We’ve been nominated at the Hotel Marketing Awards for Best Partnership Marketing Campaign. 🔥
Ignite x Marriott International x Pernod Ricard: “Around the World with Gin”.
We’re proud to be nominated for a campaign we had to quickly re-strategise during the burning dumpster-fire that was spring 2020. Read on to find out how we pulled it off and why Gustaf Pilebjer, Director of F&B Marriott EMEA, said: “The Secret Gin Society campaign was directly linked to revenue increases at participating bars… Truly the greatest F&B campaign we have ever run in our continent.”
Secret Gin Society is an online community for gin lovers, created in 2019 as a long-term collaboration between Marriott x Pernod Ricard, with the goal of building a large audience of gin fans and driving category sales in over 200 Marriott bars throughout Europe.
Rewind to spring 2020: we were ramping up activity ahead of World Gin Day, when the world went into lockdown. With bars closed and cities at a standstill, we had to quickly adapt our strategy.
With people isolated at home, unable to experience the joy of hospitality, we knew that time spent online – especially on social – would skyrocket. And we wanted to be where our consumers would be. We wanted to be visible, to be engaging, to keep up the conversation, to reach more people, continue to build the community and to provide excitement and experience online that, whilst it could never replace the real feeling of going to a hotel bar, brought those memories and energy into people’s homes. Most importantly, we wanted to ensure that our brands reached consumers throughout the lockdown, so that when the world reopens, we’d be front of mind.
Our revised campaign delivered a jam-packed week of interactive brand activations that kept gin-lovers engaged, excited and loving our brands throughout the first lockdown in June 2020.
Central to the idea of Secret Gin Society is the idea of community. The promise being that by joining Secret Gin society you’ll have access to heaps of exciting content. From hidden cocktails and history to first-to-knows and exclusive events, it’s the place to be if you want to be in the know. Being a part of Secret Gin Society is an accolade, a badge of honour, and while it’s open to all, it’s a sign of good taste and distinction to be a member.
The other key principle of Secret Gin Society is it’s unmistakable brand. Conceived as a speakeasy-style, clandestine society, the creative style and content has this idea running through every touch point. Secret Gin Society is mysterious, sultry and intriguing, with dark, glitchy motion, smoky effects and a “morse code” style typography element. This was really key in establishing Secret Gin Society as an independent brand, to create the illusion of cache, exclusivity and cool.
All our activity was timed to coincide with World Gin Day to tap into the increased visibility & hype around gin it creates.
We knew that we had to make the concept exciting and translatable across multiple languages and cultures, for a world in lockdown, so for our summer 2020 online campaign, we were inspired by World Gins. We wanted to create curiosity and intrigue, prompt shares, recruit new followers and drive genuine audience engagement. So building on Secret Gin Society’s mysterious, speakeasy brand, we developed a content plan packed with collaborations, enticing interactive events and stunning, creative visuals.
We collaborated with the best mixologists and bartenders from across Marriott’s bars. Our Speakeasy At Home, Secret Gin distillery visits, paired mixologists with a gin brand and offered virtual guided tours of bars and distilleries, followed by gin tastings and cocktail masterclasses. We partnered with a series of well known industry influencers across the continent; a blend of mixologists and drink brand ambassadors. We developed bespoke, slick creatives for them to post on their own social accounts, allowing us to reach their audience. Key here was making super cool creative that they were proud and excited to share with their own followers.
We did take-overs; twice a day a different influencer, mixologist, bartender or brand ambassador would take over the Secret Gin Society account and post rarified facts and snippets about gin, distilleries, cocktails and botanicals. This took users on a round-the-world tour as the Pernod Ricard gin portfolio includes terrific brands from around the globe. To keep an emphasis on the bars (and whet people’s appetites for the eventual return to normality!) we profiled the Marriott bars across Europe, posting listicles and teasers, creating a sense of anticipation and yearning for the full bar experience.
We produced slick animation and motion graphics – really designed to look absolutely stunning and cement the glamorous, evocative and film-noir brand to great effect. Our videos reached nearly half a million people and were a key element in building top of funnel awareness and allowing us to build an engaged audience.
We amplified all content using precision targeting techniques, based on geo-location, people’s interests, preferences and contextualised behaviour. With 200 bars to cover across 10 cities we had to be smart with the budget. We created 3 groups of locations, organised by bar sales volume and population size, to ensure that key locations had the budget resource necessary to make an impact in their local area.
The concept was imbued across all customer-facing touch points, including a slick website designed to evoke a private members’ club, sitting behind an “Apply To Join” gateway page. Would-be members entered their details in exchange for access to events, mixologists and exclusive gin-related content such as recipes, ambience tricks and sustainability.
The CRM approach was strategic and highly personalised. The welcome journey and triggered prompts reminded members to discover secret cocktails with tips on how to crack codes and revealed further locations within Secret Gin Society. The bars, though closed, really got behind the campaign, participating in the online community, producing content and keeping Marriott teams engaged and active throughout the lockdown.
Since the campaign, there have been requests from the bars for more Secret Gin Society activations and content, and the community continues to grow, even outside of key campaigns.
Online engagement during Around The World with Gin exceeded all of our expectations – social engagement rate hit 6.5% whilst followers and subscribers doubled. And we have a huge and highly engaged audience who we talk to now bars are open, re-establishing our primary goal of driving bar visits and loyalty through this branded community approach.
Secret Gin Society: next stop – world domination.