The Apple iPod began as a music player and became a video player in part because consumers discovered a new use for the device. The brand perception then shifted. Lego Mindstorms began as company-provided software and hardware to create small robots. Then consumers hacked the code, changed the products together and Lego ultimately began providing the source code and collaborating with its customers on new products. In time, consumers began perceiving Mindstorms as a collaborative activity.
As in these cases, sometimes consumers collaborate to alter a product or its use and this ultimately changes the brand perception. In other cases, companies can collaborate with partners to discover new uses for products and change how consumers perceive the brand.
Gin has traditionally involved martinis or gin and tonic—and at least one gin producer is collaborating with partners to change this use and brand perception. When Bombay Sapphire East
emerged in test markets as the first product line extension of Bombay Sapphire gin in 2011, reviews described the gin as spicy. That’s because Bombay Sapphire East adds two new botanicals to Bombay Sapphire: lemongrass and black pepper. This “flavor profile” may seem a bit assertive to accompany typical cocktail fare like cheese and crackers. Therefore, it’s necessary for this brand to gain traction in a different culinary arena, namely Asian food.
This past Friday evening, Bombay Sapphire East sponsored the 6th Annual LUCKYRICE feast at the Bently Reserve venue in San Francisco’s financial district. As I entered the event, an Asian woman handed me one of many varieties of exotic drinks bartenders were mixing with Bombay Sapphire East. A who’s who roster of upscale Asian restaurants with tables scattered around the event were cranking out specialties to accompany Bombay Sapphire East. The brand was clearly collaborating with chefs to create the perception that the gin goes well with Asian food. This is by no means a stretch.
I sampled a drink called Piman which includes Bombay Sapphire East, yellow pepper puree and Kalamansi (an orange/kumquat hybrid) syrup. I also checked out the Bombay Sapphire East “custom tonic” bar at which bartenders combined such flavor extracts as bergamot and elderflower with club soda and gin (see above image). These drinks complimented available dishes including Dosa restaurant’s Hyderabad chicken biryani, M.Y. China’s black pepper beef with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and Asian Box’s lamb meatballs in coconut curry.
Collaborating with Asian chefs, the people behind Bombay Sapphire East are not only changing consumer perceptions about their gin. They’re also working with Asian restaurants to co-create and sell cocktails using a gin accented with botanicals that compliment Asian food. This creates value for the restaurants and for Bacardi Limited, which owns Bombay Sapphire East.
Whether the product is booze, blenders, toothpaste or technology, collaborating with partners to change brand use and perception can transform a sleeper product into a sales leader.