-raised Brooklyn lifer. “This is exactly what businesses need today, the seamless marriage of the two disciplines that matter most: branding and digital. Everyone talks about merging. We physically brought our big branding experience and dropped it right in the middle of the Dumbo digital surround sound.”

“Dumbo is just cool,” said Baiocco, who grew up in Buffalo. “It has a gritty edge, an upstart attitude. Just walk into Brooklyn Roasting Company, it’s full of fringe thinkers, you can feel the energy.”

The BAM Connection opens with a list of clients that includes Terlato Wines, The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and Wrangler Western Jeans. “Rob and Maureen are hands-on and passionate about unlocking true breakthrough answers for your business, says Iain Douglas, VP Global Strategy and Brand Management for VF. “I think the meaning of creative partnership is back and alive again.”

The BAM will also be an active member of the Ad Council. “I’ve been on the Creative Review Committee since 2003, and nothing will make me happier than putting The BAM Connection’s creative energy toward doing the noble work of the Ad Council,” said Baiocco.

Baiocco and Maldari hinge their “creativity through simplicity” approach on a tool they call The One-Shot Answer: one short, compelling phrase that nails your brand meaning, then directs and connects all your communications.

“It’s not about dumbing it down,” said Baiocco, it’s about smarting it up, about being more clever, more artfully and powerfully succinct.”

“We are a unique combination, a creative boutique with global powerhouse experience, so we know how to operate with a tenacious efficiency,” added Maldari. “We achieve the absolute most with less words, less layers, less meetings.”

The name “The BAM Connection,” besides being an acronym for Baiocco And Maldari, points to this powerful simplicity. “If you’ve ever sat in a meeting asking yourself what are these people talking about with these endless semantics, then call us,” said Maldari. “We cut through it all, and get to the answer… BAM!”

And if that’s not enough explanation, Baiocco, a 4th-degree black belt, points to his 30 years in martial arts, and its inherent yin yang of efficacy and artistry. “I like to approach the work like this: be effective (martial) and be creative (art), like breaking four boards with a beautiful punch. BAM!”

About The BAM Connection

Baiocco and Maldari have partnered for nearly a decade managing global businesses for blue-chip marketers like GSK and Procter and Gamble. They have run nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in billing, and achieved enormous business growth, nearly doubling revenues. They have created many award-winning campaigns along the way, including winners or finalists in major shows like Cannes, NY Festivals, One Show, the ADDYS, Clios, and London International. Their work has been featured in major media including The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Ad Week, Ad Age, Good Morning America, The Today Show, ABC, NBC and CBS Nightly News, and dozens of websites like Gawker, BBC, CNN, The Cool Hunter, Digg and The Guardian.