On Kasama’s strategic (op)position against the norm of rum by celebrating good spirits, a tropical sun, and plenty of fun.
Words by Reena Mesias
Graphics by Kookie Santos
Photos by Tarish Zamora
It’s time for the sunset, a fleeting hour when it colors your atmosphere orange. As you gaze toward the blue-green water with the ever-repeating rhythm of waves washing up onto the sand, you delight in this magical moment that’s slowly drifting away to accommodate the night. To call it a day, you take one last sip of your drink on hand. What’s in the glass?
Polish/Filipino/American entrepreneur Alexandra Dorda imagines herself to be drinking rum. “I’ve always loved rum but [I] never felt that there was a brand that resonated with me as I’m not a fan of cartoon pirates, tattooed sailors or multi-colored parrots,” she admits. It’s accurate enough to justify the common theme direction since historically, long-haul sailors did live off rum. But spend enough time at any given bar and you’re bound to see a pervasive look that’s dark and broody, in which—even without the buzz—you won’t be able to visually tell them apart.
The rum world has gotten dense in terms of options. With the new generation of rum drinkers’ movement for authenticity, how does a brand avoid getting lost in the clutter of bars? What’s more, because rum is made in different countries, it has varying key attributes (e.g. molasses vs sugar cane juice vs sugar cane syrup), thus having no overarching qualities that define what rum has to be. It’s indeed a tricky place to be in, although somehow, Alexandra is confident. “I’m 28, but I like to say that I have 26 years of experience in the alcohol space.” With the guidance of her father who started working in the alcohol industry when she was two years old, a stint at Chobani in New York, and working at a private equity fund in Warsaw, Alexandra soaked up everything she could and took her expertise to an entrepreneurial venture of premium spirits that would eventually highlight her Filipino heritage.
“The rum category is particularly weak and lacking in compelling lifestyle brands,” Alexandra explains. “And because the Philippines is one of the largest producers of rum in the world, I saw an opportunity to start a brand of my own based on the Filipino lifestyle and aesthetic, which is a story that I’m very excited to tell.”
In answer to the intention of creating a quality rum brand that is “modern, relevant, fun, and celebrated the beautiful, tropical place where the rum comes from,” Serious Studio kicked it off by looking at all the key factors that come with making a premium yet distinct brand. “It was important that the branding break the traditional rum aesthetic,” the studio hints. “We crucially wanted to move away from the [cliché] and create something more closely linked to the Philippines, appealing even to the younger market.” Serious Studio started with a name: “Kasama,” a Filipino term that means “companion” which, in the same way, relates to the connection between alcohol and celebrations. Alexandra says, “What I like most about the alcohol category, in general, is that people usually drink alcohol when celebrating important moments in their lives, whether that be a birthday, holiday, [or promotion]. It’s very special to be part of all of those important milestones.” Quite favorably, “Kasama” is also easy to pronounce even for someone who’s a stranger to the Filipino language.
The name is paired with a careful selection of colors that play between an abundance of tropical greens and the mismatched but fresh combinations of bright pinks and purples, signifying the vibrancy of Filipino culture. By adding vintage-style illustrations of native Filipino plants, a core icon in the form of a smiley, sunny seal, and stamp decals to signify Kasama being the Philippines’ “love letter to the world,” Kasama can easily transport drinkers to the extraordinary tropics of the country. It’s refreshingly unexpected in the criterion of rum packaging. “Because the Philippines has been strongly influenced by other cultures—Spain, the U.S., and China to name a few—it has a unique aesthetic that manages to feel both familiar and unexpected at the same time,” Alexandra says. “Kasama’s brand embodies the Filipino spirit of joy, positivity, and celebrating the everyday. I wanted the package to embody all those things, and to immediately signal who the brand is for.” The result is a more homogenous and positive visual identity that could be easily applied to materials that go beyond the standard branding assets.
All these considered, Serious Studio worked closely with Alexandra to build the brand holistically, ensuring that the story she wanted to tell showed in the rest of Kasama’s materials from the website down to photo and video production. This means that visas were sorted and bags were packed to experience for themselves the tropical utopia that is Palawan with the kindest and friendliest of people. In retrospect, this made so much sense because at the core of this quality rum is the spirit of pure joy, and all Kasama ever wants is to join in the conversation and laugh with friends who enjoy moments they wish would never end.
It’s somewhat of an obvious strategy that Kasama would go beyond just marketing the product—rum that isn’t run-of-the-mill and is sourced from the Philippines where it is distilled from sugarcane and aged for seven years. It’s premium rum that is, as Serious Studio would say, “joyfully crafted in the Philippines for the global drinking market.”
First distributed in Warsaw and New York, Kasama is set to be made available soon in its home of the Philippines—and ideally, everywhere else in the world that look like they need a Kasama. Alexandra says, “I believe we live in a global world and that good ideas are universal, no matter where they are from.”
Conventional marketing wisdom states that the more precise your target is, the more effective your efforts will be. But for Kasama, the key to its recognition and growth is to appeal to the people who live the lifestyle, and in these digital times when togetherness is a luxury, there are plenty who crave a sense of belonging and companionship. For brands like Kasama, the job is to bring these people together in the most positive and fun way possible.