The Island Rumaway

Perpetual holiday or spoiling the sweet island life? Marc Rodrigues, former Diageo executive and current owner of Nusa Caña, discusses the trials and the overall triumph of leaving behind the daily grind of the corporate world to start up his own Indonesian rum brand.

explore DRINKS: What is your history in the alcohol industry?

Marc Rodrigues: After having worked on Australia’s most iconic spirit and wine brands, Bundaberg Rum, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and Hardys to name a few, I certainly have had the ability to understand the Australian drinks consumer and the industry that serves them. What I’ve learnt that I am putting to use as we bring Nusa Caña to market is the following: Australians love their connection to drinking occasions and closely associate with the brands of choice that deliver those experiences. With Nusa Caña, we are bringing back the forgotten story of Indonesian rum. We know Bali is Australia’s favourite holiday destination for the reason that Bali is all about ancient days and modern nights. We are offering that escapism in every Nusa Caña serve.

eD: Why did you leave the corporate world?

MR: It can be summarised in two words: lifestyle and satisfaction. The lifestyle means more than just the obvious reason of having an Indonesian rum and being based in Bali, the island of the gods. The lifestyle comes from not wasting time. Corporate life has a very large component of internal management, i.e. doing business with yourself. We at Nusa Caña, if we are working and not enjoying island life, we are out working with our consumers and customers around the world. We feel that gives us a greater connection to the hearts and minds of our consumers.

Satisfaction comes from using the experience you have to achieve what you know you can achieve and what needs to be done. We have a strong connection to our brand vision and that is to bring back Indonesian rum to the world; a rum that has been forgotten about for 300 years. We are fortunate to have the experience and the skills to deliver this for Indonesia and for rum drinkers.

eD: Did you build a brand so you can live the island life?

MR: Maybe! In Australia, we should all live the island life for obvious reasons. I built a brand so I could live and share island life wherever I go; whether that is in Bali, Bondi, Sydney, Hong Kong or Shibuya, Tokyo (our latest launch). We plan to take the island life to London and Miami next year as well!

eD: What’s fundamental when building a brand?

MR: You need to have a reason to exist. Ours is, as I touched on, our vision around bringing back Indonesian rum but secondly, we also want to bring the fun and escapism back to white rum that has been sadly missed. White rum used to be all about fun, parties and release. Of late, that has been lost as the leading brands move towards heritage. We are about how you feel on holiday, or when you meet good friends, or when you just want to escape. We are also young at heart!

To achieve this, we realised that four industry veterans in their forties maybe couldn’t deliver this when it came to branding. So we engaged others who could. Firstly, Dan Mitchell and Stevie Anderson, both twenty-somethings from the UK who are also based in Bali and are surrounded by our target consumers at Potato Head’s around the world. Stevie and Dan are responsible for our label and the mask! The true centre of our brand, the mask, allows all to hide behind it to be who they truly want to be. The team in Sydney’s Bold Inc. then took the label and developed the plan of how we would talk and engage with millennials around the world who share our passions.

Once we had our brand, we then hit our social media contacts from around the world. We have developed more than 75 years combined experience through asking people to join our vision and that continues today with every conversation we have. We are building a global tribe behind our barong mask.

eD: Why a rum brand? What’s the long-term goal here?

MR: Rum is the no rules spirit. Drunk by farmers, pirates and billionaires, it’s drunk all over the world and for all occasions! And we love drinking!