Open letter to Diageo

on November 2, 2012 | Social Media | Comments (5)

Dearest Diageo,

I have a question that needs answering.

As much as any man who works in communication, I confess, I enjoy good advertising. Maybe more. I enjoy nothing more than sitting in a comfy chair and savouring a good ad or campaign. I know it’s sad Diageo, but I love the process of persuasion. Please don’t judge me.

But lately, Diageo, I find myself overwhelmed, nay, tormented by professional curiosity. Diageo, I need to know what the deal is with Captain Morgan…

Allow me to elaborate.

I work for a digital agency, specialising in Social Media. It is the appropriate place for a nerd such as I, as I can channel this obsession, which my father insists is the result of some psychosexual illness, into productive channels. We create Social Media Campaigns, campaigns that are designed to build brand charisma, resonate with target audiences and prompt two-way engagement.

We keep our ear to the ground, like a good digital agency should, and observe with curiosity (and more often than not, a cocked eyebrow) the advertising campaigns that pass through the platform. Many of yours I have enjoyed immensely! Idris Elba as the ambassador for Tanqueray? I love that guy! You’re selling me through association and subtext Diageo, and you so often do it so well.

But what’s the deal with Captain Morgan, Diageo?

There are approximately eighteen Captain Morgan presences on Facebook Each presence distributes slightly different content. I get it. Each target audience is different. But here’s where puzzlement reaches capacity.

The Captain Morgan USA page is excellent.  It’s a fantastic example of high quality, well written content. The brand walks the perfect razor-thin fine line between tongue-in-cheek humour and devil-may-care charisma and whilst it teeters occasionally, it never descends into complete self-parody or coming across as too full of itself.

However, by the Captain Morgan Australia page I simply do not get. Gone is the charismatic Captain Morgan, and in his wake we are left with a guy that distributes pamphlets outside seafood restaurants, who insists, whiskey on his words, that he used to be Captain Feathersword. We talk about appealing to audience sense? This guy literally appeals directly to my fight or flight instinct.

The messaging here is cringe-worthy at best. I assume its targeting young people but I can’t join the dots as to the methodology. If we do laugh, we’re laughing at Captain Morgan. You might laugh at a clown but we don’t want to shake his hand. Association here does not sell us.

Content construction is terrible. The underlying messages are actually damaged by how they have been packaged.

You’re the top dog of the alcohol industry Diageo. You wouldn’t give something the green light unless it had been constructed with plenty of consideration. It would need a solid strategy with clever tactics and firm objectives.

So tell me Diageo, what’s the deal with Captain Morgan?

Author Bio

Matthew Cox is a strategic consultant at Dialogue Consulting, a digital agency that specialises in Social Media training and community development. Hailing from a background in PR and communications, Matthew’s role has seen him work with a wide range of organisations across a number of different sectors. He specialises in building creative strategies to grow communities and launch organisations into the social media space. Matthew also writes frequently for the Dialogue Consulting blog which can be found at

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  • True story. I've always been a brand ambassador for Captain Morgan, even before it was popular. Yes, I remember the days when trying to find a bottle of CM Gold Spiced Rum (not that horrid black stuff) on the shelves was as hard as finding treasure on an island. I would find it, buy it and then praise it in front of everyone I knew. "This is the rum" I said, "the rum you should be drinking!" I don't say that anymore. Something happened. Captain Morgan became commercialised and silly. The brand cheapened to the point where I was comparing it to Jim Beam White… which I hate. Now, I drink Sailor Jerry. It's cool, has an edge, and a roughness to it that makes me want to buy it time and time again. You lost me Diageo.

  • Mark Henderson

    Coxy, hope this helps answer the question that 'needs answering'.
    Let's review some facts. Total Captain morgan Australia likes for the recent past. August 5,544; Sept 7,111; Oct 13,349 indicating growth of 28% and 82% in the last 2 months.
    Total FB engagement/'talk' Sept 2,973, Oct 8,043 – representing 40-60% of their audience interacting with the site and growing.
    Same comparisons for Captain morgan USA FB site: 0.3% new likes in Oct, and 0.3% audience interaction! Hardly inspiring. Seems maybe the aussie site is engaging with consumers after all.
    Here's a thought. Rather than making pronouncements about marketing theory from your hipster bedroom/office why not use some facts about real consumer behaviour. Maybe Diageo actually know what they're doing.

    • @Mark
      (Disclaimer: I work with Matt)

      Facebook likes are (these days) quite strongly correlated with advertising spend. Spend a lot of money advertising (e.g. when you're running a campaign, as they are at the moment), and you'll see a big increase in Likes. This is advertising after all. So page growth does not necessarily equate to users really liking the content, finding it interesting etc, but moreso with advertising spend.

      Additionally, 'PTAT' (People Talking About This) happens to have Likes as one of its dependents: i.e. when someone Likes your page, that increases PTAT by 1. Therefore, spend more on ads to increase page likes = increase PTAT. So the two do not operate independently – important to make that distinction.

      Without having full access to Insights, a comparison between the two pages' vanity statistics (PTAT/Likes) is pretty useless. You need to be able to see things like 'Like Sources' to be able to identify how much of it is organic/viral (ie related to your content) compared to paid (ie related to your ad $).

      Sure – CM USA has a lower % of audience interaction (as stated above, new likes is irrelevant if you're in the middle of an advertising campaign where your ad budget shoots up). But given recent changes in EdgeRank that are (some argue) forcing advertisers to spend on Sponsored Stories in order to get engagement (as CM Aus is doing – I see the Sponsored Stories on my feed), the level of engagement on a post-by-post basis (ie the other major factor in the PTAT stat) is now also being tied to advertising spend. (ref )

      Let's not forget that the ultimate purpose of social media is to build brand and *sell more stuff*. So talking about number of likes etc is not the same as talking about selling more stuff. You need to be building a relationship with your consumer so that they *like you* and *like your brand* so that at the moment they're standing in their local bottle shop looking at the brands they think "oh, CM is pretty awesome" and buy it over another product. As Chris said above, I'm not sure this is really the case here. One of the challenges is that consumer purchasing decisions (esp in FMCG) are hard to analyse (did they buy because of FB? Even if you asked them they probably couldn't say) so we're talking an intangible here, which is a much harder ROI to prove than Likes and PTAT, which are easily influenced by advertising.

      The article here is about the *content*. Not the advertising spend, which is what you're realistically comparing. I think it's well worth having the debate about brand personality and how it influences buying decisions – because IMHO if you focus-grouped the two pages' content, I think that the USA page would have far better responses at getting people to think of the brand as something they'd buy and relate to. Not to mention that featuring things like recipes containing CM are *far* more likely to sell it on the shelf ("that drink looks awesome, I'd better go out and buy the ingredients for it including CM") than just a guy in a pirate suit.

  • Mark Henderson

    Thanks Matt, bla bla bla. Too much time spent navel gazing. Advertising or not, people are interacting with CM Aust more than CM US. Nuff said. Also, I'd love to sit behind the mirror at those focus groups cause I reckon you'd be surprised by the result. Methinks people react better to people, especially characters like CM aus. The US site is devoid of personality and focusses on 'drink safe now y'all'. And OK they've got recipes but the last time I checked the favourite rum recipe was 'rum and anything-that-gets-me-pissed-quicker'. When did you last take fruit to a real party? Have you checked with Diageo Australia – maybe their sales are actually increasing, which would be embarrassing.

  • John

    Never mind! Drink Kraken instead. I do…