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COAST TO COAST Grand Marnier isn’t known for being a spirit of choice for older millennials—those within the demographic of 30 to 35—which is one of the reasons why the orange liqueur brand recently launched its first experiential program in three years. In an effort to introduce the brand to a younger crowd and show consumers that the French liqueur can be the main draw of a cocktail, Grand Marnier partnered with Toronto-based experiential marketing agency the Substance Group to host the Cordon Rouge Room tour—a series of 1920s speakeasy-inspired pop-ups in major cities in Canada.
The tour traveled to venues in Montreal September 19 and 20, Toronto September 27 and 28, and Vancouver October 3 and 4. The tour will make its final stop in Calgary October 18 and 19.
Alyssa De Bartolo, senior brand manager for the Campari Group, says that now was the ideal time for Grand Marnier to have an experiential program, as the brand was purchased in 2016 by Campari, which spent the latter half of last year and the first half of this year reintroducing its new product to consumers. The brand chose the four major Canadian cities based on the fact that they had the highest percentage of sales in Canada.
“We were realizing that people knew the brand name but didn’t know what it was or how to drink it,” says De Bartolo. “Part of our job this year is to get the brand back in front of people, and have them drink it in cocktails. That’s why we decided to do this program, while still presenting Grand Marnier in an upscale, premium, luxury way—which is what the brand is at heart.”
For each pop-up, Grand Marnier hosted media, influencers, and bloggers on the first night. Consumers in the target demo of 30 to 35 were invited to experience the pop-up on the second night. Guests could register through an online portal and, 48 hours before the event, they received texts with the secret location and password. Each city also had its own twist for entry—in Montreal, for example, the venue was disguised with brown paper on the windows and a sign that read “For Rent.”
Inside, the pop-ups served guests French cuisine and Grand Marnier cocktails in branded red and gold environments, complete with speakeasy-inspired touches such as a French jazz band and cocktail waitresses dressed as flappers. De Bartolo says that the speakeasy theme, a concept that was created by the Substance Group, gave the brand a platform to present Grand Marnier’s history—the spirit was developed in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, and was meant as a spirit for the wealthy.
“We developed the concept based on a Grand Marnier global positioning deck that stated the brand was ‘a subtle twist which opens the door to a surprisingly renewed perspective on the luxury world’,” says Christina Lupkoski, account manager at the Substance Group. “We created exclusive, hidden speakeasies that mixed the element of surprise—popular amongst older millennials—with a playful, luxurious prohibition experience.” Lupkoski added that the agency’s main goal was to keep the events as authentic as possible to a 1920s speakeasy.
After the tour ends in Calgary, De Bartolo says Grand Marnier doesn't have anything else experiential planned, but that the brand does plan to launch an initiative surrounding the cocktails that were served during the tour.
Here’s a look inside Grand Marnier’s Cordon Rouge Room in Toronto.