If you walk into any hip bar in San Francisco and order a craft cocktail, the chances are high that it will include a viscous dark-brown spirit poured from a bottle written entirely in Italian called Fernet-Branca.

Know Your Product

Fernet is classified as an amaro digestif, which is a type of spirit typically consumed after a meal to aid in digestion and/or settle stomach discomfort. Fernet-Branca is a wonderful example of a product that used advertising and environmental market analysis to evolve alongside the society to which it was selling. During the 18th century, it was marketed and used as a health elixir and treatment for cholera with surprising success. Due to its medically effective levels of quinine (which can also be found within tonic water), Fernet-Branca was hardly ever consumed recreationally until American prohibition went into effect.

As explained by Fratelli Branca’s CEO, Edoardo Branca, “Prohibition helped make the United States an important market for the distillery, and times were good since there were very few medicinal spirits available.” Since retail locations were barred from serving recreational alcohol, Fernet-Branca’s market share and sales skyrocketed. Even 100 years later, what was once a branding campaign centered around a legal loophole is now as ingrained into the product’s identity as the very herbs that compose it.

Know Your Audience

Fernet’s taste is often described as a bitter, licorice-flavored version of Listerine that overwhelms the senses and lingers on your palate far longer than expected. While it’s unique taste may have turned away most post-prohibition mainstream alcohol consumers, it is known within the craft cocktail community as “The Bartender’s Handshake” and is considered a staple ingredient. While its success within this niche consumer-base may seem arbitrary, it was very deliberately cultivated through expert marketing and branding.

In 2012, Brothers Tore and Bret Kragerud decided to create special Las Vegas themed coins that brandished a Fernet-Branca logo on one side and an outline of Nevada with the words “Drinking Capital of the World” on the other. They then distributed them free of charge to select bartenders within that market area. Kragerud would gift each coin with a brief explanation of the game, saying “Make sure you have your coin on you because if you’re going to go out partying and another guy has his coin if he puts his down and you don’t have it, you’re going to owe him a drink.” And within two weeks, their inbox was full of emails exclaiming, “Hey, I need a coin. I’m getting challenged. I can’t keep buying all of these drinks.”

By executing this marketing strategy, Tore and Kragerud dialed into two key consumer behaviors: the desire to belong and be accepted within the elite world of craft cocktail bartenders and the desire to own something of limited supply. Now, nearly ten years after the coin’s conception, they have found a mainstream second-hand market that fetches hundreds of dollars per coin and will contribute to the legacy of Fernet-Branca for generations to come.

Much-like the revolutionary minds at the Fratelli Branca Distillery, Digital-Ignite understands the motives and desires of your ideal customer and has the technology to target each where and when they are most likely to act with creative that extends your brand’s legacy.

Before trusting your legacy with another advertising agency, call Digital-Ignite now.