How Pernod Ricard is reinventing Malibu rum

June 27, 2019
By Alana House

Keeping drinks brands on trend with consumers is a relentless job, but Malibu rum marketers believe they’ve found the key to unlocking Millennial sales.

Pernod Ricard has decided a “digital-first approach” is essential to keep Millennials connected with the brand, together with harnessing influencers and introducing a packaging refresh.

The Mailbu rum brand has been around for more than 40 years – it was created by a British liquor executive called Tom Jago in 1978. At the time, Jago was in charge of new products for International Distillers & Vintners (IDV).

IDV had a problematic coconut rum called Coco Rico, which Jago renamed Malibu, changing its packaging and repositioning it as a Caribbean-style drink. It quickly became one of the world’s most popular liqueurs.

Spirits Business recently placed Malibu rum in the No.2 position on its Top 10 Spirits Brands on Social Media list, behind Jack Daniel’s in the No.1 spot.  

At the time of publication, SB said Malibu rum had 2,465,183 Facebook fans; 44.5k Twitter followers and 51.8k Instagram followers.

But it’s not about just how many digital fans the brand has, it’s how it’s targeting them, which Malibu rum is successfully achieving through activations such as the Malibu Games and the Internet of Things.

Engaging audiences via the Malibu Games

Pernod Ricard hosted the Malibu Games 2019 in the Dominican Republic in May, a three-day festival featuring summer games, including water fights and dance offs.

Malibu Games

The first Malibu Games were held in 2018, with content from the inaugural games kick-off event generating 5.4 million engagements, 155 million video views and 2.1 million website visits.

Consumers were given access to The Malibu Games kick-off event via their favourite influencers posting on social media and by following the hashtags #MalibuGames and #BecauseSummer. Audiences also kept up with the fun by following updates on and watching outtakes on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Monica Höhle, Malibu Global Marketing Manager explained: “Our digital-first approach combined with influencer collaborations is what keeps Malibu front of mind with young adults. Instead of leading with our liquid’s credentials, we target our audience by taking them on a journey, looking for ways to insert Malibu into the experiences they crave and collect. The Malibu Games gives us a way to own a drinking occasion that is both locally and globally relevant.”

Nick Jonas competed in the 2018 Malibu Games against 30 influencer contestants from nine countries: US, UK, Germany, France, South Korea, Argentina, Spain, Netherlands and Canada. 

Malibu decided not to go with a celebrity in 2019, with global marketing manager Monica Jungbeck noting Jonus hadn’t connected with the campaign’s fans in the way she had hoped. Instead, the marketing team opted to simply pit 32 international influencers against each other.

Taking the influencer approach to marketing

Five years ago, Malibu started monitoring and measuring the internet’s biggest stars and made the decision to move an increasing proportion of its media and creative budget flowing to influencers.

According to DigiDay: “Before any sort of deal is struck with an influencer, the brand delves into their past for any misdemeanors, and will also scrutinize previous posts to see how fans have reacted. An influencer with between 15 million and 200 million followers is deemed a ‘mega-influencer’ by Malibu marketers, who see any branded post where the number of positive reactions is above 5% as the start of something good. That engagement rate rises to 10% for micro-influencers who tend to have more loyal and reactive audiences.”

Jungbeck added: “We think the brand needs to have the relationship with the influencer because we want to make sure that person buys into our brand and embraces the campaign.

“Influencers are already replacing agencies in some cases. For the Malibu Games, there’s more emphasis on influencers creating more content for us versus traditional production content.”

Using the Internet of Things

Following successful tests in the United Kingdom and Germany, Malibu rum kicked off the US summer season with the launch of the Connected Bottle, a limited-edition bottle that integrated Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in the cap of the bottle and QR code printed on the bottle neck.

Malibu Internet of Things

Consumers who scanned the QR code or tapped the NFC tag were directed via a quick link URL to an interactive mobile game where they could play for a chance to win Malibu branded prizes and also gain exclusive access to cocktail recipes and more.

“It is an exciting time for Malibu as we continue to find new ways to deepen our relationship with our consumers.” said Troy Gorczyca, Brand Director, Malibu. “What’s exciting about this launch is how we’re leveraging our iconic bottle, something consumers are familiar with, and developing a more meaningful, digital conversation with our customer at the point of sale.”

NFC technology is one of Malibu’s exploration initiatives in the area of ‘Internet of Things’ – transforming everyday objects into digital touchpoints. The technology allows two devices to quickly and securely exchange information when they are within close proximity to one another. With almost 2 billion mobile devices now NFC enabled, the technology is driving forward the IoT industry in 2019, facilitating seamless added value consumer experiences with physical objects.

Introducing new packaging

Malibu recently received a refreshed look across its portfolio, including a new bottle design and RTD cans.

Malibu RTD cans

As the most successful RTD range in the Pernod Ricard portfolio, Malibu ready-to-drink cans sell in quantities of more than 10 million annually. To boost sales even further, the new Malibu RTD cans released for the UK summer boast an eye-catching design, with Malibu palm leaves featured to reflect the essence of the brand’s summer inspired personality.

In addition to new artwork, the RTD cans integrate modern printing techniques that combine glossy and matte finishes.

A new Malibu bottle was designed to offer a clean and simple evolution of the brand’s iconic image to increase visibility behind the bar, in store and on digital platforms; key platforms to ensure Malibu remains relevant with the brand’s Millennial audience.

The new, contemporary look features a bolder colour palette and font, a brighter and larger logo design and, in a first for Malibu, photographic images of recommended serves on the back of pack to drive inspiration and enhance taste appeal.

Philip Ainsworth, Marketing Director for Pernod Ricard UK, said: “The Malibu bottle is an icon of its time, however, it is important we future-proof its design for the rapidly increasing digital world. The new, sharper look will stand out more in social media images and on e-commerce, an increasingly important channel for Malibu’s audience.”

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