At the firm, 10 people in various offices work in the “bakery,” the in-house name given to its brand and product invention division, because “the marketing is built into or baked into the product itself,” said Steinhour, 49.
As a first step before launching Papa’s Pilar in mid-March, its creators spent about two years developing the concept and working with the Hemingway family to license the name and provide input. The group researched the history of rum, finding that Paul Revere drank it and George Washington requested it be served at his presidential inauguration. They also researched Hemingway’s life to try to capture his spirit.
Then came the product creation, product packaging, brand positioning, marketing and launch plan.
“We created the brand name and the brand story and then ensured that the rum delivered on it,” said Carter Nance, executive vice president and group account director, who attended the Stiltsville launch. “We made the product fit. The idea is that if you bake the brand into the product, it’s a more compelling story.”
Papa’s Pilar is owned by CP+B and majority owners Mahalo Spirits Group. It is headed by Steve Groth, who started his spirits company after selling his marketing business to Omnicom, and his partners Jeff Hicks, former CEO of CP+B; Paul Vlasic, of the pickles family, and Jay Maltby, formerly chief executive at Cruzan Rum and operating officer at Bacardi, who brings distribution and blending expertise.
“We wanted to do something that would really pay tribute to the Hemingway legacy,” said Groth, Papa’s Pilar’s chief executive, as he sat on the deck at Stiltsville.
So the partners developed a blended rum from the Caribbean, Central America and Florida, aged it in oak bourbon barrels, then finished it in port wine casks and Spanish sherry casks. Considered “artisan crafted,” it is bottled in Kentucky and comes in two flavors, “blonde,” which retails for $29.99 and dark, which sells for $39.99.
To add to its adventurous image, the rum’s bottle is fashioned after a World War I canteen. Hemingway, then 17, volunteered with an Italian Army ambulance unit and was wounded during the First World War. He used his war experience in writing A Fairwell to Arms.
Already, Papa’s Pilar is winning awards. Papa’s Pilar Blonde was awarded “Best in Class” white rum at the 2013 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami; and Papa’s Pilar Dark was awarded “a Double Gold” medal at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
In Florida, Papa’s Pilar has already surpassed its annual sales goal, selling more than 1,000 six-bottle cases, said Groth, 53, who also co-founded Angel’s Envy.
“Even in this economy, the moment for artisan brands, craft brands, has been robust,” he said.
The rum is sold at spirits retailers like Publix, Winn-Dixie and Total Wine throughout Florida and is also distributed in several other states, said Lindsey Kops, national brand manager.
As the hours waned toward sunset in windy Stiltsville, about 75 attendees reveled in the 360-degree views, munched on tropical fruit and conch salad and sampled exotic cocktails made with Papa’s Pilar.
On shore, the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach is among the bars that offer the rum, with the dark version sipped straight, for $10, and mixed in classic cocktails like a rum Old Fashioned or an Old Cuban, for $11, said Gabriel Orta, co-owner of the bar.
“My favorite thing is the packaging,” Orta said. “It’s very unusual. It gives you that sense of traveling, and rum, and an adventure.”
That summoning of Hemingway is exactly as its creators planned.
“I can’t think of any other agency,” Groth said, “that in their hearts are inventors before ad guys.”