Staying relevant in a consumer world that’s boozy with choice is tough even for one of the world’s best-known alcohol brands. According to Bacardi, part of the secret lies in making sure its staff knows where the brand came from by stepping out of the office and into the bar.
Since 2018, the brand has been running ‘Back to the Bar’ a project which sees employees celebrate the brand’s founders day by ditching the keyboard and shaking up a cocktail.
In India, staff finds themselves making cocktails alongside colleagues but also the leadership team, as everyone is encouraged to ‘walk the factory floor’ and stay closer to where the product is really being consumed and bought.
Arijit Sengupta, director, human resources, India and neighbouring countries, Bacardi, says the project tries to take its employees back to when the brand first launched.
“Bacardi’s philosophy of remaining close to the consumer dates back to the initial years of when these brands came alive. Pappy Valiente, Bacardi’s first brand ambassador, waited at the Havana airport to greet tourists and whisk them away for a BACARDÍ rum cocktail, while Tommy Dewar would often ask his friends to order DEWAR’S at bars, regardless of whether it was available,” explains Sengupta.
“‘Back to the Bar’ is more than just an employee initiative, it is a celebration of one of our most cherished principles that every employee is a ‘founder’ who can impact business change. At Bacardi, our employees or primos (Spanish for cousin) are encouraged to think like salespeople irrespective of their function. We strongly believe that every one of our primos should get the chance to spend time in the market first-hand gathering insights straight from our biggest stakeholder – the consumer. Not only does it help us understand changing tastes and preferences, but it also connects with our consumers at a personal level that a research study rarely provides. We started our journey with cocktails and conversations and ‘Back to the Bar’ is a tribute to that very tradition.”
Sengupta compares this initiative with the concept of ‘walking the factory floor’ for those in leadership positions, which this year saw Bacardi India chief executive Sanjit Randhawa participate, as it “aims to bridge the gap between the boardroom and the bar”.
As for the younger and newer talent in the industry, Sengupta says this ties into the fact that people want to work for brands that stand for the right causes and offer empowerment. He believes the workforce and brand identity are inextricably linked.
“The culture of a company lends the brand a reputation of a great workplace. And nothing can bring this culture to life more than our own employees. Initiatives like ‘Back to the Bar’ connect with Bacardi’s aim to cultivate founder’s mentality and inspire a progressive, trend-focused and curious mindset within the organization, allowing each employee to always do what’s right for the business. It also bridges the gap where the employees and consumers no more work in isolation. This sense of ownership and entrepreneurial and passionate spirit goes a long way in building positive, motivated and growth-focused teams,” explains Sengupta.
He adds that this also extends to the digital world, “For us, our employees are our biggest ambassadors. Everything they represent about Bacardi, on the digital or outside world, makes us who we are; as a brand, employer of choice. While our office culture aids a positive ecosystem for growth, we’re also constantly working towards digital initiatives that bring alive our spirit.”
As for what is next, Sengupta believes Back to the Bar can be the springboard for more initiatives that bring its ‘primos’ closer to its customers.