The Former CMO of Bacardi walks through how he built a marketing plan to revive the core Bacardi rum product by retelling the story of the brand heritage to young people.

In the full interview we explore:

  • The three core principles of the Diageo Way of Brand Building
  • How Bacardi told stories of the heritage for the core rum brand
  • The story and campaign of Grey Goose and how to connect with consumers
  • The importance of connecting with consumers as a brand marketeer

How did you tell the story of the Bacardi heritage to young people?

That's a terrific question. We couldn't just say, hey, here's our story. We set about building a hugely creative and engaging way, to bring to life that story. A way that would engage millennials and have millennials actually want to share it and say, hey, wow. So there's two things. I touched on them earlier, but I'll make them super clear.

The first is, we did make, what I would call, traditional communication, that was filmed in Brazil. Very edgy, set to an Arctic Monkeys soundtrack. The Arctic Monkeys were very, very big at the time. It was a beautifully told story, told in a visual, cinematic methodology, with a soundtrack that was relevant and engaging for our consumer, which we then ensured that we showed through the relevant channels. But we then took that to the next stage, where we ran this event. Bacardi is from Cuba, so we did it down in Latin America, in the Bermuda Triangle. It's always been surrounded by mystery, the Bacardi brand. So we ensured that the location was mysterious and engaging.

We put on acts that helped us story and helped us bring our story to life. Then, of course, as I say, we ran a social media strategy that ensured we got so much content being pushed out of that. By the way, it was consumer generated content, that was on brand, pushed out of that event, that changed perception.

How do you think about changing your messaging across different channels and how did you use that at Bacardi? You mentioned various different channels – the events, social media. How do you look to alter the message that you send across these channels?

This is extremely important. For young marketeers, I think there's an understanding that's required here. At the moment, people are still saying that digital is everything. How do we go digital? Digital is a channel. Streaming is a channel. Radio is a channel. Social media is a channel. The key strategic piece of work that needs to be done, is what I call, connection moment planning or moment of influence planning. That is understanding, what is the message that you can say, through a given media, that's going to connect at the right time, for your consumers and have them say, wow; I'm going to consider that.

I'll share a little story, which might bring this to life, which is a personal story, which I think is simple, in terms of connection moment planning. I used to play golf very, very badly. I played in a club and for our upcoming game, we were informed that we were the first group off the tee. In other words, we were the first to hit off, very early morning, to play golf. What that meant was, that I was going to have a lineup of guys, watching me tee off. I was bad at golf and that made me as nervous as I could be. So I'm driving to the golf course, that morning and all I'm thinking is, I just want to hit it straight and I just want to hit it long. That's all I want to do. As I pulled into the golf club, there was an outdoor billboard, on the roof of the pro shop that said, Top Flight golf balls, straighter and longer than you've ever hit before.

I said, wow, I wonder. As I walked into the pro shop, to pay my fees, there was a little display of golf balls: 'Top Flight golf balls. Longer and straighter than ever before'. I bought two boxes, there and then. This is a guy who used to buy his golf balls, second hand, at a dollar a ball. I think I paid $750 for two boxes or something, because they got me. It was the right message, they understood me. The right medium, at the pro shop. At the right time, just as I was about to tee off. The punchline of that story is, I did line up with my new Top Flight golf ball. I teed off and it was a scrubber, along the ground and into the bush and everyone laughed at me. But anyway, Top Flight got me.

But it's the important point about the message and the channel, but also the moment and meeting your consumer there, at that point where the essence of your brand captures them.

100%. At the moment, we're seeing great examples of connection moments or moments of influence planning coming to life. With all that's tragically going on in the world, at the moment, you're seeing hand sanitizer brands advertising in buses and in the tube and at bus stops and in public places. The message is, the ultimate protection. That's an amazingly powerful example of, the right message, in the right medium, close public proximity, with the right message, which is the ultimate protection. We're seeing examples of brands doing that today.

In terms of storytelling, in your opinion, is this the essence of it, in terms of this moment that has to capture the consumer? How do you think about story telling?

Personally, I think story telling is everything in life. As marketeers, what we're trying to do is influence consumers, to at least consider, but at best, engage and purchase our brands, our products. That's what we're trying to do. In order to do that, you need to understand how to win over the consumer's hearts and minds. How to story tell. The one thing I'd say to young marketeers is, ensuring you know what your story is. In other words, what is the position of your brand, strategically? Therefore, the stories that you can tell that are on brand, that will deliver the performance that you need to deliver, whilst growing the brand equity that you are charged with growing. That's it. That's marketing. There is nothing more important.

Additionally, ensuring that those messages land at the most powerful moment they can, is what connection of moment influence planning is all about. I'd just say to marketeers of today, that story telling is not just about your consumers. It's also about your internal organization. Have you told your story to your internal organization? Does your internal organization believe that they can win with your brand? Believe that your brand is the brand that they want to go out and talk about and tell stories about, to their customers, to their stakeholders, today.

For me, storytelling is the core of what marketeers do. The only preface I put on it is, you've got to do the strategic work first, so that you know the stories that you should be telling, you have a right to tell and are believable and engaging to your consumers.

What makes a great story, in your opinion?

I think it needs to come from a foundation of truth. I think, from that truth, you need to find ways that it can actually tell a story in an engaging manner that has your consumers wanting more. That has your consumers going, you know what, this brand gets me. It understands my life. It's talking to me, in my language and it's saying things where I go, wow, have you seen that? I want to tell other people that story. I want to share that content. I want people to understand and feel the same way as I'm feeling about this brand. Again, it goes back to being strategically clear and having your strategic foundation absolutely solidified.

Then understanding your consumer's world and the insights and the motivations and needs that are driving them and matching your story and your telling of your story, to the way in which your consumer wants to receive that information and will have them go, wow; this brand gets me, I get it. Let's get together.