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Connecting with Consumers IRL | Grand Marnier at London Cocktail Week

London Cocktail Week gave Whalar the opportunity to collaborate with Grand Marnier, a legacy alcohol brand that traces back to 1880.

Our aim? To source creators who could translate the brand's cultural identity whilst curating relevant content for their contemporary audiences. The results were educational, inspiring and entirely immersed in the campaign's creative direction.

Nick Williamson, Marketing Director, Campari Group UK:

London Cocktail Week was a key moment for Grand Marnier this year, giving us the perfect platform to re-educate and inspire people about the unique liquid and alchemy behind the brand. Working with Whalar helped us take our activation from good to grand – bringing to life our overarching brand platform #LiveGrand – using a pool of credible and relevant influencers for Grand Marnier who helped spread the word about not only our stand-out events, but importantly how to enjoy some of our delicious cocktails in-bar and at home. With more than 1million reach and an engagement rate which surpassed the average, the results exceeded our expectations – as did the professionalism of the Whalar team. We’re already exploring the next iteration of this for Grand Marnier in 2019, which we’re really excited about.


Why this campaign is different.

The position of digital marketing is shifting. We now find ourselves in a place where immersing an audience in brand culture is more important than an impassive message. Brands must now learn how to adapt so that they can resonate with their modern consumer on a more direct level.

Our latest collaboration with Grand Marnier for London Cocktail Week (LCW) embodies this shift.

As Whalar’s first event-based collaboration, its structure enabled an immediate organic connection between content and creator. With a focus on education, under the umbrella of ‘The Alchemy of Alcohol’, creators had to weave their content into the very fabric of the brand. Through this approach, Grand Marnier used the weight of occasion of LCW to design a campaign that got their audience talking.

The Setting: Grand Masterclass

A further incentive? Our cocktail lovers had the chance hone their mixology skills with a bespoke Masterclass at Oriole, hosted by Grand Marnier ambassador Joe St Clair-Ford. The educational setting set this campaign apart, by providing weight to each creator’s content who took part.

Using the event as a foundation, the campaign’s success was further rooted in an open brief and a focus on social strategy. This was personified by a brief that specified timing of content publishing, rather than artistic style - which was left up to our creators.

The aim; use the content to drive awareness of Grand Marnier's takeover at LCW and, in turn, prompt organic engagement through the excitement of a physical event.

The strategy; two gallery posts leading up to the event and two Instagram story series at the events themselves.

How did this translate into figures?

The results of this approach were clear to us once the content was given a little time to settle and circulate and the organic engagement with the branded content is up 10.7% more than originally predicted.

Taking advantage of a physical event undoubtedly fuelled the engagement for Grand Marnier’s campaign. But even more so, it also epitomized the essence of social media - by instantly projecting those alluring and intimate moments that traditional broadcasting has struggled to convey for decades.

Real people, at an actual event - curating organic content.


Selecting the right creators for the job has always been the most crucial element of any campaign. Content strategy, the timing of a post, or clarity of the brief - all become futile if the correct audience cannot be reached.

A creator we have always loved working with is @mossonyi. She not only produced the highest performing single piece - heralding 2,629 (and counting) engagements - her content and response to the campaign underpinned all the pivotal points. Onyi’s success within this collaboration resides in her continued investment in highly stylised imagery.

Her content is a visual representation of connecting with a younger audience who wish to step up their game and immerse themselves in something new.

You’ve collaborated with alcohol brands in the past and the content you produce for them is always of a high, atmospheric quality. What rules do you follow when curating content for alcohol campaigns?

Three rules are applicable here. One, understand the overall message of the brand, two, understand how this message fits in with my current lifestyle, and finally, create content that tells this story.

Do you feel event-based based campaigns help with translating authenticity?

Yes, I do. Especially if I get to find out more about the brand. That way I know how to convey the brand message still keeping with my aesthetics.

How do you take a historic product, such as Grand Marnier, and make it relevant to your audience?

My audience are individuals like myself. Most of which have a social life. The key is understanding Grand Marnier as a brand and how it can become a part their social life where possible. I achieve this with imagery that captures their attention long enough to read the caption which will then go on to point out the product and its use.

Immersion in brand culture

Another creator who always delivers, both in consistency and imagination, is @fashitect. He was able to connect with his audience on such a level that his work with Grand Marnier yielded a higher engagement than the usual level of his unbranded content.

Toni is something of an old hat when it comes to collaborating with alcohol brands. His imagery is dripping with traditional settings that have undergone modern twists. Through his highly curated feed, Toni’s fashion-focused content lends itself to an aspirational, but undoubtedly millennial, lifestyle - which characterises Grand Marnier’s creative direction.

Speaking to Toni, it is clear that he is behind the ideals of this campaign. As our recent ‘Follow’ article explains, he is always searching for new ideas and settings to allow for his content to stand out amongst the increasingly competitive pool of creators.

I loved the 'elements of tradition' you blended into your content for this campaign - can you tell us a little more about the inspiration behind this?

Grand Marnier, it was clear I had been a fan before the brand approached me. I love citrus aromatic flavours, so the Liqueur makes a great addition for cocktail making. For me, the brief for #livegrand meant living over the top, whether that would be a theatrical set, environment or lifestyle.

For example, the velvet crushed curtains & piano set, was themed on a home cocktail party scenario. It brought the entertainment factor for the perfect evening occasion to enjoy the cocktails. The Parisian photoshoots added that extra characteristic to enhance the elegance in the Grand rouge.

You've produced multiple high-quality pieces of content for historic alcohol brands - how do you continue to make this style of content engaging to your audience and what rules do you follow before collaborating with these types of brands?

I always consider the brand’s vision and my creative directional twist on photoshoots. Incorporating art direction, styling and a clear concept to promote the story. Whether it’s the heritage, lifestyle or creativity, I try to make each sector within alcohol to differentiate. It’s common to know what most people or most advertisements would do, it’s too predictable.

For me, I am only one person, so I at least try tell a message that isn’t too cheesy or product focused. I like it when the brand has a clear guideline and key message to promote. For example a theme or scenario which my readers can relate to. Generally, I would only work with more established brands in the market.

Conveying an experience, rather than a static endorsement, has always been at the forefront of Whalar’s mission. We’re here to liberate the creative voice, not subject it to rigid boundaries. As Toni highlights the importance of conveying a story within his imagery - @stylestructure reinforces the importance of conveying that authentic experience to your audience.

After reaching out to Helen, she spoke of the importance harmonizing her personal style with the needs of a brand collaboration. Grand Marnier has been seeking to engage a young audience through demonstration and integration. By putting on workshops and events to spark that organic interest. ‘Stories’, as well as main gallery posts, are the perfect vehicle to translate these factors - as Helen touches upon:

What are your thoughts on adding 'stories' to event-based campaigns - do you think it helps with brand engagement?

I personally always love to Story at events to show the environment in more detail to share with my followers. A picture is sometimes not enough for the ambiance and social aspect of the event. I think it definitely helps with brand engagement, for both the brand running the event and for further engagement on my image which relates to this event.

How to do you take a historic brand such as Grand Marnier and make it relevant to your audience?

The first thing I consider when taking on a lifestyle collaboration is if the brand would align with the fashion and beauty brands I wear. I like to wear higher end brands, and felt the followers that might wear/buy the same kind of outfits I wear would more than likely drink in similar bars and have a similar lifestyle to me. This is where Grand Marnier works well for me. It's a classy drink, and their alignment with London Cocktail Week were held at luxe locations with well-designed interiors, which is also something I am passionate about.

How did the find the educational elements of this campaign? (the 'alchemy of alcohol', immersing oneself in the brand, etc.)

The best thing about educational collaborations is the conversation starters you can have amongst friends. I now have a few cocktail recipes I can use at home which help to entertain my own guests. I also think having a hands-on experience has more of a memorable value.

Looking back, moving forward.

In summary; conveying an educational experience leads to brand integration, as it gives an audience a deeper point of entry into a brand’s culture.

However, re-focussing to connect with a millennial audience is always more complex than it first appears. You are communicating to a generation that was born into a digital world, and are not easily fooled by unrealistic content. This, we have to always keep in mind, particularly when delicately re-positioning a legacy brand such as Grand Marnier to a younger audience.

For this campaign, techniques such as using events, stories and publishing content to ‘preview’ the event have all been invaluable methods in crystalizing Grand Marnier’s new direction. Millennials wish to be valued; presented with a brand identity they can relate and aspire to. Through this collaboration, Whalar has worked closely with Grand Marnier to concoct a solution of educating tradition and presenting content with a modern edge.

This solution, Whalar's matchmaking process, and investment in culturally leading curators, that has allowed for such an immersing campaign. We continue to work side by side with the world's best creators to defy the traditional limits of advertising.

Written by Katie Sheridan, Client Manager at Whalar. For more info about this campaign or any others please contact us via email: studio@whalar.com

Banner content from @clairemenary