A shot of strategic thinking

Was AKA absolut(ly) right?

Hi, my name is Dean and I’m a lead strategist at Total Exposure - a PR, marketing and communications agency

I work across the Pernod Ricard brands including Jameson, Olmeca, Beefeater and Ballantine’s.

When we launched Absolut’s new Watermelon flavour, I was asked (not by AKA - we’ll get into that shortly), “Dean, how do you sell alcohol if you don’t drink?”

We focus on results!

Here are 3 tips to tell stories, without having to drink on the job:

#1 Get a personality!

We connect to the people, not the brand! As South Africa “got sober” during lockdown and our clients felt the pressure of booze bans, our marketing plan relied less on Ballantine’s flavour and more on their taste: for progressive music.

Shimza, who doesn’t drink either, personifies everything that Ballantine’s and their target market stands for. In 2021 we’re telling the stories of Ekurhuleni pioneers.

Touch base with Thuso Sekhaolelo for access to our next activation at The Hang Awt.

#2 Start with the story, start with PR

Building and sustaining brand reputation should never stop. That’s even more important now that consumers have the time and emotional volatility to publicly hold brands accountable.

By design, conversation on social media is driven by public relations. At Total Exposure we use an integrated approach that starts with one key message and objective. That’s then told through multiple story formats all driving to the same place.

Social media content, partnerships and activations all drive traffic to Jameson’s #MixDontMingle landing page. This campaign is about more than just whiskey; it’s about how whiskey drinkers can help their favourite spots get back on their feet in 2021.

Championing this cause together with their consumers, we see Jameson building a stronger, longer lasting rapport with their audience by being open and honest about the current COVID-19 situation.

#3 Let the people talk

While post-pandemic economies are opening up, we’re all under pressure to increase sales and keep our brands top of mind (despite shrinking budgets).

With new challenges, come new opportunities. In line with regulations on social distancing, we launched Absolut’s new Watermelon flavour in March with an intimate event for tastemakers. Unlike in the past, where big events and activations brought many together, today they have the potential to be more alienating than they are exciting.

Was that why AKA clapped back?

Whether AKA endorsed Watermelon or not, his conversation with Khuli Chana did help drive reach and conversation.

We chose not to respond, and rather let consumers taste the difference themselves.

Here are some of our favourite outtakes from the event, put together by AD on the account, Ann Toerien. Get in touch with her about planning yours.

About Total Exposure:


Launched in 1995 and reimagined in 2019 Total Exposure remains one of the leading consumer communications consultancies in the country. Our ability to build deeply integrated campaigns across owned earned and paid media has earned us the trust of leading brands globally.

Our fluency in strategy, public relations, social media, influencer marketing and experiences runs deep and allows us to execute campaigns that get our clients noticed. Again and again. And that is what helps them grow.

We love what we do.

Contact dean@totalexposure.co.za to start the conversation about your brand’s story.

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