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Create a voice for Shellback Rum that was ownable, distinct, and true to the voice of the story we wanted to tell.


E&J Gallo Company saw the opportunity to introduce a brand of premium rum that would target 25- 44-year-olds, focusing heavily on the 25-35 demographic that was transitioning between life stages. It was determined that a nautical theme would pair nicely with the rum spirit’s caribbean heritage, and that a dignified, sophisticated voice would appeal not only to the demographic we were targeting, but help differentiate it from other caribbean rums, including Bacardi and Myers.


As a new brand, I understood that the door was wide open for consumers to get to know Shellback. I wanted consumers to feel invested in communicating with the brand, and for there to be a fun reason for them to join Shellback’s social communities and engage. Because Shellback’s competitors were very character-driven – e.g., Captain Morgan’s captain, the sailor swagger of Sailor Jerry – I wanted to address the unmet consumer need with a more sophisticated, authentic voice that would have mainstream marketing appeal. Also, I felt the voice should appeal to men without alienating women.

As I began to consider these parameters, words like “discover”, “explore”, “evolve”, “journey”, “challenge”, and “worldly” began to rise to the top of the lexicon. They were words that eventually became the foundations of the brand voice. They also gave me the idea that there should be a bit of a secret society to the voice, or a sense of belonging to a club. Not top shelf and stuffy, I wanted the voice to challenge consumers to discover a new taste and something about themselves.

Stream of consciousness thoughts I wrote down at one point in the exploration process included:

“Who are you today that you weren’t yesterday? Test yourself. Take the journey. The reward is greater than the risk. Shellback is further along in your journey.”

After doing some additional research I arrived at the conclusion that millennial consumers didn’t want giant bottles of mass produced spirits. Rather, they buy for specific social occasions, looking for new brands, tastes and ideas that fit their mood, or the mood of their social gathering. This information helped me craft the following positioning statement for the brand as a whole:

Shellback Rum honors the proud naval tradition of sailors with its premium package and refined taste. Shellback allows experienced rum drinkers the opportunity to experience a modern progression within rum.


Since its launch in the Spring of 2012, Shellback has firmly established itself as a brand. To date it has over 60K Facebook fans, 25% market share in the premium rum category, and has experienced positive revenue growth in the six quarters since its launch.