Tips For Innovating In A Tipsy Category

Distinction in the alcohol sector can be tough – rip off the label and often times your brand isn’t unique anymore. Taste differences can be subtle even between bottom-shelf, mid-shelf, and premium brands so companies must heavily rely on continuous and successful innovation to earn their spot in the top of consumer’s minds.

One way to innovate is to gain presence in a different corner of your category that you don’t typically play in. For Bacardi, that meant launching a new premium line of rum, when typically they play amongst mid-shelf brands. Their launch of Anejo Cuatro gold rum is an effort to elevate rum’s reputation from one of “pirates and punch” to something more high quality, similar to how gin and vodka have been repositioned as premium products in recent years.

At System1, we know any successful innovation has to strike a balance between familiarity and novelty in order to be accepted. This is what we call Fluent Innovation: the idea of being 80% familiar, 20% new. For Bacardi, their positioning of this new premium brand as “accessible premium” is Fluent Innovation at work.

Accessible premium simply means high quality while still being approachable.  The new rum will be sold at an achievable price point of $34 for a 750 mL bottle, and still has that tried and true Bacardi branding that consumers know and love.  The new elements they are introducing, such as being “aged for 4 years”, mimic the success of other premium gin and vodka brands, putting a refreshing and elevated spin on the traditional rum category.

So why does Fluent Innovation work? We are pattern-recognition machines and making innovation feel more familiar than it actually is turns out to be the best way to speed adoption. If people can spot the pattern in your innovation – the things which make it feel familiar – it will seem like an easier and better choice. The familiar price point and brand, coupled with the new callouts to the aging process that borrow from other premium categories, is how Bacardi is keeping their new launch familiar and accepted while still offering excitement.

Find out more about our Innovation Testing methods here

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