Blog: Olly WehringWhere you're from - as important as where you're at

Olly Wehring | 16 February 2006

This week, news editor Dean Best is in Cuba visiting Pernod Ricard's Havana Club operations.

Provenance. It’s a word used by almost every brand-owner in the drinks industry in the fight for share of voice, but is bandied around so often that it has perhaps lost some of its impact.

But here in the Cuban capital of Havana, just-drinks has this week seen first hand how provenance and heritage can be harnessed to wonderful effect in promoting a brand image that lives long in the minds of consumers.

Havana Club is a brand on the up, with sales leaping 16% last year, making it the world’s third-largest premium rum - and that’s without access to the US, by far the category's biggest market.

Central to that growth has been Havana Club’s use of Cuba to give the brand something unique - and powerful - in the eyes of consumers. Hosting an international cocktail competition in a building that once housed the Cuban Congress was a perfect example. Just-drinks spoke to a number of bartenders who were blown away by the faded grandeur of the setting and believed the brand’s use of Cuba - and, more specifically, Havana - was the perfect way to win over consumers.

Bacardi has long dominated the rum category but even it has felt it necessary to promote the provenance of its flagship brand, its “Welcome to the Latin Quarter” ad campaign in the UK being a case in point. Guinness, arguably one of the industry’s most iconic brands, has succeeded in boosting its provenance with a clever UK marketing campaign promoting the fact that all Guinness sold in the UK is brewed in Dublin, following the closure of its brewery in London.

It’s rare for a brand to have such provenance and Havana Club has been adept in using its strong heritage to attract drinkers. Consumers, particularly in Western markets, are promiscuous in their drinking habits and are clamouring for something new, something different, especially from premium brands.

Consumers are smart - it’s vital that a brand’s claims of heritage or provenance are backed by something real, not just marketing spin.

Companies like InBev, which is set to close its Hoegaarden brewery in Belgium soon, would do well to remember that.


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