Our interview with Jeff Macdonald, global brand director of BACARDI rums. The pressure of permanent WiFi access and using mobile devices on family togetherness was recently covered in a New York Times article ‘Quality Time, Redefined’. BACARDI’s new Together campaign for its core spirit brand focuses on bringing back real human connections. We’ve interviewed Jeff Macdonald, the global brand director of BACARDI, to give us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look of the campaign.
BACARDI is an iconic brand, with an amazing history and heritage – Spirit for Life – is the DNA of the brand’s heart and soul. BACARDI, founded in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba, will celebrate its 150th birthday next year on February 4. The family-owned company was one man’s dream to make a rough spirit, rum, more refined. He revolutionized the category by purposely aging and carefully blending the rum to obtain a premium smooth taste. Throughout its history the family company struggled when going through various challenges such as bankruptcy, earth quakes and the freedom fight of Cuba against Spain. Bacardi even had to deal with confiscation of the company when the Castro regime came in charge of Cuba and had to cope with illegality during prohibition in the US. “The core authentic values of freedom and a passion for life which can be best enjoyed with others is also at the heart of the BACARDI brand,” says Macdonald. “We have translated this archetype of social liberator in the new campaign for the brand: BACARDI is bringing people together – so let’s be free, reach out and enjoy life socially with others.”
Take a look at the making of the ‘Manifesto’ campaign.
But since socializing and human connection through friendship in essence is a quite generic value for the entire spirits and alcohol category, BACARDI wants to stress a more specific point of view related to the freedom personality of its authentic brand. “In today’s digital world, social connections between people are often efficient rather than human,” explains the global brand director. “This is much less rewarding and even when people are with friends they are continuously checking their mobile for text messages, e-mails or Facebook status updates. We are not anti-technology but want to make sure that technology is a means to connect, not the end in itself. With the BACARDI Together campaign we want to bring them back into a genuine human and deeper and warmer social contact. The brand’s approach can be seen as a real movement bringing back the art of enjoying free moments together through urban street parties for instance.”
Other youth brands like Adidas have been using the emotional and social party moments in their video footage as well
“This simple connecting with others seems to be a lost skill,” says Macdonald. “When I’m commuting to work in London, nobody on the tubes is actually talking and there’s no eye contact. With our BACARDI Together movement we are considering stunts such as placing bean bags in the Underground carriages or urban furniture positioned to be facing each other on busy public places transforming the concrete jungle into a much more social space. Transforming the physical space to drive a change in our behaviors – encouraging people to become more human again.”
The BACARDI marketing teams around the world have been translating this liberation idea into locally relevant activities. One of the ideas was a street party where people living in different apartments are given the individual items for a BACARDI Mojito cocktail and an invite to their local street party and then have to work together to create this classic cocktail at the party. The new campaign is still using TVC’s to recruit people for the movement and social media to keep the conversation going but the real key of the campaign is walking the talk by organizing local brand activations.
The idea reminds us of what Coca Cola has been doing with expedition 206 and the Happiness Factory idea. Would you agree?
Jeff Macdonald: “There are some similarities with the happiness theme that Coca Cola has been exploring for a while in its campaigns – the sense of joy and a strong element of humanity. And Coke has always been the perfect match to enjoy a BACARDI! In BACARDI’s campaign it is the real social connection with peers that is creating happiness and in particular removing the barriers that people face in today’s culture and lifestyle.”
Challenges such as a loss of neighborly values and solutions such as the street party for which they need to work together builds on the idea of gratifications and gamification as explained in our book’s chapter on happiness. The BACARDI Together campaign builds further on last summer’s “Island” campaign of BACARDI in which people came together to form an artificial island and have a party. In our research among LDA Millennials we saw that this commercial was already in the top most liked ones. “But this campaign is now focusing more on the deeper human connection of shared social moments and less on the event or the experience,” comments Jeff Macdonald.
So what did Bacardi learn from the soft launch in the US and Canada at the end of last year?
Jeff Macdonald: “We specifically saw how strong social media such as Facebook are today – much of the resulting impact and positive feedback for the campaign was driven by the social medium.”
The global brand director also experienced how the storyline of togetherness really resonated with this Gen Y generation. “When we talked to our core target group of LDA-29 year olds, they particularly liked the optimism and positive activism at the heart of our campaign,” says Macdonald. “This generation really likes a positive approach and brands with a clear point of view that relates to their daily life. It’s credible because the positioning is in line with our unique DNA and authentic brand heritage of being a liberator and supporting freedom.”
As a global brand director connecting with a big part of Gen Y consumer (LDA 21-29 year olds), what would you consider to be the biggest challenge in targeting this generation?
Jeff Macdonald: “I would say converting the big idea into something that’s truly relevant to them. Getting the message across in both engaging and creative ways. I think sometimes your story needs to push things a bit to make it interesting and remarkable for this generation. If you are a big global brand, in creative development you tend to smooth the edges of ideas a bit. I think the real successful campaigns are the ones in which the brand has the courage to go through with the wild ideas and which can translate the big idea into something that feels more human and natural. And then there’s always the challenge of delivering global consistency with real local relevancy – you need to get all regional markets involved and motivated to implement effectively. For instance, in Thailand the theme of togetherness has the opportunity to be translated to a national feeling considering the local political situation. So sometimes these local variants can be at a macro-level, sometimes it’s very micro-regional. I think this local flexibility combined with an active sense of social freedom at the heart of the BACARDI Together campaign can be seen as key success factors.”