Like a stiff drink, Campari descended on New Orleans for the Tales of the Cocktail conference with a robust set of experiential ingredients that ultimately yielded plenty of buzz. The spirits giant and an army of 15 brands from its portfolio took over the renowned industry show with events and activations built to drive engagement, education and advocacy, particularly among influential bartenders (SoHo Experiential handled). And let’s just say that by the end of the show, the Campari team had plenty of reasons to raise a glass. So, what’s the brand’s recipe for success? Check out the following four insights.
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All hands, no egos.
Campari representatives from around the world, including the U.S., Italy, Australia, Mexico and Canada, made the trip to Louisiana for Tales of the Cocktail [TOTC], an event the brand views as the spirits industry’s Super Bowl. And from the ceo to the facilities manager, all hands were on deck—and all egos were in check.
“The most important thing and what stood out for me was our presence as a company,” says Steve Chasen, vp-channel and customer marketing at Campari America. “It was people from sales, from my team, from the brand team, comms, legal, h.r. We had such a great cross section of people, and they weren’t there for the party. Everybody really chipped in around hospitality to make all of our guests feel welcome and to put a drink in someone’s hand.”
A values-driven approach.
Italian hospitality is at the heart of Campari’s ethos, according to Chasen, and the brand views events like Tales of the Cocktail as opportunities to embody that sense of warmth, generosity and, most importantly, inclusivity.
“Italian hospitality is about great ingredients presented to your guests simply with a really open and generous sense of hospitality. It’s welcoming people into your home and serving them. And [at TOTC], from the way we worked the door to the way we worked the bar to the way we worked the rooms to the music, to the comfort, it was important that we made our guests feel special… Inclusivity is at the heart of the way our company operates.”
Quality over quantity.
There are certain brand events each year that attract throngs of TOTC attendees, and it’s not uncommon to see long lines form and chaos ensue as everyone tries to get a foot in the door. But for Campari, having a well-oiled event machine that generates some hype but focuses more on the quality of the experience, rather than the frenzy of people trying to get inside, is essential.
“Some people like chaos at the door because it makes an event seem hotter, more exclusive or harder to get into,” Chasen says. “That’s not the way Campari Group operates. It’s not consistent with our values. We wanted a smooth process. We wanted people to feel welcome. We wanted the lines to move quickly, the ice to be cold, the drinks to be good, the air conditioning to work… It’s a Tales tradition of who knows who, and who’s letting people in. But there’s a difference between, this is a tough event to get into at capacity, versus, people don’t know how to manage the doors. I was proud of us for being very professional on that front.”
The best talent to demo the best use-cases.
Engaging and inspiring bartenders—a key influencer segment—was a top objective at TOTC, and Campari aimed to motivate industry insiders by recruiting talent from world-class bars to craft cocktails that showcased the quality and versatility of its products across a host of events. Driving word-of-mouth recommendations was crucial.
“A third-party endorsement is the most important one that you can get. People probably trust bartenders more than most other roles in society. So to be able to interact with them through great drinks and through great brands is really critical,” Chasen says. “And we want experiences and stories that stick with them so these customers can take those stories back home and tell them—but we don’t want them necessarily telling our stories verbatim. We want them to make the stories mesh and align with their own businesses in ways that benefit their guest experience.”
Campari is already signed up for next year’s TOTC, with plans to be more “disruptive and differentiated” in its experiential approach, according to Chasen. “Maybe next year we’ll get a little weirder.” A sentiment worthy of a toast.
Photo credit: Shawn Campbell, Josh Brasted