Havana Club’s latest brand platform has kicked off a massive party and we’re all invited. ‘Cuban Mode’, created by agencies YARD and Sid Lee, with production from Partizan, direction from Aisultan Seitov and photography by Jack Bridgland, woos the growing legion of rum drinkers around the world to the unique energy and charm of Cuba and, by association, Cuban rum.
The campaign is an evolution of Havana Club’s previous platform, ‘Cuba Made Me’. Where ‘Cuba Made Me’ was a declaration of the rum brand’s distinct provenance and roots, ‘Cuba Mode’ is an invitation to the rest of us to join in the party.
“Our previous campaign, ‘Cuba Made Me’, was launched in 2018 and was celebrating the Havana street styles, showing how Cuba as a place of origin shapes our brand, our roles and our culture. And this time, with ‘Cuban Mode’, we're taking things one step further by not only showing from where we are from, but encouraging rum lovers everywhere to experience these things, to embrace their own Cuban mode, communicating Cuba, not only as a provenance, but also as the source of the mindset, a creative energy for everyone.”
To get to this place, Ludmilla and her team at the Pernod Ricard co-owned Havana Club worked with agency YARD in Paris and their sister agency Sid Lee - notably Sid Lee’s Canadian office - on a truly collaborative journey. Explains Ludmilla, bringing those teams together was very much an embodiment of that spontaneous Cuban mode as there were no strictly delineated roles and there was a free flow of ideas between the parties.
And that spirit of collaboration didn’t just help distill the strategy and pithiness of the ‘Cuban Mode’ platform, it also allowed the team to push harder aesthetically. The hero ad of the campaign combines a DIY collage look with 3D depth and fluid, swirling camera work to create something quite distinctive. According to Ludmilla, having a strong and ownable look is as important as having a strong story.
“It conveys our values, our heritage and our message as much as the story. This Cuban creative energy that is at the centre of the campaign, it’s notably about that Cuban mindset of making the most with what you have, do it yourself. We think that this aesthetic communicates that message too.”
That DIY aesthetic is something that wove its way into every part of the production and craft. Ludmilla reflects that one of her highlights of the campaign was spending time with the costime designer on the shoot, Jill Gattegno, who embraced vintage and second-hand clothing to bring the various characters to life.
Ludmilla is full of praise not only for how the teams at YARD and Sid Lee were able to articulate the energy of the brand, but how they and talents like director Aisultan Seitov were able to level up the creativity and craft by really understanding what Havana Club is all about. Aisultan’s experience shooting music videos for the likes of 21 Savage, and Tyler the Creator helped to bring contemporary Cuba and traditional Cuba together in a fresh, dynamic fashion.
“For example Aisultan proposing very important ideas on how to portray the different slices of Cuban heritage in the movie or how to manage the transitions from one scene to another, and, very importantly, creating in an amazingly crafted way all these mixed media effects. All this is really handmade and creative and something that’s really unique and special and really serves the message of the brand.”
One of the big challenges the team faced was that, as well as sharing a strong brand message, they needed an idea that would allow them the flexibility to showcase the various products within the range. The story had to be able to shine in not just the hero film but also in product-specific cut downs.
Ultimately, the aim of this campaign is to capitalise on the growing popularity of rum and to celebrate not just the Havana Club brand but Cuban rum, as something unique compared to rum from other markets like South Africa and the Caribbean.
”The rum category has been experiencing significant growth in the last few years, thanks to a lot of innovation and diversification around the richness and diversity of the category,” says Ludmilla. “So, what we want to do, to continue to grow in this context, is continue to improve our cultural relevancy and brand saliency and stay true to ourselves. We need to reflect our values and identity, making and really expressing the bridge between our values and the younger generation of adults.”
That’s why, alongside this campaign, Havana Club has also launched a series of collaborations with fashion brands and music artists like Skepta and Bad Gyal. The campaign first launched in Canada in the summer, and the digital campaign launched globally in November, with local roll-out planned across the globe in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and Greece. Looking forward, Cuban Mode will continue its roll-out into and throughout 2023.