Campari is set to launch its first above-the-line campaign in the UK as it looks to replicate growth it has seen at sister brand Aperol by tapping into growing consumer taste for more bitter drinks.
Nick Williamson, the brand’s marketing director, explains: “If you prompt people and ask the question, ‘Are you aware of Campari?’, a lot of people say yes. But on the spontaneous level people don’t necessarily think about it. It’s about starting that conversion so that people know what it tastes like and how to drink it. Essentially converting latent awareness into consideration.”
The campaign ‘Ready for Bitter’ launches this month and Williamson is hoping it will make the Italian aperitif more top of mind.
“Ready for Bitter is a call to action. We are seeing a big trend towards bitter flavours from kale to espresso and chocolate, so we are firmly putting ourselves in the middle of that trend with this campaign,” he says.
Focused on “function”, the campaign aims to inspire and expand awareness around Campari-based cocktails such as the famous Negroni and newer twists like Campari, gin and tonic.
Williamson says that the brand wants to appeal to “the new generation of drinkers” after conducting research that revealed the young people are less familiar with the liquor.
He says: “Wherever possible we want to communicate our versatility. For example, on Instagram rather than seeing one advert you’d see a series so you can see the many different drinks you can make.”
However, the campaign is not just about how to drink Campari; Williamson says the aims is to tap into the “myth” around the 158-year-old drink, specifically its close association with the arts.
He explains: “We are doing lots of activity with the creative community like getting design-led titles involved and out-of-home targeted around venues involved in London Design Week. Plus lots on social media, especially Instagram, which lends itself beautifully to a visual campaign.”
Campari’s largest single activation is an abstract pop-up bar in Shoreditch, created by artist Mark McClure, which is designed to make you feel what it is like to be inside a Campari.
Named The Mostra, it will host talks and monster classes and will run from tomorrow (18 September) to the end of the month.
There is also an art exhibition featuring famous Campari ad posters from the past, part of the The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art at the gallery in Angel, London.
How to compete with big brands
Campari UK currently has a close-knit team of 45 and according to Williamson operates much like a startup. However, with the likes of Diageo and Pernod Ricard spending huge amounts on marketing, how does Campari UK compete in the second biggest spirits market in the world?
Williamson says: “We have a tiny share and there are lots of people with much bigger budgets than ourselves but we’ve got this expression of paddling our own canoe – if you’re constantly looking around at what others are doing you’ll never be effective.
“We focus on engaging and connecting with our brands without worrying about other people. In terms of how we do that, we do some advertising but its more about advocacy building. Word of mouth really builds brands, whether that’s a bartender or a consumer, so we really focus on activities that will build advocacy.”
Williamson is also responsible for the growth of Aperol and says the company is taking lessons from its success.
He says: “We are following similar activity such as a strong on-trade focus by getting bartenders to recommend the brand and big-scale experiential activity. It’s about doing things that drive word of mouth and building an emotional connection that way.
“Also, all our brands are very distinctive, there isn’t an Italian aperitifs category like there is for gin or scotch. We have a lot of very distinctive brands, which helps [because consumers] are not asking for a brand from a category like a gin or a scotch, if you want one of our brands you will ask for it by name.”