Hennessy’s the New Black

Hennessy wants to expand its reach beyond traditional cognac drinkers with a new, digital-heavy campaign for Hennessy Black.

Hennessy Black is the cognac brand’s first major product launch in nearly five decades. Hennessy, part of luxury goods firm LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, sees the effort as a way to “break out of the cognac category and into the world of social and high-energy drinking occasions,” said Andrew Glaser, svp, marketing.

The campaign follows a two-year slump in cognac sales, as consumers cut back on expensive spirits. Sales of cognac dropped 6 percent to 3.4 million 9-liter cases, per Wine Spectator magazine. Hennessy, one of the four leading cognac brands — the others being Remy Martin, Courvoisier and Martell — said cognac sales were up in its first quarter, however. Now the brand wants to build on that growth with a product that targets a younger demographic.

Cognac-drinking consumers were historically older and more affluent, but that’s changed in the past decade as hip-hop artists like Jay-Z have touted the spirit in popular culture. Hennessy is capitalizing on that success with a social media effort for Hennessy Black, which costs $39.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

HennessyBlack.com houses a virtual dance floor where consumers can “start dancing,” “explore the tasting room” or click to find out, “Where is the party?” The microsite introduces the campaign’s tagline, “Done different,” and lets users join or create their own online dance floor. (Hennessy has also tapped nine DJs who exhibit the brand’s “Done different” positioning.)

Hennessy, which decreased ad spending by 38 percent to $4.4 million last year, per the Nielsen Co., invested heavily in digital and social media for the Hennessy Black launch. (The company didn’t disclose the exact cost.)

The product’s brand page contains information on the drink, cocktail suggestions, and news about upcoming DJ and brand appearances. Ad support includes home page takeovers on sites like BET.com, RapRadar.com, HipHopWired.com and Vibe.com.

On Tuesday evening, the brand also kicked off a contest in partnership with TBS’ Lopez Tonight. Consumers can submit a video of themselves and up to three additional members dancing for the chance to win a $10,000 prize. The contest concludes June 14, and the winner will get the chance to perform live on Lopez Tonight.

Hennessy hopes the campaign and contest will “reinvigorate” the brand and show younger consumers that “it’s a different product than what their fathers drank,” Glazer said. “They are motivated by a desire to stand out, be unique and be seen as connoisseurs of quality, and that is where Hennessy has stepped in with Hennessy Black,” he added.

Agencies involved in the campaign include Gotham for creative duties; Kinetix Integrated Communications for lifestyle marketing; Morpheus, which handled interactive marketing; MS&L for PR; Ogilvy in the U.K.; and Relevant Group for viral and mobile marketing.