Brand Lessons from Ibiza: It’s No Walk on the Beach

By Niamh Deehan, Writer, Elmwood 

As the first signs of Spring promise a break from our box sets, blankets and fireside tipples; holidays are the subject of choice in boardrooms, as well as over brunch. My recommendation? Ibiza.

I went for the first time last year. I’d been hoping to switch off, but between the sunscreen and the cocktails, I found myself soaking up lessons on branding along with my dose of sun. Everyone laughs when I say the trip was good for work – but hear me out.

Every summer, around two million people take an annual pilgrimage and flock to Ibiza. It’s no ordinary tourist destination. If you thought Milton Glazer’s ‘I <3 New York’ campaign was good destination branding for the Big Apple, well, the white island is something else. It manages to inspire an almost cult-like following in both returning visitors and those who have never stepped foot on its shores before. Putting the notoriety for illicit activities aside, it’s some clever branding that makes the island so alluring.

Previously snubbed as a hedonistic haven for 18-30 type holidays, Ibiza has undergone somewhat of a rebrand to compete with the rising popularity of places like Marbella, Malia, and even Las Vegas. Today, you’re just as likely to meet some stockbrokers from New York, as you are a bunch of lads on a stag do.

The only new hotels are 5 star, and the list of top restaurants and beach clubs just keeps on growing. Away from the back alleys of San Antonio, Ibiza has repositioned itself as a luxury destination, full of hidden treasures – that just so happens to be the ultimate place to party too.

So, how does this relate to branding? Given everything it stands for, an association with Ibiza could be the perfect endorsement for brands in certain markets.


In a world of ad-blockers, traditional marketing doesn’t always resonate with audiences. Brands need more than a nice logo to earn our affection. If marketers want people to ‘live’ their brands, they have to go where the life is – and Ibiza is the liveliest playground of them all – full of opportunities for brands to make an impression.

That said, taking your brand to Ibiza is no walk on the beach. You’d think it would be an easy place to promote alcohol brands – but it’s also rife with gimmicks. Marketers should think twice about how they splash their cash. After all, nobody remembers what was on their beer mat – but a brand that takes part in, and adds to your holiday, can be recalled for years to come.

Within a week, I had two very different encounters with Absolut Vodka. The first was with some Absolut ‘brand ambassadors’ – a group of scantily-clad girls, all dressed in Absolut’s signature shade of blue and towering high heels. It was awkward to watch as they tottered around the Ocean Beach Club trying to hand out lanyards and sell the occasional shot. Given the heat, it was a pitiable sight that really killed the party buzz.

I had Absolut down as an edgy and forward thinking brand, but I was left wondering what I was supposed to take away from this particular promotion? I went to the bar and promptly ordered a Smirnoff.

In comparison, when I visited the nightclub Amnesia, I was greeted with an Absolut branded LED wristband that reacted to the music and created a light show I won’t forget in a hurry. In total contrast to my earlier encounter, the wristband put the brand in my memory for all the right reasons. According to their current #AbsolutNights campaign, the brand are about ‘the nights memories are made of’ – and this felt right on-brand. It just goes to show how much better brand experiences are when they’re designed to relate back to the brand’s core proposition.

Ibiza’s promoters and club owners are masters at crafting fully branded experiences. From the first release of flyers, to the season’s closing night, every event is given its own unique suite of iconic assets. And when the season has been and gone, these assets live on both online and in-stores, while tickets to experience the next event first hand are actively sought out.

Another brand I came across on my travels was The Skinny Kitchen. Dubbed Ibiza’s no.1 ‘FitFam Foodie Spot’, everything from its partnership with protein brand PhD, to the café’s aesthetic, and its ‘eat clean, rave dirty’ tagline, taps right into the subcultures you find on the island. Visitors flock in droves to check in on Facebook and Instagram their ‘Gojipolitan’ cocktails and protein pancakes. The food may be so-so, but what could have been just another café, has managed to leverage Ibiza’s status to elevate their brand and epitomise a taste in lifestyle. Born in Ibiza’s west end, there are two branches in the UK already.

My final lesson from Ibiza was one on complacency. I was fortunate enough to visit the Ibiza’s legendary nightclub Space before it closed its doors for good. It wasn’t just the end of the season, but the end of an era – and a brand that had built itself up over 27 years. The announcement caused shock and outrage, social media cried out with screams of “what went wrong?” According to the grape vine, organisers didn’t have their feet on the ground, and decided to split some of the major events across two days. The result? A huge drop in atmosphere. Space was no longer delivering on what it had come to be known for, allowing the competition to take over.

So there you have it. With brand lessons like this to learn, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m trying to get Elmwood to fund a further research trip – we’ll see how that goes…

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