Firma Goes Beyond Design for Mission-Centered Beverage Brand Machu Picchu Energy
With a passion and love for education and the outdoors, former AmBev CEO Bernardo Paiva set out on a new entrepreneurial journey, hoping to rethink the energy drink category and its potential to help people connect to the natural world and bring real social change. Tapping their boundless beverage industry experience, company founder Paiva and CEO Daniel Scharff partnered with full-service branding and innovation agency Firma to launch Machu Picchu Energy, with designs, marketing and strategy that not only reflect the brand’s commitment to quality but also its mission to improve the lives of children in difficult situations.
Initially coming to the agency to design product packaging for the organic energy drink, a kinship quickly formed between Firma and Paiva (based on a mutual love of social causes and surfing) that saw the relationship grow to a reimagining of the entire brand strategy and identity. The agency led the development of its brand persona and narrative – a critical first step in solidifying the tone of voice, communication and branding.
“We understood early on that Machu Picchu is unlike any of the other energy drinks in the industry, built without using the typical tropes of the category: masculinity, aggressivity, risk, and extreme sport,” explains Firma co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Marc Lite. “All these stereotypes have dominated for 20-30 years. In the meantime, society, its values and social priorities have evolved. The context of Machu Picchu is totally different from the one in which many past energy drinks were created, so our approach to the brand had to be totally different as well.”
This meant making the various causes that Machu Picchu Energy actively supports – including NGO Alto Peru, Rio de Janeiro’s Favela Radical and the UNESCO Peru 2030 Cultural Pact which aims to preserve cultural sites like the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu – central to the brand. This different approach even extended to the name: Machu Picchu Energy. Seeking a name that would inspire people everywhere to connect with the great outdoors, Paiva personally came up with the name based on his admiration for the natural beauty of Peru — its incredible waves and mountains. He realized that Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an iconic outdoor treasure of Latin America, could be a source of inspiration and spiritual energy.
Building on this brand strategy and mission, Firma then developed Machu Picchu Energy’s “Feel Good. Do Good.” tagline and created a full brand identity with iconography, packaging, website design and development and more. The visual language draws on a host of natural influences, with rich, dark greens, vibrant color accents, Incan-inspired patterns and typography that work together to act as a bridge between the past and the present. Design elements, from the textured brand icons to the central illustration, help bring the beautiful mountain of Machu Picchu to the palm of each person’s hand.
Firma also led content and marketing including communications and social media strategy and creative on the launch campaign. “We were responsible for managing and creating all of Machu Picchu Energy’s content,” says Firma’s co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer Anton Pinyol. “This extended to content featuring the brand ambassadors, Peruvian mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado and two-time World Surfing Champion John John Florence. Like Machu Picchu, both are socially conscious with a passion for environmentalism and helping children in need. We worked with them to create content and develop a social strategy that allowed them to bring attention to these important issues.”
Not content to sit on the sidelines, Firma also became actively involved, participating in Machu Picchu Energy’s educational program called BevLaunch. This interactive workshop gave students in underserved communities access to the business world by teaching them about socially conscious entrepreneurship. Firma stepped in to lead sessions on branding and design at Miami Dade County Public Schools to help students launch a fictitious, mission-based beverage company – covering everything from creating the brand and formula to pitching their idea to local VCs.
For Firma, this program was the ultimate embodiment of their own broader mission – demonstrating the power of creativity and each brand’s ability to push for real social impact. “This was a project that really allowed us to apply all of our skills and passions toward building a brand with a purpose we can really get behind,” adds Lite. “Bernardo and Scharff were more than clients, but friends and like-minded souls with a genuine desire to give back. To be able to work with both has been inspiring and we’re proud to support them in their mission to help build a better world.”