Sauza Refreshes Its Marketing

Client: Sauza Tequila/Beam


Spread buzz about—and boost sales of—Sauza’s new Sparkling Margarita product among its target female demographic

The Back Story: What’s cuter than a sexy fireman holding a kitten? Sauza Tequila, owned by Beam Inc., is able to answer that question with the latest iteration of its popular “Make It with a Fireman” campaign. For those who are wondering, the answer is: a lifeguard and a tiny, white puppy.

Originally launched in 2012, the “Make It” campaign is cleverly geared toward women ages 25 to 40—the classic margarita drinking set—with a tone that mixes humor and sex appeal in a non-threatening way, and comes off as both cheeky and highly sharable.

As a smaller brand in a competitive landscape of tequila giants like Jose Cuervo and Patrón, Sauza—with fewer media dollars to spend—needed a way to distinguish itself, says Lindsey Lewis, tequila brand manager for Beam. The solution was to focus on the largest tequila drinking segment, women, with a campaign that’s distinctive from what was happening in the category overall.

“Strategically, we wanted to be different, and at the time we started, no other brands in the category were really talking to women—and we wanted to,” Lewis says. “And humor, if you do it right, can be a breakthrough thing.”

As its name denotes, the original “Make It with a Fireman” campaign, developed by Havas Worldwide Chicago, featured as its cornerstone a video starring an impossibly handsome and understanding fireman who loves kittens, is a great listener, and knows how to whip up the perfect recipe for a Sauza-rita. This year’s “Make It with a Lifeguard” roll out boasts an equally sexy, and shirtless, lifeguard pouring Sauza tequila cocktails and uttering classic lines aimed at female viewers such as, “Yes, it’s a big beach, but I’m here for you” and “I believe celebrity gossip is as important as the news.” (Beam has since broken its relationship with Havas.)

The Strategy: Shareability will continue to be a cornerstone goal for the tequila brand, though Lewis admits that the magic of going viral isn’t something you can plan for. “The shareability factor is [when] something [is] so versatile and hilarious that you just have to show all your friends,” Lewis says. “But you can’t set up media buys to make a video go viral.”

What you can do, however, is create an overall brand personality designed to appeal to the brand’s target demographic.

Content plays a big part in Sauza’s strategy, and the brand has developed partnerships with and bloggers at Glam Media—“the funny ones, who push the limits,” says Lewis, who notes that timing and distribution are crucial when it comes to content. For example, in the lead-up to Cinco de Mayo, Sauza worked with BuzzFeed to publish sponsored content, such as “16 Puppies Who Are Definitely Ready for Cinco de Mayo” and “14 Tequila Recipes That Will Blow Your Mind.”

“Consumers don’t want to be hit over the head with an ad; they like and appreciate something that’s incorporated in a way that makes sense and that’s relevant,” Lewis says. “Our priority is to make sense and have content that has the same cheeky tone as the campaign.”

Sauza also had the benefit of working with Beam’s social media coordinator to keep the brand top of mind throughout the year—not just during the summer months when margaritas are most popular.

“And if a video launches, we don’t do the same thing on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook; we ensure that the content we post is specific to the objective of that site—because if you’re a true loyal fan and you follow all the different spaces, you don’t want to see the same thing everywhere,” Lewis says. As a result, Sauza’s social engagement numbers are the highest they’ve ever been.

The Selling Point: Also core to Sauza’s “Lifeguard” campaign is a robust in-store sampling program of the brand’s new Sparkling Margarita drink, both nationally and in local markets. The executions began in June and will continue throughout September.

“We want to bring the “Make It” campaign to life in the retail environment,” says Lori Ryan, account director at OgilvyAction. “Our job is to have stopping power at the point-of-purchase.”

OgilvyAction accomplished this for Sauza with lifeguard-inspired sampling stations complete with buoy-shaped sampling trays and beachy giveaways like sunglasses, drink rings, and hurricane glasses. A mini cutout of the lifeguard himself is placed next to the bottle display to make it look like he’s rescuing them “from the boredom of regular drinks,” Ryan says.

Visitors to the sampling station are encouraged to engage with the campaign’s mobile elements developed by Vibes, including an iPad game called “Marry, Date, Dump,” in which the lifeguard appears in three guises: pretty boy, bad boy, and geek. After choosing which one to marry, which to date, and which to dump, players are given funny stories based on their choices, which they can then share via social channels. Consumers can also sign up for coupons and promotional offers via a microsite, which allows the brand to capture phone numbers and email addresses.

The Results: The “Make It with a Fireman” video was a true viral sensation, generating more than 10 million views and snagging a spot on YouTube’s 2012 Most Watched Ads list. Views for “Lifeguard,” which launched in April, topped one million in less than a month.

But it’s not all social sweet nothings without hard sales to prove their worth. Though she couldn’t share exact figures, according to Ryan, the sampling program is bolstering impressive in-store sales. “In many instances, we’re selling out,” Ryan says. “People are enjoying the product and they’re buying it right there on the spot.”

The Takeaway: Make an honest effort to understand your audience, and campaign success won’t be far behind, Beam’s Lewis says.

“Send your message to the wrong people, and it’s going to be completely meaningless to them,” she says. “From a marketing perspective, our main objective is to make sure she has a positive affinity for the brand, and that will help us sell the product—but if you aren’t targeting well, you might as well say goodbye to sales.”

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