From typically humble New Zealand beginnings, Stolen Rum has grown rapidly in recent years, with some experienced campaigners joining the team and some big distribution deals that have put its products on shelves outside the homeland. And, in keeping with some of its past marketing efforts, it recently ran a unique giveaway in Miami, Sydney and Dunedin.
Katie Dufall, global brand manager, says the company, which was founded by Roger Holmes and Jamie Duff in 2010 and features a number of shareholders with connections to Colenso BBDO, has always had global ambitions. And it has always tried to do things differently, whether it be its hand-drawn packaging, its typically subversive promotions, or the taste profiles of its award-winning products. And she says giving away 150 branded couches in three different locations to the first people to collect them, no strings attached, was a good way to combine those philosophies.
"A giveaway is nothing new, but it's something that people will use and it wasn't just about 'buy this' or 'enter this'. It was turn up and grab your sofa, so it's untraditional in that sense ... It's about innovation, turning things on their head and coming from a place of authenticity and truth."
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As a relatively small player operating at the premium end of the spirits spectrum (it sells for between $40-45 in New Zealand), Stolen can't compete with "the traditional noise approach" often employed by its bigger competitors. So, in a similar fashion to 42 Below, Dufall says it focuses on what it does best: creating really cool shit that gets people talking, sharing and "in line with its thinking". The company handles its own creative internally and she says the idea for the couch giveaway was dreamed up by Duff, who went to university in Dunedin and "understood that sofas have a bit of importance there" (Motion Sickness Studio filmed the Dunedin leg and edited footage from the different locations into the final clip). Due to well-established traditions, certain Dunedin residents (many of whom are quite partial to the odd tipple) tend to get through quite a few couches, much to the chagrin of the fire service and University authorities. So, in addition to getting its brand into potential customers' homes, Stolen would no doubt argue that it's also providing a fairly useful service to students.
Not surprisingly, given the universal love of free things (and especially free useful things like sofas), Dufall says there was a great response to the campaign and all the sofas were snapped up in just seven minutes. And it was great for the brand to be able to show the reaction to the campaign in all three locations in order to create an impression that it was a global brand.
It launched its Spiced Rum, a world-first that features coffee and tobacco flavours, in the US last year, going in through the massive rum market of Florida, and Dufall says it has recently set up teams in New York and Los Angeles, with a total of around ten staff. At present it's only selling that variety, but Dufall says there's an opportunity for the rest of the portfolio to find some shelf space in the future.
Stolen signed a distribution deal with Beam Oceania in September last year and launched in Australia (although due to anti-tobacco advertising legislation it had to get out the vivid and change the label). It raised $4 million last year to allow the expansion into these markets and it also plans to move into the British and Asian markets after getting set in the US. In 2012 case sales of Stolen Rum products increased 178 percent.