By Mylena Vazquez

Havana Club vs. Havana Club [source]

Everyone knows that making a cocktail is always an experiment in itself. And when it comes to Cuban rum, the liquor itself is up for debate.

I hope to work for Bacardi in the near future, and I can’t think of a company that would benefit more from a controlled marketing experiment. 

For years, Bacardi has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Pernod Ricard for the U.S. rights to Havana Club, the historic Cuban rum. The distillery, founded by the Arechabala family in the 1930s, was seized by the state without compensation when Castro and his forces took control of Cuba in 1959. Since then, the Cuban government has partnered with French spirits company Pernod Ricard to manufacture and distribute their version of Havana Club all over the world.

Decades later, the Arechabalas, then living in Miami after being forced from their company and country, decided to partner with Bacardi, their once-rivals, to produce authentic Havana Club rum using their original family recipe. Since then, there has been a long-standing cultural battle in the spirits world as to which Havana Club reigns supreme.

If I were at Bacardi managing brand strategy for the Havana Club label, I would consider running a blind taste test marketing experiment to determine which of the two brands consumers preferred on taste alone. This type of marketing research must be done in person to control extraneous variables, so the study would have to be small. However, because taste alone does not singlehandedly account for preferences either way, I would pair it with a survey to see if there are other marketing elements in play.

In conjunction with the blind taste test, I would consider running an online survey that is focused solely on the branding aspects of the two rums, asking questions regarding the label appearance, the wording of the rum’s place of manufacture, the size and shape of the bottle, the color of the rum in relation to its other design elements, etc. I would also ask about drinking habits, awareness of the Bacardi Havana Club, what factors influence their decision to purchase a particular rum, demographics, etc. 

A two-man Cuban rum taste test [source]

However, because Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club cannot legally be sold in the United States, this experiment would have to be conducted elsewhere. Because the U.S. audience is the (ideal) research target, the results of these experiments and surveys could run the risk of being inaccurate.

One would think that conducting marketing research on booze would be easy. After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid to have delicious drinks? But this small case study just goes to show how complex marketing experiments and even marketing research surveys can be. It is essential to identify extraneous variables that could affect the integrity of your study and do everything in your power to mitigate them. Otherwise, you’ll just be giving away free rum!


Have you ever participated in a blind taste test? What was the experiment like?

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