Bacardi on growing its brand ties with the fashion world

Earlier this week Bacardi appointed Akiko Maeda to the newly created role of VP of fashion. Marketing Week caught up with Maeda to chat about the future of fashion partnerships for the spirits company as it looks to tap into what she considers to be a close relationship between the two industries and their consumers.

How has Bacardi played into fashion so far and what areas do you see as an opportunity moving forward?

There have been remarkable examples in the past of what Bacardi has been doing with their brand along the lines of art, fashion and music.

[Bacardi-owned] Grey Goose has been working closely with film festivals and film communities in Europe such as BAFTA, and has been working with Soho House who embrace the larger creative community.

Martini & Rossi, particularly in Europe, also has a relationship with Dolce & Gabbana.

Where I think Bacardi has an opportunity to work more closely with the fashion community is to build much deeper relationships, including with retailers and publishers, also broader in that we’d work with more than one at a time. It’s about developing deeper, broader and longer relationships. We really want to develop more of a programmatic approach with the fashion community.

We definitely see an opportunity to work more closely with Dolce & Gabbana but also from there work with other Italian, French, Spanish, British and American brands.

Fashion transcends nationalities, age groups and genders. There’s a lot of rich material to work with.

Do you see a trend for alcohol brands to work with fashion partnerships, and, if not, is this a missed opportunity for brands?

There have been very successful examples of collaborations between alcoholic brands and fashion brands. Coming from the Fashion Week side, I’ve seen quite a few alcohol brands who have done remarkable work with fashion houses. [However] we can bridge the gap that exists between these communities. There is a larger landscape that together, fashion houses and alcohol brands could deliver to consumers.

Bacardi recently said it was trying to reach young, male consumers through music and travel tie-ups. What consumer are you trying to reach by working more with fashion?

We don’t want to lose sight of the male. Men’s fashion is such a level of interest, and fashion is not just for women. In terms of millennials, of course that is something that we are mindful of. We want to be able to talk in a way that is relevant to them and, whether it’s content or in-store experiences, we want to be able to work with fashion houses to bring that relevant experience to them.

But that said, I believe fashion transcends across age groups and we’re lucky to have mature, sophisticated consumers that we want to include in the mix. 

Why do fashion and alcohol brands make for good partnerships?

My experience has informed me how much similarity there is between the two, starting with consumers. There’s a lot of synergy between the fashion consumer and the alcohol consumer, and also in the way these brands approach consumers. [With fashion], I don’t think they’re really selling a garment, they’re selling a fantasy. The ways in which consumers can express themselves often means a level of confidence that consumers want to associate with.

The same can be said about the brands that Bacardi has in its family. We’re not selling bottles or cases, we’re selling drinks and cocktails and these also come with a statement, which is part of a self-expressive palette and language. I really feel that the two share a lot in common.

Also, with all this talk about digital, the luxury that we share is that we ultimately sell products that can’t really be reduced to bits and bytes. As much as digital helps us really deliver a message and an experience, ultimately it’s not something that can be uploaded onto YouTube.

There are a lot of challenges we share, and the two should not have much problem collaborating closely.