Republican conventions are known for being tightly scripted, unsurprising and pretty bland, and signs indicate this week’s gathering in St. Paul, MN, won’t break that basic mold. But upstart rum brand Kilo Kai hopes to throw a little swerve into the party’s stride this week with a guerrilla promotion that takes aim at a political sex scandal well known in the Twin Cities.
The spiced rum brand and its agency All Terrain sent teams out Monday to place promotional footprints in the public bathrooms of hotels, bars and nightspots around the Twin Cities and also around the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the 2008 Republican National Convention is being held this week. The footprints ask stall occupants to “Tap your toe if you want to hook up with Kilo Kai.”
The stunt refers to a 2007 political scandal involving Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who was arrested about a year ago for lewd conduct in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Craig pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and promised to resign his Senate seat, then tried to withdraw his plea. When a federal judge denied that motion, Craig took back the resignation promise. He opted not to run for re-election this year.
“I’m a firm believer that public relations is a big part of the marketing mix,” said Brad Trayser, president of Kilo Kai’s parent company, Apostrophe Brands. “I would rather have editorial coverage than a billboard any day. People do adopt brands because of public relations, but not because they saw a cool billboard.”
Kilo Kai had recently branched out from its home market into six or seven new states, so Trayser asked promotional agency All Terrain to brainstorm some ideas that would generate press outside of the average product launch notices.
Since one of those new state markets was Minnesota, the agency began thinking about all those political journalists converging on St. Paul and how to grab their attention.
“They came up with the idea of the footprints,” Trayser said. “I liked it because it’s fun and in keeping with the spirit we’re establishing for the brand—maverick, irreverent. Being placed on the floor of a public bathroom isn’t necessarily the context most brands want to be seen in, but overall, I think the unserious spirit of the campaign is right on.”
All Terrain teams will not saturate the Twin Cities with the footprints, according to agency spokesperson Julie Lu. Instead they will place about 300 of the signs on Monday.
The teams will then go back on Wednesday and lay down replacements where zealous janitors or sensitive Republicans may have removed the first set.
Trayser downplays the potential for harming the Kilo Kai brand by associations with either illicit sex or political chicanery.
“A lot of beverage companies forget that drinking is about having a good time,” Trayser said. “Drinking Kilo Kai should put a smile on your face, and the advertising and marketing activities should do that too.”
Unlike rival spiced rum Captain Morgan, which combined a marketing campaign to elect its iconic captain president with in-bar events around Denver during last week’s Democratic National Convention, Kilo Kai is not running any special on-premise activations around the footprint campaign.
“Our goal is to make this as viral and guerrilla-style as possible,” All Terrain’s Lu said in an e-mail.
“We don’t want to alienate either Republicans or Democrats,” Trayser added. “If that’s the effect, then you’re probably taking things too seriously.”