Grand Marnier Custom-Ad Play Reaches Out to Younger Drinkers

Brand's Research Finds Web Push Won't Alienate Brandy-Snifter Loyalists

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CHICAGO ( -- Grand Marnier has come to a conclusion: It's not going to find the younger drinkers it seeks with an ad budget centered on Architectural Digest and The Economist.

Those titles may be a reliable way to reach the brandy-snifter crowd that populates the orange-tinged liqueur's consumer base, but they don't speak to the 30-something, luxury-cocktail crowd that represents its growth prospects.
Mixing it up: Grand Marnier's consumer-generated-ad contest aims to combat flat sales.
Mixing it up: Grand Marnier's consumer-generated-ad contest aims to combat flat sales.

So the brand, which is marketed in the U.S. by Moët Hennessy, decided that the best way to reach those mixologists would be to let them make the ads themselves.

"Our consumers increasingly want to customize the things in their life," said J.C. Iglesias, business director for Grand Marnier. "Let's allow them to create [ads] ... and to chime in on the best ads and stories for our brand."

The brand will be running a print push -- appearing in the younger-skewing Gourmet, Food & Wine, Marie Claire, Details and Condé Nast Traveler -- leading consumers to its newly minted Grand Marnier website, where they can customize an ad to include their own picture and story of a "Grand Marnier Moment." The first round, which started in April, drew 1,500 ads in three weeks, and each submitter spent an average of four-and-a-half minutes on the site, according to Mr. Iglesias.

Tapping social networks
Grand Marnier then picked 25 finalists from the original 1,500 first-round submissions. Those ads were beamed to electronic billboards in Times Square, on the Sunset Strip and on Las Vegas Boulevard. Those finalists were urged to solicit online votes for their ads, drawing more traffic to the brand's site (entries received as many as 2,000 votes during the first round).

In total, there will be four of the two-week rounds, and the winning ad will be reproduced in those national magazines; its creator will get a trip to Paris.

The site also has links with social-networking sites that allow users to easily post their custom ads on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Mr. Iglesias said the brand was eager to tap social networks and create buzz.

But even if it succeeds in doing that, it may have a hard time finding growth. Sales have been essentially flat most of the decade -- case sales hit 1.3 million last year, up marginally from 1.2 million in 2000, according to the trade magazine Impact. Still, Grand Marnier has been one of the better-performing brands in the liqueur segment, which has fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years. (Diageo's robust Bailey's brand is an exception to that trend.) Brands such as Kahlua and De Kuyper have been aggressively marketed only to see sales plummet or flatten.

Veteran spirits-marketing consultant Brian Sudano, who said he believes Grand Marnier has been more successful than most at retaining purists who like to enjoy it solo, said the brand is taking a risk by chasing the cocktail crowd.

"Whenever your usage shifts to a mixer, the sustainability becomes questionable," he said. "You get stuck in a cycle when most of your growth is coming from a usage that can fall out of favor in a hurry."

Mr. Iglesias said the brand's quantitative research found that its core snifter-drinking enthusiasts wouldn't be alienated by a push for younger drinkers that touted its mixability.

"We found they were accepting of us dumping their snifter drink into margaritas," he said.
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