March 13, 2014
Case Study

Social Media Integration: Holiday campaign increases Kahlúa's Pinterest followers 1,432%

SUMMARY: In order to meet its customers at every possible touch point, Kahlúa launched a Pinterest page gearing up for the holiday season. Using a sweepstakes to garner attention and excitement around the "Taste the Spirit of the Holidays" campaign, Kahlúa promoted a series of Kahlúa-inspired drinks and recipes.

By combining B2C tactics with social media content such as blogs, videos and Pinterest, Kahlúa was able to increase its Pinterest followers by 1,432% in a month.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


The Kahlúa Company, which produces a namesake coffee liqueur, saw an opportunity in visual social media.

The objective of Kerri Owen, Brand Manager for Liqueurs, and Tim Murphy, Vice President, Digital and Media, both of Kahlúa, has always been to show that "Kahlúa is an essential brand for great cocktails," Owen said.

In this campaign, which was launched during the holiday season, they also wanted to stress a secondary focus on Kahlúa for food recipes and gifting opportunities.

"We wanted to be cognizant of the shopper journey … and insert the brand in as many touch points as possible," Owen said. "We wanted to drive traffic to stores, increase basket purchases while [customers] were at stores, all the while getting people in the holiday spirit."

During what her team refers to as "OND" (October, November and December), it is critical for Kahlúa to be active, both in stores and at every possible virtual touch point.


The team decided launching an official Kahlúa Pinterest page allowed the Kahlúa team an opportunity to study a shopper's journey and engage with its audience during the holiday season.

Pinterest was built into the overall holiday campaign "Taste the Spirit of the Holidays" with a sweepstakes, where entrants could win $5,000 to plan their own holiday party.

Consumers learned about the sweepstakes through a recipe booklet on, the Kahlúa Facebook page and media partnerships, where they were asked to choose a Kahlúa-inspired Pinterest pin to begin their holiday planning.

Fans had the option to either create a new board or pin their image to an existing one. Once they did this, they were entered into the sweepstakes and given the opportunity to follow Kahlúa on Pinterest.

Step #1. Use social media to understand a customer's journey

Kahlúa’s parent company, Pernod Ricard USA, is focused on expanding digital programming and digital activation, because "ultimately, first and foremost, we want to be and we need to be where our consumers are in terms of media consumption and engagement with our brands," according to Murphy.

Along with customers, he added, Kahlúa and other Pernod Richard brands need to be where the "gatekeepers" are — bartenders, retailers and distributors.

"Technology … has given us access to the shopper journey, or the consumer journey, that we have not had in the past," Murphy added.

One of the objectives for continually integrating social media and emerging technologies — in this case Pinterest — is to truly understand a customer's journey and motivations with products or brands.

Ultimately, Murphy said, customers will not only purchase but "share their purchase of our brands, and share their experience with our brands, and ultimately, become loyalists and advocates."

Step #2. Select a channel that matches company objectives

Murphy and Owen believe that one of the key areas to focus on in the digital world going forward is visual social media.

"Pinterest, along with other platforms, lends itself to that trend," Murphy said.

Before simply jumping onto a trend though, the team had to consider a few elements when beginning this campaign:

  • The Pinterest user

  • Key content themes of Pinterest

  • How themes match up with Kahlúa objectives

"The last piece for us is, broadly, very much about testing and learning," Murphy said.

Once new platforms, like Pinterest, are identified to potentially serve the needs of the brand and consumers, testing is key, according to Murphy.

"If it works, scale it up. If it doesn't, move on. The digital world gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of cost and time and resources to try things to see if they work, and we believe in this case that Pinterest has worked," he said.

Owen added that as statistics on Pinterest as a social media platform continued to grow, "the demographics on Pinterest mirrored exactly where we wanted it to go, as far as finding our Kahlúa consumers."

Kahlúa consumer demographics have a wide range, Owen added, but a large portion of its current consumer profile is made up of women, which matches up with Pinterest's user base.

Another appealing element to Pinterest is that it allows consumers to easily interact with the brand and share content, which Owen said they know Kahlúa customers like to do.

"They don't want to be talked to, or just have content thrown at them. They want to interact with the content, and share what they like, what they don't like, what they're using, what they're doing, and Pinterest is the ideal platform," she said.

Step #3. Soft launch new social media platforms

The marketing team geared up for the debut of Kahlúa's Pinterest page a few months prior to the holiday season and the "Taste the Spirit of the Holidays" campaign.

"Launching on Pinterest was part and parcel to ultimately what our holiday campaign was going to be," Owen said.

Serving as a main touch point of the campaign, Pinterest needed to be running smoothly by the time the campaign went into full swing.

"We did a soft launch, opened a couple boards, and that was right around end of August," Owen said.

From there, the team was building up pins and gaining followers to lead into the campaign.

"We obviously didn't want to go out of the gates with a sweepstakes on Pinterest and not have enough content to begin with, so that was in our plan to do a soft launch, and then gear up with a decent amount of content before we launched the sweepstakes," she said.

Step #4. Launch social media contest

Hosting a sweepstakes on Pinterest allowed customers to interact with the brand, but also to “share with other customers and to look for ideas that we hoped would mostly have Kahlúa in them,” Owen said.

Customers had the option to either create a new board or pin their own images to an existing one — "Kahlúa in the Kitchen" or "Kahlúa Holiday Inspiration," for example. After doing this, they were entered into the sweepstakes and given the opportunity to follow Kahlúa on Pinterest.

It allowed consumers to "look for ideas that we hoped mostly would have Kahlúa in them," Owen said, but they understood that "Kahlúa would just be part and parcel to their whole holiday creation."

People shared content on other food ideas and holiday tips, "so it certainly wasn't just Kahlúa, it was really everything to do with entertaining for the holidays," she said.

The grand prize for the contest was $5,000 for the winner to use toward their own holiday party or entertaining. The campaign ran November 5 through December 10, although advertising went through the end of December.

Respect legal restrictions

As a company that sells alcohol, Kahlúa has to remain extremely vigilant not to market to underage consumers, both legally and ethically.

It is an extremely important issue for the company to ensure that the stringent internal marketing regulations — as well as the marketing code of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which Pernod Ricard USA belongs to — are followed.

Because of those restrictions, Kahlúa followed standard and legally approved rules for sweepstakes that had already been set up by past efforts. Although this sweepstakes was hosted on Pinterest, an entry dimension had to be added.

Pinterest worked as a social media platform on many levels for this campaign, but unfortunately it is not age-gated. Facebook is age-gated, so entrants had to be signed into their Facebook accounts and verified as over 21 years of age to enter.

However, because of the way it was built in, the process was "virtually seamless," according to Owen, and caused as little friction to consumers as possible.

"For us, abiding by our social responsibility guidelines to not recruit underage consumers, and not market to underage consumers, is very important. So we just have to make sure we're working with partners who keep us within those guidelines," Murphy said.

Ensuring the company did not market to anyone under the age of 21 remained top of mind in every aspect of a campaign for Kahlúa. For instance, when purchasing ad buys on Facebook, as they did to a minor degree in this campaign, the team has to ensure some core elements are in place, such as the target segment being of legal drinking age.

Step #5. Work with key media partners

To broaden the scope of the "Taste the Spirit of the Holidays" campaign, Kahlúa reached out to Allrecipes, the world's largest digital food brand, and chose it as a key media partner.

"They have a great network of bloggers who we worked with individually with to create over 100 cocktail and food recipes as well as beautiful gifting ideas," Owen said, adding that showcasing Kahlúa gift ideas was a tertiary goal.

People Kahlúa considered "all-star bloggers" in the online culinary community were chosen to do unique videos, which were shared across Kahlúa social media and the website, as well as Allrecipes sites. These videos were hosted on the Kahlúa YouTube page.

The campaign media buy was predominantly with digital outlets such as Allrecipes, shopkick, Jumptap, Evite and ZipList. Each played a role in the consumer journey, according to Owen.

"Consumers are going straight to digital sites as they start to plan for the holidays. So whether they're hosting or guests in someone's home, we thought it was imperative to put Kahlúa recipes, mail-in rebate coupons, and then the sweepstakes right at their fingertips," Owen said.

The food and cocktail bloggers enlisted in the campaign are fairly well-known, according to Owen, and they were vetted in terms of followers, base audience and content beforehand. Also, it was essential that the bloggers be photographers as well, so that Kahlúa would be able to use that content and ensure fresh perspectives.

"That was a key part to making sure our social media channels had a lot of content that kept coming in," she said.

From there, the team only gave the bloggers direction as far as how many cocktail recipes versus how many food and gifting ideas "just so that we'd have a good mix, but certainly let them create their own recipes."

"We didn't limit them. We gave them two products. One of them was our Kahlúa base, and then the second would be a [flavored Kahlúa]," Owen said.

Step #6. Ensure social media fits in under the umbrella campaign

The umbrella campaign that all of the elements lived under was "Taste the Spirit of the Holidays."

"We thought that this showcased Kahlúa in its best light, and showed within great holiday cocktails and foods the brand's essential binding ingredient," Owen said.

The team started with eight core cocktail recipes and eight core baking or food recipes that anchored all of the communications.


Advertising placements were utilized with Us Weekly and, which enabled the team to showcase the third facet of their campaign: Kahlúa gifting ideas.

One placement within the magazine's holiday gift guide issue, as well as the holiday entertaining issue, gave Kahlúa direct exposure to its target consumers. It also showcased the products alongside other pop culture products.

Online customers could share the content on social media — a recipe for cake pops was liked on Facebook 83 times, tweeted 41 times and pinned 29 times.

"I called it the sprinkles on the cupcake. A nice addition, and from there, we did get added value," Owen said.

In-store elements

Kahlúa worked with BaubleBar in New York City to do in-store gifting events, where people shopping for presents were given the opportunity to try Kahlúa cocktails and Kahlúa brownie bites, for example.

"Finally, after all this, we met the shopper in-store for what we referred to as 'the last three feet.' That's where a shopper would see retail displays. We had in-store sampling demos, and instant coupons where applicable in certain states," Owen said, adding that it was a "pretty robust campaign in a short period of time."

Taste the Spirit of the Holidays kiosks featured two brand ambassadors who would facilitate the sampling of, depending on what state you were in, different cocktails.

"You might have a Kahlúa hot chocolate, and there was a toppings bar, which allowed you to put whipped cream, chocolate shavings, you name it, on there. You could also try an espresso martini. You may also try just a basic Kahlúa and club soda with an orange slice," Owen said, adding that food such as Kahlúa mini-cheesecakes or Kahlúa cake pops were showcased as well.

One of the eight core cocktail or food recipes was always offered at the in-store kiosks, alongside a recipe brochure that would give baking instructions. The Pinterest logo and the website for the campaign,, the URL that drove potential entrants to the Pinterest sweepstakes, were displayed for in-person customers.

Some stores even had iPads where the kiosk brand ambassadors were showing customers how to enter the Pinterest sweepstakes and all of the social media and blog content available.


"Developing content that is made for sharing is key. Consumers want to personalize their content," Owen said.

Increasing the value in visual social media is vital, Murphy added, and "being part of the content stream rather than interrupting the content stream is extremely important," Murphy said.

Understanding the shopper's journey by reaching out at every possible touch point, and knowing how they will interact on a platform before your company is even present there is vital, he added.

  • More than 8,000 consumers entered the contest, generating 10,400 contest-related pins and 1.4 million total impressions

  • More than 3,800 new Pinterest followers for Kahlúa in the 35 days, up from 267 in the 35 days prior — a 1432% change

  • 8,757 Pinterest page interactions for Kahlúa, compared to 5,753 in the 35 days prior

  • 7,800 Kahlúa-related repins, up from under 5,000 the 35 days prior

  • Organic pins went from 38 in 35 days to more than 1,700 in the following 35 days

Kahlúa was also able to collect more than 16,000 unique email addresses from this campaign. Although it wasn't a main objective, Owen said it was a nice secondary goal and outcome.

She added that since a lot of the tactics used in this campaign hadn't been done before, "our [key campaign indicators] were really good educated guesses when we set them up."

The original goal for the campaign was to achieve more than 10,000 names, and by exceeding that, Owen said they were very happy with the outcome — "those are good, qualified names."

"As we evolve as an organization and an industry, and do more programmatic buying and lookalike modeling and segmentation and retargeting, the value of first party data is increasing, so it's something that will become more and more important to us going forward," Murphy said.

He added that the team's overarching objective is always to respect customer trust and offer a real value exchange, and "I think this [campaign] is a good example of how we've been able to do that."

"I was really happy the way it turned out … We needed these resources to go far for us in a really cluttered time period. How many brands are doing holiday activity, [and] with more dollars than we are? There's a lot out there, so it was important that they work efficiently and well together," Owen concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. Kahlúa's Pinterest page

  2. Kahlúa YouTube video

  3. Recipes and cocktails created for campaign

  4. Us Weekly placement




Related Resources

Kahlúa’s holiday recipes (via Kahlúa)

Social Media How-to: 3 ideas for building engaging visual social media

Social Media Marketing: An inside look at Neiman Marcus' Pinterest and blogger relations strategies

Social Email Integration: Sony Electronics nets 3,000 clickthroughs from email to "pin" on Pinterest

Social Media Marketing: Michaels Stores increases Pinterest board followers by 86% with contest

Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?

Social Media: 3 brands that totally get using Vine

Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%

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