In the new role, Maeda, previously VP of product and platform development for IMG Worldwide’s fashion business, will work alongside Bacardi’s marketing and commercial teams to plan how the brand can work with key fashion industry influencers across events, social and digital.
The move is the latest step in Bacardi’s quest to reach younger consumers.
Last year it partnered with rapper Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding to launch a campaign and three-day music festival in an effort to convince younger men to buy back into the brand. Influencers from key target groups including the fashion industry were invited to the event alongside contest winners.
However, the appointment suggests the brand is now looking to reach both male and female consumers with further fashion partnerships.
The move for brands to target the fashion crowd is not a new one. Diet Coke has appointed the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs as its creative directors over the past few years, while technology brands such as Apple and Google have hired fashion experts to lead their wearable divisions.
And while alcohol brands may appear to have been slower to tap into the power of fashion influencers, Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor, says this is not the case.
“The relationship between the alcohol industry and fashion has historically been closer than people think, closer than food,” he says.
In 2013 Johnnie Walker partnered with retailer Mr. Porter to promote its Blue Label brand, while a Kameleon-created campaign has seen Chivas Regal team up with Savile Row over the past two years to showcase the brands’ similar roots in “quality, craftsmanship and heritage”.
Beer brand Peroni, meanwhile, pushes its links to fashion with House of Peroni, where it partners with fashion designers and other artists to take over a house and fill it with Italian designs, art, fashion and food.
Data from Marketing Week’s sister title Celebrity Intelligence at the end of December showed that of the top 10 brand endorsers of 2014, seven were fashion models and two were reality stars with major fashion influences – leading endorser Millie Mackintosh, originally from reality show Made in Chelsea, recently launched her own clothing line.
Malandrakis believes the drivers behind changing drinking habits are similar to changing tastes in fashion.
“They happen because of the way people perceive themselves and want to show their sophistication,” he says, adding that popular culture, including what he calls the “Mad Men effect”, can inspire people to change their tastes both in terms of drinks and fashion.
“Drivers of change are aspirational and start with symbolism and the semiotics of style, and within that context the relation between the two is very close,” he says.
Despite this close relationship, he says this is the first time a brand has created such a position.
“It’s always been collaborations with brands or someone being the face of the brand, but never someone from the fashion industry hired to a position like this,” he says.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say all companies should do something like that, but because Akiko is coming from the Fashion Week side of things, she’s relevant to Bacardi’s premium aspirations and the fact that they want to position themselves within the luxury segment.”