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!