The rethink behind Fever-Tree's first Australian advertising campaign

Marketing manager talks through the COVID-19 impact on the brand's marketing plans in Australia and its latest campaign effort

Having had to rethink its marketing plan to suit the COVID-19 climate and build engagement outside of physical events, Fever-Tree has kicked off its largest advertising campaign to date to woo Australian consumers.

Fever-Tree is a 15-year old premium mixer brand created in the UK and best known for its tonic water range. It’s been available for the last eight years in Australia, originally via distribution trade partner, Southtrade. In 2019, Fever-Tree made the decision to invest in a local entity, making it only the third market the company has a direct presence alongside the UK and US building consumer engagement. As part of that decision, it appointed Andy Gaunt as its local general manager, and brought on a local team including marketing manager, Caroline Wood.

Wood told CMO local growth of over 30 per cent year-on-year prompted by Australia’s rapidly exploding love of gin proved the catalyst for investing in the brand and resources locally. Yet the initial marketing strategy did not have any emphasis on above-the-line marketing activity.

“We had not done a lot of above-the-line investment and we were not going to in the original plan for 2020,” Wood explained. In fact, the emphasis had been on physical events and experiential opportunities where Fever-Tree could put products directly in the hands of consumers.

It’s for this reason the brand debuted its first Fever-Tree Gin & Tonic Festival in Sydney in 2019. “We’d done just our Fever-Tree festival in Australia and went straight into similar events planning for 2020,” Wood said.

“A large part of our plan was events, and to raise awareness through trialling the product. We know from research that if consumers trial our product, they stick with it, and the funnel flows well. We planned to attend various events such as premium sporting events like tennis and the rugby and started 2020 with a big year of events, which was to culminate in our festival in October.”

However, the COVID-19 pandemic promptly put paid to that plan. Having been onsite for the first day of the Grand Prix then cut short due to the crisis, Wood said the team had to quickly rethink its event plans and craft a new marketing approach.

“We saw the opportunity, where many brands slashed budgets, to buy media. So we bought that early on then worked on what our campaign would look like,” she said. “Off the back of strong sales, we feel it’s time to announce ourselves further to Aussie consumers.”  

The resulting is Fever-Tree’s largest advertising campaign in Australia to date. Led by out-of-home (OOH), and debuting at the end of September across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the campaign encourages consumers tomix with the best’ with new messaging that reinforces the brand promise as a premium, high-quality mixer complementing light and dark spirits.  

The out-of-home creative features colourful, refreshing beverages made with Fever-Tree mixers and the tagline, ‘If 3/4 of your drink is the mixer, mix with the best’. Running until the end of November in the first instance, the OOH campaign is supported by in-store displays across liquor and grocery channels. The brand is also launching a supporting promotional strategy across radio, digital and social media, featuring brand videos that highlight Fever-Tree’s brand heritage and ingredient stories.   

In terms of creative, the campaign sees the local team customising global templates and assets to suit the local upcoming Australian summer.  

“There is a lot of risk and unknowns still around COVID, but we believe we should continue to invest to try and build the brand long-term despite the current situation,” Wood said. “The ¾ message is core messaging for us, and there’s still a long way to go to embed that messaging in this market. It’s simple and right for our first campaign here.  

“This campaign, our largest yet, highlights our best-in-class range of products in a fun and refreshing way that appeals to consumers right across the country.”  

The big aim is the lift brand awareness, something Fever-Tree has already managed to lift this year after debuting its first virtual festival in June. This saw thousands of people tuning in and proved a successful way of generating buzz for the brand locally, Wood said.    

Having conducted a quick burst survey in December to get a read on awareness locally, then a second in June, Wood said Fever-Tree has already managed to lift spontaneous awareness to 24 per cent in the past six months, well above expectations. In addition, one in two tonic consumers now consider buying Fever-Tree products.  

COVID in general and moving a lot online has allowed the company to learn more about our consumers and connect more closely as well,” Wood continued. Off the back of the virtual festival, for example, Fever-Tree recognised the distinct needs of general gin and tonic drinkers versus real gin connoisseurs and ended up proving a link to a more personalised experience for the latter.  

“We recognised people had different expectations [of the virtual experience],” she said. “We have a broad audience, and we try to cater to that broader audience as much as we can. These sorts of online events have enabled us to connect to consumers, build the database and led to localising our website – things we probably wouldn’t have had time for but have been able to do this year during COVID.”  

Yet experiential engagement remains key long-term. To keep the physical interactive element alive, Wood said Fever-Tree is also boosting investment and re-launching ‘Gin & Tonic Gardens’, a series of bespoke event activations held across available Australian on-premise venues. These specially curated events transform outdoor spaces into a premium brand hub, amplifying discovery of Fever-Tree products.   

Wood said it’s also been building goodwill via its social presence through competitions, other brand partnerships and content.  

“The key now is to separate our target audiences,” she said, noting Fever Tree’s expanding product portfolio outside tonic water, such as ginger drinks. A low-calorie soda brand will also launch in coming months.  

“Our core audience is the gin and tonic drinker, but our long-term ambition is to be the top of mind mixer brand. You’ll see more of these products in the months to come,” Wood added.    

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook:


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