AIPIA Americas Summit

Malibu on how it works on the ‘influencer approach’ in its brand marketing

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Malibu is using social media to connect to its millennial consumers. Photo: Malibu.
Malibu is using social media to connect to its millennial consumers. Photo: Malibu.
Malibu has changed the way it approaches its marketing over the last few years working on ‘an influencer market approach’ where it works with people to promote the brand on social media.

Speaking at the AIPIA Americas Summit in New Jersey (June 4) Catriona Murphy, global brand manager, The Absolut Company, Sweden, said if it works with the right people it can get a lot more conversation about Malibu and it ‘hits the right people at the right times’. 

NFC is not for everyone


She said, as a result during summer Malibu is the most talked about rum on social media.  

The people that drink Malibu are 18-25 years old (Millennials and Generation Z), with a 50/50 gender split. 

In her presentation; ‘The Malibu Approach: ‘Creating the consumer experience of the future’, she said: “It doesn’t work to push content down people’s throats it has to be of value, our customers love entertainment and being entertained​.  

We have the potential to recruit new legal age drinkers every year to grow the brand, we want to do something first rather than following what the competition is doing​. 

Its hard to be the first one when you are a small brand with not a huge budget, but the consumer is always at the heart of what we do as opposed to the brand​.” 

According to Murphy, Malibu has set quite big data collection goals such as 10 million emails a year. 

But if we don’t offer anything in return we might as well put all that data in a storage unit, before we start talking about brand benefits,” she added​. 

Retail is changing. Its no longer a static environment. There are so many options out there. It’s about knowing what is right for your brand, ie with NFC (Near Field Communication) packaging, it’s not something for everyone, its about knowing if you should connect your packaging and if you do, do something good with it.​ 

We know this environment is going to get saturated but we’re trying to see where our brand fits in that role.​ 

Digital Natives

Our consumers are digital natives, they are connected on their phones, we know our consumers are connected on multiple social channels at the same time, also brand chatter is everywhere, consumers don’t want hundreds of emails we have to be smart in how we connect to them​.” 

Murphy added, Malibu has learnt that it needs to build and connect one-on-one relationships, ie its ‘more than just a rum you drink’ but a brand you associate with summer, similar passion points such as music festivals and the stores their consumers go to. 

She said the background to its Connected Bottles projects,  is every idea it has goes through its in-house Living lab, which is tested for three months, before it goes live.  

The Malibu Connected Bottle journey began with NFC with a pilot launch in the UK in 2016, with 45,000 bottles. We got 3% engagement and we saw competition content did well, a Barbados competition, and we got good interaction with a small reward competition, we saw a healthy bounce rate, and people spent time on the website looking around​,” she said. 

Malibu Games

The next launch was in 2017 with 3,000 bottles in the Netherlands, and in 2018 we did a Snapcode bottle instead of NFC to support promotion through SnapChat, with 130,000 bottles​. 

The costs are high doing a media campaign such as this and we worked with Ibiza Rocks UK music festival. We leveraged that to do a more interesting design on the bottle, and this summer we are launching a Malibu Games 2018 bottle with 300,000 bottles​.”  

The Malibu Games bottle is a campaign with millions of Euro investment behind it.  

Murphy said it has simplified the design on the bottle which focuses more on the games experience.  

This time it’s a challenge experience with the chance to win small value prizes. We’re trying not to obviously demand data but improve the experience when consumers provide more information​,” she added. 

We have always got this debate of functional or emotional benefit of the connected bottle, however you need a hook, this time this is the gaming element​.  

The key learnings for us are consumers engage positively, the tap behavior is growing by 10% people understand if you ‘tap’ something happens, data exchange for added value is something we can benefit from, offering an experience in return​.  

Communication is essential, while tap behavior is growing we need to communicate a clear specific message, it has to be ‘tap to win’. It’s not good enough to put the bottle on the shelf. You need to do a ‘before, during, after, campaign’ for consumers to understand what the bottle campaign is doing​.  

Competitive space

An even greater benefit can come from what other brands are doing in this competitive space.​  

To take this bigger, we need more investment, if you can’t show immediate benefits it’s a risk and it moves forward slowly​.” 

She added, Connected Bottled NFC technology is not a low cost technology with an immediate sales opportunity.   

Our lines are not developed to develop NFC technology on our bottles. This is something we have to work on with every campaign we do​,” she said. 

We still need to crack that added value and that involves more research. We need to identify what that content is. What’s next for us, is we are about scaling up and going bigger with more releases at bigger volumes to understand the different consumers​.  

We are looking for more partners to grow this technology with. And faster processing of the information the consumers give us. That is a new psychology for our company, learning how to use the information that we are given​.” 

According to Murphy, there are lower cost tags for NFC technology coming onto the market but if its not right for them it we will look for something else.  

We don’t look at other alcoholic brands for information but other brands our consumers love such as sports brand Adidas, Coca Cola and NIKE​,” she said. 

Connected packaging is not the future but we are looking at sustainability, different materials, shipping that doesn’t have a harsh impact on the environment.​ 

Packaging for us and the future of packaging is a priority. The benefit of being a large brand means we are not alone and we have an opportunity to build interesting partnerships with our other brands internally to develop the right content to bring this to market on a greater scale​.” 

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