Previously Unavailable founder James Hurman had been working with Stolen Rum since before it’s launch in 2011 – guiding the development of the brand from the very beginning.
A few years later, Stolen CEO Jamie Duff called with an exciting and urgent brief. They’d been contacted by the head of America’s largest spirit distributor, who’d promised to sponsor a US launch if they could create a spiced rum concept that he thought had legs in his market. He’d given them ten days to come back to him.
The answer was Stolen Coffee & Cigarettes Spiced Rum – an audacious challenger product that exemplified the Stolen brand, captured the imaginations of the Americans, and led to Stolen’s 2015 acquisition by US private equity giant Liquid Asset Brands.
“When we approached Previously we had an urgent but huge brief: help us ideate a concept for an innovative spiced rum for the USA market. If we got it right, we might have a seat at the table with the biggest distributor in the USA, Southern Wine & Spirits, who had asked us to come up with the concept. No pressure: we had two weeks! James is always amazing - one of the very best I have worked with - at finding innovative and strategic angles to services, products, and communications and on this occasion (as always) he certainly delivered. Our Coffee & Cigarettes Spiced Rum (a world’s first and James’ idea) was taken on by Southern Wine and Spirits, a huge achievement and ultimately the catalyst of our USA success at Stolen.”
Launching into the US was a massive opportunity for Stolen. At the time, the spiced rum segment in the US was worth 50 times as much as the entire rum category in New Zealand. But the opportunity came with the significant challenge of needing to launch with virtually zero sales and marketing support.
In a crowded category, where Stolen’s entire marketing budget would have bought a week’s worth of posters, the only way we realistically had to introduce the brand to consumers would be the bottle itself. We needed to create something that would carry the entire brand on that one bottle, and stand out enough to be noticed amongst more than 50 other spiced rum bottles on the average bottle store shelf. We needed to find a creative concept that made for a unique and delicious spiced rum, with the ability to meet the commercial reality of needing to sell straight of the bottle.
In the case of this particular project, there was literally no time for any real development. Working as a team we put our knowledge of the brand and customer together with our knack for understanding the popular culture that was Stolen’s context.
The idea for Coffee & Cigarettes came from two flavour ingredients from our suppliers’ list – coffee and tobacco. We loved how Jim Jarmusch had explored Coffee and Cigarettes as the ultimate daytime narcotic combo in his film of the same name - a catalyst for casual creativity and conspiratorial conversations.
We wanted our spiced rum to live in that same world. So we stole the name, creating a unique spiced variant that wouldn’t be able to be ignored on US shelves.
Within ten days we’d worked through the concept, designed the bottle, and developed the proposed recipe. It met with an elated response, and the wheels were set in motion for Stolen’s US entry.
Two years later, a majority stake in the company was acquired for $21M.