For this topic I have selected comparable brands in Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezer. The former is a new entrant into the “ready-to-drink” (RTD) market, experiencing rapid growth, while the latter is a relative veteran.
This report will examine how the marketing strategies of each have sought to build on their initial successes and maintain a dominant position in what is traditionally a fashion led market.
Bacardi and Smirnoff represent the 2nd and 3rd placed brands within the premium liquor market, (See Appendix A) which has been in a period of “flat to declining” sales for several years. The companies behind the brands, Bacardi-Martini for Bacardi, and Diageo for Smirnoff, have attempted to reposition their brands into a new market of RTD products. The traditional liquor markets targeted home users and sophisticated pub drinkers, while the new RTD market was aimed squarely at the emerging “alcopops” market, established in the mid 1990s, targeting young pub/nightclub “party” drinkers.
The RTD market has been experiencing a period of rapid growth, increasing volumes by 35% in the past year in the UK1 but that level of growth is not expected to be maintained this year. The market is fast eroding traditional “youth” market drinks, such as lager, bitter and cider, and currently accounts for 6% of the total UK beer market. Globally, RTD accounts for 1% of the beer market, shipping 153m nine-litre cases.
PEST and SWOT Analysis
The RTD market in general has considerable negative political, economic and social difficulties to overcome. Health campaigners concerned that alcopops may encourage binge drinking in underage and young drinkers and lead to unsociable behaviour led to the self-regulating Portman Group being established in 1996. Governments are keen to be seen as sympathetic of this stance, often increasing taxation to act as a deterrent, as the Chancellor did earlier this year.
The stringent regulation and negative press have however not dampened the popularity of the RTD market, since the launch of Hooper’s Hooch in 1995 industry analysts have consistently predicted that the market was purely a niche and would evaporate, RTD brands have consistently defied this thinking. A parallel can be drawn to the lager market 30 years ago which held a similar share to RTDs today and was also considered a fad, this market is the current dominant leader with a market share of 64% in the UK.
Socially, RTDs enjoy significant advantages over the traditional drinking options such as lager, bitter and cider – due to being sweet not tasting of alcohol, appealing to younger drinkers used to sweet drinks (thus sparking health concerns). Since such traditional drinks were the preferred drinks of the parents of “Generation Y”, they have identified RTDs as a sufficiently fashionable alternative product.
Marketing is thus heavily geared to the 18-30 age groups, both male and female, through bright vivid packaging and TV advertising that appeals to the perceive core markets of the brands, both broadly in the area of “laddish” men (football supporters, Loaded readers and Ibiza holiday makers) men and sophisticated women.
With a multitude of liquor brands still not yet tapped into the RTD market there is still significant opportunities for companies to enter the market. However, like alternative RTD WKD based on Irn Bru, new entrants will have to provide something innovative in their marketing mix to make a significant impact.
Marketing Brand Analysis
Bacardi Breezer Marketing Mix
Bacardi Breezer was launched 1995, responding to interest generated by Hooper’s Hooch. Although initial sales were poor, they did establish a niche market, sufficient to allow expansion of flavours, including cranberry, lemon, lime, watermelon, pineapple, and orange.
Bacardi is in the mid-to-high price-range of RTD drinks in pubs/nightclubs, retailing between 2-3. In off-licences it is priced 1.40-2, although often promoted with “5 for 5” offers common (currently running in Spar). This is enhanced by the wide range, which grab attention in cabinets through their colour, and containing the distinctive bat logo on the label, and bottle caps contain a revolutionary 3D image of the bat logo, in the flavour colour.
The new brand-range of Breezers, Bacardi Twists, are in a new bottle (See appendix B), are in a smaller size (200ml), and packed in 8’s for the home “party market” consumer. Accounting for 11% of sales already, this represents segmentation into nightclub goers and home party users, who was a quick pick-me-up drink, and is only found in large supermarkets ideal for merchandising in bulk.
Bacardi Breezer is primarily promoted via television advertising, with a series of adverts based around the “Tom”cat, who sports a Bacardi Breezer cat collar (See Appendix B). Devised by McCann-Erickson, a 12m campaign was run consisting of 8 adverts throughout 2001 with Tom seen in a variety of nightclub and home party situations. McCann-Erickson were subsequently awarded Advertiser of the Year for 2001. (See article, Appendix C). The “Tom” campaigns are widely viewed at the primary reason for Bacardi Breezer’s exponential sales throughout 2000-1 which saw sales soar by 59%. Such campaigns often include latin-style music and night-club scenes, firmly linking it to the parent brand.
Bacardi Breezer has also sponsored several live events, including “VIVID” at V2000 in Stafford and Ibiza, and used to promote an awards ceremony for FilmFour, including “Tom” awards for innovation.
Smirnoff Ice was introduced in 1999, and by 2001 it was making Diageo as much money as the mother vodka brand – the category overall made Diageo 814m in 2001-2. Globally Diageo spends “1bn a year on marketing and advertising”, of which 40m is dedicated to Ice in the UK (including a 12m launch of Black Ice in August to Christmas).
Ice sells for 2.50-3.50 in pubs/nightclubs, and off-licences retail 1.60-2.50, positioning the brand as a highly priced RTD. This has not dampened consumer enthusiasm, who seemingly views the high price as indicative of quality.
Produced in 275ml bottles at 5.5%vol, and with a distinctive Smirnoff Red logo, the brand is easily recognisable. The Ice version is made with lemon (milky-white colour), while Black Ice completely clear. The taste is like lemonade, with the alcohol very difficult to distinguish. Many consumers reported they found Ice too bitter to drink continuously, viewing it as a “chaser” drink, leading to the segmentation into Ice (light-chaser) users and Black Ice (heavy-dedicated) users. Black Ice is “specifically targeting 18-24-year-old men”, positioning the brand as a predominantly male drink. The Ice brand is consumed evenly between males and females, itself a major shift in the largely feminine RTD consumption trend,10 although this is skewed significantly by the brand’s popularity within the gay community.
Smirnoff Ice is primarily promoted on television, with the “as clear as your conscience” advertising campaign, although bus stop posters and radio have also been used to a lesser extent. The advert shows a young man placed into awkward social situations and “getting away with it”, thus creating an identity of quick wittedness and status that directly targets their core market. The adverts for Black Ice are differentiated from the main brand by containing the tag-line “Crystal Clear”, supported by an 11 million TV and poster campaign.
A strong internet presence is made with www.smirnoffice.com and Diageo has invested 1m setting up a text-marketing subsidiary, Nightfly, which is used to send SMS text messages to consumers.11 The Ice brand has also been used as a sponsor for night-club events and radio shows which are branded as ‘The Smirnoff Experience’.
Smirnoff Ice is now available from the majority of pubs in the UK, with many now dedicated an entire cabinet to the Ice and Black Ice brands. It is also well supported in off-trade, with the Black Ice variety enjoying a rapid take up in off-licences and supermarkets due to the strong popularity of Ice. Diageo is thus far happy with results, saying they were “hitting the desired target audience of males.”
Porters 5 Forces
Competitors – Allied Domecq (Teacher’s whiskey, Tia Maria, Malibu), WKD, VK Vodka
Boston Group Matrix
RELATIVE MARKET SHARE POSITION
High Medium Low
1.0 0.50 0.0
I G +20
N R STARS QUESTION MARKS
D O II I
S T SMIRNOFF ICE
Y R 0
L CASH COWS DOGS
E (%) III IV
-20 BACARDI BREEZER
Source: Adapted from Boston Consulting Group, Perspectives on Experience (Boston, MA: The Boston Consulting Group, 1974).
Bacardi Breezer currently falls within the “Cash Cow” category, after a slow build-up throughout their initial stages, followed by rapid growth throughout 2001-2, the market has flattened somewhat to a 12% growth in 2002 (see Appendix A). This suggests a plateaux of sales have been reached for this product, which may not be influenced by marketing spend. Although currently the market leader of the RTD industry, it may soon be overtaken by Smirnoff Ice, which is rapidly developing into a “Star” due to grabbing a huge share within a very short time-span and continuing to aggressively expand, and still only relatively early in the product development cycle.
The parent brands behind both Breezer and Ice have had a major influence in their success. Bacardi Breezer could not have survived a slow start without their parent’s support. Similarly, Smirnoff Ice may have had a less explosive introduction without Diageo’s initial marketing budget. Persevering with their marketing mix strategies meant that when innovating campaigns were devised the distribution networks of the parent were available immediately. The parent brands also significantly benefit from the relationship, Smirnoff Red vodka sales were up 26% for the last year, and sales of Bacardi rum were also boosted. However, even parent support is no guarantee of success, as witnessed by Diageo’s 24m campaign for Captain Morgan Gold rum RTD which only obtained only niche markets.
In the developed world, young people are the biggest users of the internet and advancing mobile phone technology. The value of internet marketing to the RTD industry hoping to connect to the sophisticated student and young professional markets is also high, online mini-games; competitions; profiles of forthcoming sponsored events such as parties, fashion shows and sporting contests and e-cards are all heavily featured and designed to appeal to the target market. The websites also offer additional features such as newsletters, requiring registration and submission of personal details, allowing the companies to amass valuable databases of those who visit their sites.
Both brands have differing competitive advantages that differentiate them from others. Bacardi is unchallenged in the rum-based RTD stakes, and boasts an exceptionally innovative advertising campaign – no other advert involving animals has been successful in generating brand recognition. For Diageo, in the words of Rob Malcolm, “We get close to the consumer. That’s our competitive advantage.” Feedback processes creates a close relationship with consumers, who are best placed to identify new opportunities, as was the case with Black Ice. This represented segmentation into light (“chaser”) users, and heavy (“dedicated”) users, who find Black Ice easier to repeatedly consume.
The key to success for both brands has been to effectively create relationships with their consumers, allowing dialogue to exist between them. The backing of parent brands has been crucial to both, and sales of parent liqueurs have both increased as a result of the RTD product. The use of Internet and SMS marketing allows both brands to directly communicate with their target audience, as long as they continue to see this as a two-way process, both brands will be around for several years to come.
http://www.alcoholpreventie.nl/Cooke.doc – Report on the effects of marketing on Alcohol consumption.
http://www.businessweekly.co.uk/news/view_article.asp?article_id=5422 – Bacardi use innovative packaging
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1935681.stm – Taxation on RTDs changed to Spirits
1 Sunday Express, November 17, 2002, p8
2 Financial Times (London), April 15, 2002,
5 The Grocer, November 30, 2002, p55
6 Marketing, November 28, 2002, p46
7 Marketing, November 7, 2002, p20
8 Marketing, November 7, 2002, p42
9 Marketing, October 24, 2002, p21
10 Marketing, October 24, 2002, p21
11 Marketing, November 7, 2002, p20
12 “Icy looks in new Smirnoff advert”, Off Licence News, November 08, 2002, Pg. 16
13 Marketing Week (1998). Why Web is the perfect zone for youth marketing. Marketing Week, 24 September 1998, article found on mad.co.uk, http://www.mad.co.uk
14 Rob Malcolm, Diageo Innovation Center Manager, from http://www.forbes.com/global/2002/0415/024sidebar.html