Japanese trade group provides US a taste of its national spirit

The Japan External Trade Organization and Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association were looking to introduce Americans to shochu, a Japanese distilled beverage popular in Japan, but little known outside that country.

Clients: Japan External Trade Organization (New York) and Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (Tokyo)
PR agency: Colangelo & Partners Public Relations (New York)
Campaign: Experience Shochu
Duration: February 2012
Budget: $35,000

The Japan External Trade Organization and Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association were looking to introduce Americans to shochu, a Japanese distilled beverage popular in Japan, but little known outside that country.

Strategy
"The goal was awareness," says Gino Colangelo, president of Colangelo & Partners.

"Experience Shochu, the National Spirit of Japan" consisted of several events that were designed to elevate the brand among influencers.

Tactics
The firm created the brand's Facebook and Twitter pages and promoted events by working with bloggers and local media.

Colangelo helped pair shochu with three upscale restaurants to provide diners with free tastings. It also leveraged the "Shochu Night Out" event to create buzz for the upcoming trade and consumer event hosted by the Astor Center, a prominent New York City wine and spirits institute.

The February 13 event featured 16 shochu producers and free tastings. The first half of the event was exclusive to food- and beverage-industry professionals and press who were also invited to an hour-long seminar where mixologist Junior Merino of Liquid Chef discussed shochu's history and presented cocktails he had invented. Afterward, the event was opened to the public.

Results
Tickets sold out a week before the event, which 200 industry representatives and 400 consumers attended. Coverage appeared in outlets including The New York Times, Time, and NHK, a national Japanese public broadcasting network.

Future
No future events are currently planned, but Sara Gorelick, an account supervisor at Colangelo, says the campaign demonstrates the impact of cultivating conversation via multiple social media platforms. "Going forward," she adds, "we will utilize social media much more."

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