High-End Cognac Gets Social to Woo Jet-Set

NEW YORK For a cognac that sells for as much as $1,800 a bottle, Remy Martin’s Louis XIII’s customers aren’t easy to find efficiently through traditional ad media.

Instead, Remy Martin is going online in its first major marketing push in seven years. Rather than a “traditional” digital effort, however, it has hooked up with invite-only social network aSmallWorld for an experiential campaign that combines online placements with offline events.

In October, Remy Martin will kick off a three-month campaign that will include banner ads, a microsite and sponsored editorial features, as well as eight in-person events designed to spur word of mouth among aSmallWorld’s coterie of 160,000 heavy hitters—half make over $250,000 per year and a fifth over $1 million.

“There’s a little of the behind-the-velvet-rope in the marketing,” said Alan Schanzer, managing partner at MEC Interaction, the Mediaege:cia unit from WPP Group that created the campaign. “It doesn’t want to be easily accessible.”

MEC Interaction’s community activation team, which scouts for environments that can ignite word-of-mouth advocacy, hit upon three-year-old aSmallWorld as a perfect environment to find global influencers for a high-end luxury product like Louis XIII. The invitation-only social network is based squarely on exclusivity—only certain members have invite privileges—and purports to boast among its denizens Tiger Woods, Ivanka Trump and Naomi Campbell. The Weinstein Company last year invested in the site.

The campaign is an example of how advertisers are taking niche brands that once might not have garnered much in the way of marketing support into new digital channels. Nissan recently began a program with Xbox to support the Sentra SE-L, which it hadn’t advertised much in previous years. Nissan executives said the in-game opportunity, which included a tournament in Los Angeles, was targeted (and cheap) enough to warrant the campaign.

“This kind of brand has an ability to market today because an environment like this exists now,” said Schanzer.

The campaign will extend its exclusivity theme with a real-life experiential component. The event will be held at a private gallery opening, with 15-20 members of the community, selected by the host, gathering to sample expensive cigars, fine hors d’oeuvres and share a bottle of Louis XIII. While Remy Martin hopes to convert the guests to regular imbibers of the spirit, the focus will be in building the brand through the unique experience, Schanzer said. Recaps and photos of the events will be posted on the community site.

“How do we get people beyond interacting with messages to experiencing the brand that will then talk about it in a positive way?” he said. “Ultimately, it’s all about igniting word of mouth.”