Evolution of Bacardi: Company marks 150th anniversary

The company celebrates its past while looking forward to growth in the competitive spirits business, as Elaine Walker reports in this article for The Miami Herald. Here are some excerpts, with a link to the full article below.

When Bacardi family members gather over the next week to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary, they will crack open limited-edition, $2,000 bottles of an aged rum blend made especially for the occasion.

A fitting toast would celebrate how far the company has come, particularly in the last two decades. During that time Bacardi Limited has transformed itself from a family-owned company known almost exclusively for its namesake rum to a multi-branded spirits company featuring a collection of well-known premium brands ranging from vodka to gin, scotch and tequila.

The expansion wasn’t just a matter of growing market share. In a shark-like global marketplace, Bacardi needed to grow if it wanted to survive.

“We saw consolidation happening and with a single brand it would have been very difficult for us to compete,” said Manuel Cutillas, a Bacardi family member and shareholder. Cutillas lead the first phase of the diversification as chairman and chief executive during the 1990s. “We had to grow. Had we not done that we would have found ourselves having to sell or merge with a larger company.”

. . .

Chairman Facundo L. Bacardi said the family values its independence and has no intention of going public. Bacardi has fewer than 500 shareholders; all but a handful are family members. Today, there are eight generations of Bacardi family members.

“There are plenty of acquisitions out there that we can do without resorting to being a publicly-traded entity,” said Facundo Bacardi, the great, great grandson of founder Don Facundo Bacardi Massó and one of the company’s largest shareholders. “You don’t realize how hard it is to manage a company quarter-to-quarter and fiscal year-to-fiscal year. We don’t think that way. Some of our plans go out 10 years. We take a long-term view on a number of initiatives.”

Today, the company that Don Facundo founded in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba is the third-largest spirits company in the world, with more than 200 brands. In the last two decades, Bacardi has quadrupled in size.

While the Bacardi Limited empire is based out of Bermuda, its U.S. headquarters has called Miami-Dade County home since 1964. The U.S. remains Bacardi’s top market and the company puts most of its resources behind its six core premium brands.

. . .

The anniversary will mark the launch of Ron Bacardi, de Maestros de Ron, Vintage: MMXII. Cutillas and seven other of the family’s retired master blenders gathered for several days in Puerto Rico to create a product using rums aged in cognac barrels, some as long as 25 years. Only 1,000 bottles have been made, each in a numbered, hand-blow glass decanter. Most will go to the family, but a limited number will be available for $2,000 a bottle at select travel retail locations, including Miami International Airport.

For most consumers, of greater interest is last fall’s unveiling of Bacardi Oakheart. The spiced rum is designed to compete against Captain Morgan and appeal to the sense of adventure among its young male target audience. It has already been the company’s most successful launch since Bacardi Limon.

. . .

Always a leader in creative marketing, Bacardi has adapted to changing consumer patterns. Today, you’ll find Bacardi engaging with more than 2 million Facebook fans, introducing brands through events and aligning its brands with art and culture.

“There is no consumer today that drinks a brand because they saw an advertisement,” said Juan Rovira, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Bacardi U.S.A.. “Engagement with a brand goes through multiple touch points. It’s a much more complicated seduction process.”

It’s why for the 150th anniversary, Bacardi is throwing a VIP birthday bash at the Super Bowl in a space reminiscent of Cuba during the 1950s. A Bacardi-sponsored promotion on LCD screens in New York’s Times Square celebrates 2012 as the United Nations Year of the Bat. Contests on Bacardi’s Facebook page give away tickets to birthday celebrations around the world, vintage Bacardi T-shirts and crates packed with all the accoutrements to throw one’s own Bacardi birthday bash.

“We’re trying to talk about the history in a way that’s relevant and engaging to our consumer,” said Toby Whitmoyer, Bacardi U.S.A.’s vice president and brand managing director for Bacardi rum. “Social media is absolutely critical. A more engaged consumer purchases your brand more often; that link is clear.”

During the anniversary, much of the marketing effort will focus on the namesake brand. No matter how much Bacardi grows, its focus will always remain back where it started.

“We may own other brands, but it’s always going to be a rum company,” Facundo Bacardi said. “Our mother brand has the name of the family on every single bottle. We may spend a lot of time thinking about ways to succeed in other spirits categories. But we know where we come from.”

For the complete report and a chronology of the development of the Bacardi brand go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/29/2612831/evolution-of-bacardi-company-marks.html#storylink=cpy

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