Food & Drink Brand Strategy Don Julio

Food & drink brands cannot ‘win on taste’ alone

By Sophie Nicholson, Amsterdam Partner

The Romans


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

February 23, 2024 | 7 min read

Taste credentials matter when it comes to food and drink, says Sophie Nicholson at The Romans for The Drum’s food & drink focus week. But for brands to pop, they must bake themselves into the wider culture.

Hands cheers with drinks in a bar

Sophie Nicholson says the best food and drink brands acquire cultural clout, as well as tasting good / Helena Yankovska via Unsplash

As the great Roman gourmand, Apicius, famously said: “We eat first with our eyes”.

Having PRed food and drink clients for 15 years – high street coffee chains, fancy cheese, plant-based dairy alternatives, and a lot of booze – two words always pop up: taste credentials. I confidently estimate that, with each of the 30+ food and drink brands I’ve worked with, customers were driven to purchase, at least in part, by perceptions of taste. They were, after all, buying items to put into their mouths.

So of course taste credentials – the tools brands use to show superiority and authority when it comes to the flavor, texture and overall sensorial enjoyment of their products – will always be part of good food marketing.

However, in contrast to what the client’s market research usually shows (and with this theory I do not wish to offend) I have trouble believing that every single one of the brands I’ve worked with outperformed the category on taste credentials. They can’t all be the tastiest. And even if they are, they can’t be for long – the market evolves so quickly. It stands to reason that brands in this fast-paced sector need to deliver on more if they want to win new customers.

With unprecedented innovation and ever-growing competition across the market, it’s time for marketers to show up for consumers who are spoilt for choice where it matters most: within their cultural worlds. Apicius recognized long ago that the appeal of a dish or product is set by our expectations. But first, we have to get it in front of the consumer.

Turn up at the table to win over customers

Smart brands know that to stay fresh and drive a level of brand love that extends past the functionality of their products, they must look to the cultural world of their audiences and appear authentically and meaningfully for them there. To cut through, brands cannot ‘win on taste’ alone. They have to contribute to cultural narratives around eating, drinking, socializing, relaxing, partying, dating, shopping and the many other parts of our lives that would be nothing without a refreshment in hand.

Locate products within a wider cultural world to win brand loyalty

Our recent work with Diageo is a perfect example. Luxury tequila Don Julio has become a staple on the riders on international DJs. How? The brand understands how to show up in the world of music and parties. We extended that cultural kudos throughout the Netherlands, inserting Don Julio into Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) – the biggest nightlife event in the country, which attracts top DJs from all over the world. The result? Amsterdam – a city devoted to dance music – talking about Don Julio, as well as the delicious Paloma tequila-cocktail and the luxury of the premium Don Julio 1942. All in the context of the dance floor and their favorite artists.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

It’s not just alcohol brands that know how to connect with their audiences through culture. Prime – the sports drink from YouTube sensations Logan Paul and KSI – is a prime example, although not one of ours. Many smart marketing factors came together to make it a knock out: the immense combined social media profiles of these two stars; the attention they were both basking in from their recent much-hyped boxing match; and their limited distribution model, which drove desire through scarcity – a tactic they denied was part of the plan.

But all that wouldn’t have counted if they’d not shown up in exactly the way their fans wanted. Prime understood the zeitgeist of its audience and created a brand totally aligned to its values, sense of community and cultural worlds.

The smart marketers we work with know that taste credentials are only one part of a consumer’s experience. We’ve reached peak food porn. We’ve overdosed on ‘unexpected’ pairings and partnerships. And so have our audiences. It’s time now for marketers to take food and drink where it’s mattered most for millennia: into our wider culture.

For more about food, drink, and the smartest ways to market them, check out our dedicated focus week hub.

Food & Drink Brand Strategy Don Julio

Content by The Drum Network member:

The Romans

We’re bored of boring PR. Founded in 2015 and backed by advertising agency Mother, our team has worked with some of the world’s most exciting brands and created...

Find out more

More from Food & Drink

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +