CMO Lessons From Bruno Mars’ Brand SelvaRey Rum

In a sea of celebrity brands, how can a company stand out and attract customers?

It comes down to being passionate, innovative and empathetic.

Many celebrities are only involved with their brands as far as simply putting their name on a product, but Bruno Mars’ rum brand SelvaRey is different. He spent three years redesigning the SelvaRey packaging to create a stylish and eye-catching bottle and is passionate about the brand and its products.

That passion and innovation extends to the entire team and is what attracted CMO Brielle Caruso to the brand.

Caruso joined the company six months ago, making her the first female Asian American CMO in the U.S. wine and spirits industry. Caruso has helped build numerous brands and knows what it takes to stand out.

Marketing is really about communicating and building relationships. Caruso believes communication means everything and that brilliant communicators must have strong observational awareness. It’s impossible to be a great marketer without being a great listener. At SelvaRey, that means listening to customers and understanding the context of what they are looking for. In her career, it means actively listening to her team members and building real connections.

Over the past six months, SelvaRey has launched four new products, some of which sold out in days. Part of Caruso’s job has been to educate customers about rum and break down stereotypes and showcase the wide range of products. Listening to customers led the brand to release products at different entry points. 

Marketers are often taught that it’s all about themselves—about sharing their message and pushing their products. But Caruso believes that people who step back and listen, not to respond but to understand and add empathy, become better leaders.

With that empathy and listening comes humility. Caruso says it’s important to be grounded, which she does by writing down her goals and gratitudes. Especially after a difficult year, she believes it’s important to reach out to people and check in on them instead of assuming everyone is fine. Building those relationships and being humble helps marketers stay focused and grounded, which only adds to their success. In a world full of ego and self-promotion, truly caring about other people can help you stand out.

Many women in male-dominated industries face the challenge of being the only woman in the room. But Caruso has learned that her unique assets are valuable and important and that she needs to speak up to represent female customers. Women drink alcohol, so companies can’t just have men creating the strategic goals and marketing. They need a woman’s insight and will listen to the women in the room, even if there’s only one. Caruso believes companies need to push for employees and marketers who are representative of the population who is using the product.

Standing out in the marketing world isn’t always about being the flashiest. It comes down to being passionate, innovative and empathetic. The loudest campaigns may catch customers’ eyes, but lasting success comes to the companies and marketers that know how to build relationships and stay grounded. SelvaRey shows that strong communication can build a winning brand. 


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Blake Morgan is the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. Sign up for her new course here.

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