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


How to advertise to “guy guys.” Six things you’d better know.

Awesome!Men have evolved. We change diapers, do housework, have discovered our sensitive side, some are even “metrosexuals.” Yes, we have come a long way too, baby. However, there is (thank God) still a large portion of guys out there who are guys in every sense of the word. The hunting, firemen, classic rock, UFC-loving, beef-jerky-eating, messin’ with Sasquatch kinda’ men.

I’ve been around a lot of “guy guys” in my life. I grew up working construction with my burly, tattooed-armed dad, and my uncle Jack, a curb setter who could swing a sledge, and still put a much younger man (me) to shame when he was 60 years old. I’ve also played lots of sports, and spent a lot time in locker rooms around testosterone-filled guys. When it comes to marketing, I have worked on numerous “guy” brands including Wrangler Western (cowboys are the ultimate guys), Captain Morgan, Crown Royal Whisky, and so on. Based on this combination of life experience and work experience, here’s what I’ve learned about talking to guy guys.

1. Get to it, man
Don’t give them any of the flowery set up crap. There’s no need to rev the engine, just drive already. Guys want it quick and to the point. They don’t want a lot of discussion or a poll of their friends’ opinions. It’s like how they shop for clothes. Get in, buy a shirt, get out. They’re not browsers. They’ll take what the mannequin is wearing.

2. Make it simple to understand
This applies to everyone, but especially guys. They have to get it before they can like it. If they don’t get it, they’ll dismiss it as some a-hole who thinks he’s smarter than they are.

3. Simple doesn’t mean simpleton
Yes, guys like the Three Stooges and “football in the groin” (Homer Simpson reference), but they expect more cleverness from their advertising. A few years back, many of the Super Bowl beer commercials were simplistic fart jokes. Guys backlashed.

4. Don’t smack of femininity
“Guy guys” like guy things: guy colors, guy typefaces, guy music, guy brand names. Once I was in a focus group for wine, and a man really liked a brand called Layer Cake. In front of eight other guys he kept saying, “it’s really good wine, trust me.” He was apologizing, and saying I’m not a sissy who drinks a wine named Layer Cake (sorry Layer Cake). What wines did all the other guys like? Carnivor and Earthquake. Duh.
Also, never be “cute.” New espadrilles are “cute.” That bob haircut is “cute.” The romantic comedy is “cute.” “Cute” is a woman’s word in both usage and tonality. Keep it as far away from guys as humanly possible.

5. Honesty only
Guys call each other on their bullshit. It’s part of being a guy. Be full of shit, get nailed by your friends. So give it to them straight. No need for all the emotional histrionics either. (BTW, they wouldn’t like the word “histrionics.”)

6. Be positive
Guys don’t dwell on the bad, they dwell on the good. They’re not stressing about their weight gain, or worried about their hair color, or aggravated by the obnoxious thing Kim Kardashian said (don’t care). Guys are generally positive by nature. Great game last night. Cool car. Beer is good. Keep it simple and upbeat.

With rare exception, I believe deep down most guys want to be “guy guys,” at least a portion of themselves. Why else do soft-bellied corporate milquetoasts suddenly buy Harleys? As a result, appealing to guy guys is not niche marketing. You reach a lot more people than you think.

So there you have it, some pointers on how to talk to “guy guys.” And remember, if all else fails, you can always blow some shit up. Awesome!

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection


How to Get to a Galvanizing Global Brand Point of View

GlobeThere are many global companies that have impressive global brand footprints, but few have the privilege of owning global brand points of view. At The Baiocco and Maldari Connection, we have a pedigree for doing just that for Procter & Gamble (Pringles), GlaxoSmithKline (Aquafresh and Sensodyne) and Diageo (Captain Morgan). We have a unique perspective and way to deliver and over and over again. Here are some principles we have learned, and you can implement if you want your brand to take flight in multiple countries.

Know your constituents – Take the time to listen. In global companies, most senior leaders touch multiple brands. Chances are they have a point of view about the one you are working on. Get their perspective. Sounds simple right? Well, frankly it doesn’t happen. The US wants to do it their way. The UK wants to do it their way and China and India are completely unique and want it done their way. No one has a vested interest in the global brand except perhaps the Global Marketing Lead that doesn’t own the P&L or maybe just shares in it. Listen to their issues, concerns, and find the commonality that elevates the overall Brand position.
Connect the dots – When everyone is driven by their own P&L, the Agency has the opportunity to be neutral. If you are an astute listener you will find all the ways to bring the leaders together. The key is to identify what motivates each leader, each region, and ultimately, the consumer in that region, and then bend the idea so there is something in it for everyone to participate and win.
IT ALL ABOUT THE IDEA – Ideas speak to people and, regardless of their location, people share the same basic human needs. Ideas might need to be nuanced to fit culturally but the guiding principle is that we are more the same then we are different. A truly great idea has no boundaries because it is built from the DNA of the brand. Every brand should have a short, compelling phrase that nails the brand meaning. We call it a One Shot AnswerTM., a single message that is undeniably linked to the core of the brand and is communicated in the same voice with the same words regardless of location. This is the key to galvanize diverse leaders to act.
Identify the ideal Champion – Every great idea needs a champion. Pick the leader that will deliver and serve as an inspiration to the other leaders. Someone who has the money and is willing to start the movement. Shine that light brightly and move fast.
Get points on the board – Everyone gravitates towards winners. The fastest way to bring a team together within a large corporate structure is through success. Success is a great aphrodisiac. The wins don’t have to be big; they just have to be tangible and relatable.
Be in it. Good or Bad. – The process is never pretty and it’s certainly not for those agency fly-by-nights looking to move on after the first production is finished. But it’s the most gratifying for those of us who are truly motivated by building great global brands. To us, it’s a gift because when you make it to the finish line, the brand is impenetrable.

Follow these principles and your brand will be on the path to an enviable global point of view. Once you have that, the creative options to activate will be contagious and create energy that only a great galvanizing idea can achieve.

Maureen Maldari
CEO, The Baiocco and Maldari Connection