A global activation with employees at grassroots level
For the second time, spirits company Bacardi created a magnificent, global marketing campaign that required extensive planning and thorough internal communications, writes Michael Bratt.
Turning every employee into a brand ambassador was the central component of Bacardi’s Back to the Bar brand awareness campaign.
Coinciding with the 157th anniversary of the brand’s founding, more than 7 000 Bacardi employees across 130 global cities visited over 1 000 bars during a 16-hour period. With the main aim of brand awareness, the self-named primos and primas handed out cocktails to and interacted with patrons. Their presence was advertised beforehand through posters hung at the outlets, but the main communication with the consumers was the activation itself.
“For us, firstly it’s to thank all our customers who have supported our brand this year, and it’s important internally for us to have all our employees think like sales people and be closer to the consumers,” explains Francois Portier, area director for South and East Africa at Bacardi.
The scale of the campaign doubled in size from last year, meaning that coordinating the activities was a much bigger challenge in 2019. Internal communications had to be spot on. Rather than have the global office co-ordinate the goings-on, each individual market was tasked with their own rollout. However, there were common threads globally.
The micro influencer trend
“The look and feel of the campaign was made by the global office and then the brand ambassador in each market, who was briefed by the global team, communicated it locally. And the rollout happened on the same day everywhere,” explains Portier.
The success of the campaign was firstly measured on the number of interactions Bacardi employees had on the ground. Aside from being an activation in nature, Bacardi also used its social media platforms (and those of all its employees) to spread the message further. With the belief that “all employees can influence the business at a grassroots level”, Bacardi was looking to utilise home-grown Insta-influencers from all levels of the business.
“As part of this brand’s culture, the founders are very important to us and family is very important to us. This is why we used our employees, who are our family. It was very important to have internal involvement,” says Portier.
This approach plays on the new micro-influencer trend that has been creeping up in marketing, ever so quietly. Rather than recruit big name celebrities (who usually come with hefty price tags anyway) and their huge followings to be part of a campaign, brands are recognising the value of using ‘ordinary people’ with smaller followings. Even though they don’t reach mass, they are more engaged with and closer to their followers, which reinforces the belief of genuine connections. However, with this campaign, Bacardi had the best of both worlds as they used micro-influencers, while still reaching mass, due to the 7 000 staff the brand utilised.
With the incorporation of this digital aspect, traditional social media metrics were also used to gauge the success of the campaign. Several hashtags were used, including #BacktotheBar, while trends in the alcohol space were also touched on in posts, including “drink less but better”, “instagrammable handcrafted cocktails” and “no/low is the new go-to”.
Brands built in bars, not boardrooms
“‘Back to the Bar’ is based on our belief that our brands are built in bars, not boardrooms. As Bacardi celebrates our 157th anniversary, it’s important to reconnect with our roots, think like founders and put our own feet on the street to see first-hand how our business, bars and consumers are changing,” says Mahesh Madhavan, CEO of Bacardi Limited. “For Bacardi people, visiting bars is often more work than play as we do on-the-ground research and put ourselves in the role of salespeople and social media influencers.”
A standout feature of the campaign was the choice of cocktails served per market. These were dependent on the dominant Bacardi brand that patrons in the market prefer.
“In Kenya we did more on whiskey, Mozambique would be Martini and in South Africa it’s mainly based on Bombay Sapphire,” comments Portier.
“The cocktail revolution continues as more people from more places drink more varieties of spirits than ever before, and bars and bartenders are on the frontlines,” says Jacob Briars, Bacardi’s global advocacy director. “In addition to spending time with consumers, Back to the Bar is a chance for us to thank the bars and restaurants who support us and the world’s best bartenders, who are truly on the cutting edge of what’s new and next in our business,” he added.
This campaign will be rolled out again next year, as well as in the foreseeable future, as it has been incorporated into Bacardi’s long-term strategy. In the shorter term, the company is busy with projects in South Africa for its newly acquired Patrón Tequila, as well as several other of its brands, with the country being a priority market in Sub-Saharan Africa for Bacardi.
As Portier concludes, “We test some activations and activities in South Africa that we then rollout to other African markets like Nigeria and Kenya.”