Adam Irwin
Adam Irwin

How We Got Lamb’s Rum To No.1

I’d heard of Lamb’s Navy Rum before. My grandfather used to drink it – him and Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. The Lamb’s Navy brand was suffering from rapidly declining sales and that alone was a clear indication that it needed a new lease of life. What Ponderosa saw was a sleeping giant, a brand with huge potential, so long as it could be re-anchored to attract a younger, cooler, more sophisticated drinker. We needed to ditch Uncle Albert.



Lamb’s certainly had some brand equity. Its archive contained old marketing collateral, usually scantily-clad girls pretending to be in the British Navy. This was the Lamb’s brand in its cultural context; how it used to be presented and how it was still remembered. Digging further back we uncovered the story of Alfred Lamb, the British gentleman and entrepreneur who started blending 18 Caribbean rums back in 1849. The Lamb’s brand didn’t just have a long heritage; it had a rich combination of British/Caribbean provenance and a pioneer who knew his rum and how to blend it.


We conducted qualitative consumer research to understand what perceptions we would need to tackle in order to convince the target audience to re-consider the Lamb’s brand.

Initially, 80% awareness sounded promising. But unprompted awareness was a mere 22%. Lamb’s was not front of mind for the majority of rum drinkers. In fact, awareness isn’t very valuable at all if consumers remember your brand for all the wrong reasons. When we asked rum drinkers what they thought of Lamb’s they said it was traditional, for old men; it was seen as downmarket and old-fashioned.

By contrast, Lamb’s taste credentials appeared to be in good health and consumers described the liquid as strong, warming, smooth, dark and of quality. In fact, the credibility of the liquid extended to the on-trade and bar staff were quick to acknowledge the quality of the rum. In the booze industry, having bar staff on side is important. Brands are ‘made’ in the on-trade. That is to say, it’s where brands become famous; usually made famous by the bar staff wanting to use/serve the liquid.

So Lamb’s had a good quality product. But it was suffering from a chronic brand perception issue that meant young drinkers had migrated to other spirits.

We needed to distance Lamb’s from anything that led to the old brand. References to the Navy for example would only reinforce the tired image that rum consumers already recognised. At the same time we were also keen to leverage the brand’s heritage. Many of the competitors didn’t have anything close to the legacy that Lamb’s did and it gave the brand a strong source of authority in rum.



True British Character captures the very essence of the Lamb’s brand. Alfred Lamb represents the brand’s authority in rum (an authenticity that is absent in the mainstream competitors). But it also provides the brand’s personality. Alfred Lamb was a British gentleman and a man of true character. The idea distilled all the positives of the brand into a single-minded proposition.

But the proposition and the idea, isn’t a campaign in its own right. Simply presenting the brand’s heritage for example risked reinforcing the traditional and old-fashioned stigma we were so keen to avoid. We needed to convey the sentiment of True British Character to our target audience in a modern, cool and interesting way, while maintaining the iconic feel of this great British brand.



We recruited our own True British Characters (brand ambassadors); all of them unique and each of them with their own story to tell. They were bold characters, with inherently British personality traits and shared the same outlook on life as our target audience. These characters would become the collective face of the campaign.

In order to raise the profile of the brand and further distance it from its old stigma, we selected high-profile consumer press titles such as GQ, Esquire, Shortlist and Observer Weekend to run full page ads.

A large part of convincing consumers to reconsider the brand was getting it to look the part. A huge amount of care and attention went into creating a new look and feel; the right aesthetic, one that would be impactful and instantly attractive to the target audience. Photography was especially influential in delivering the right mood for the brand and helped the campaign emphasise a premium positioning.


The launch party for the brand took place atop The Shard in London – an event partnered with Shortlist. The partnership didn’t just provide high profile amplification for the brand. Shortlist engaged with the very sentiment of the campaign, setting up its own competition for true British characters (with Lamb’s) as part of the launch.


In addition to the offline activity, we created a content-rich website that brought True British Character to life. Users could complete personality tests to see which character traits they possessed; the site also showcased the brand’s heritage, including narrative around Alfred Lamb. The proposition also gave life to an on-trade and consumer engagement piece. Bars of True Character searched for bars with certain characteristics: bars that were noteworthy, worth visiting. This was brought to life in an app and not only engaged the consumer, but more importantly built links with key on-trade outlets. We put them on a pedestal, promoted them through the app and through social content. In return they stocked Lamb’s Navy Rum and advocated the brand through their own influential social channels.


Social media played a vital role in building relationships online. It enabled us to gently remind consumers of the brand’s heritage, while also providing coverage of Lamb’s attendance at key events such as Cocktails in the City. The culmination of the online and offline activity created a significant buzz around the brand.

The success of the Lamb’s campaign can be attributed to numerous factors. But crucially, every idea, across every channel was rooted in the proposition; a proposition that was entirely captivating to the target audience. And in exchange, Lamb’s has regained an understated, iconic status.


One multi-award-winning website, PR and two phases of the True British Character campaign later and Lamb’s Navy Rum is the No.1 brand in the dark rum category.

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