Being Influential in the Beverage Industry

people around a table talking

By: Hanifa Sekandi

It’s no secret that influencer marketing is pivotal to your marketing strategy. Of course, brands can opt out and avoid it altogether. Many brands do not use influencer marketing to grow their business or notoriety.

  Understandably, there is pressure to conform to this new modern marketing norm. Initially, influencers were frowned upon. The idea of allocating thousands of dollars of your marketing budget to a niche food blog was unthinkable. It is still a marketing strategy that many struggle to wrap their minds around. Also, there is no guarantee that you will see an instant return on your investment. On the other side of the coin, there are benefits to influencer marketing. The proof is in the pudding when you look at brands that have found great success with influencer marketing. Overnight, these brands have become household names, expanding their reach to an untapped market.

  The popularity of the Stanley Cup is an example of an influencer’s ability to influence buying decisions. Not all influencer marketing successes are purposeful. Your brand may experience unexpected success from an unsolicited review from Bethenny Frankel! Your consumers’ buying power is more than just an increase in revenue. An honest review on social media or a write-up on a blog can be impactful.

  Hopefully, you have taken the time to build and create a noteworthy beverage. Aside from great packaging, is it a high-quality beverage? Does it measure up? Simply, does it taste good? Have you perfected the product? If you walk the aisles of a beer or liquor store, you will likely meet a fellow whiskey enthusiast or ale expert. The in-store influencer with first-hand experience trying your product is who you should appeal to first. Before social media, people were influenced by a friend of a friend. Word-of-mouth sold your product.

Building an Influencer Marketing Strategy

  Your why – why your brand is notable will be at the forefront of this strategy. It might be a good idea to have this visible at all times when devising any marketing strategy. It is easy to veer off your path if this is unclear. Why your beverage? Why are you so passionate about your product? Your why is your company’s mission statement. It will look different from your competitors, as it should. From here, brainstorm what kind of social media in the beverage sector is compelling. What draws you in? Depending on the size of your marketing team, write a list of marketing campaigns you have liked online that made you go out and buy the product. It does not have to be in the beverage industry. The main objective is to discern why this marketing campaign inspired you to purchase that item or beverage.

   People connect to things or products that draw meaning in their lives. A popular alcoholic beverage is more than just a good time for many people. It is also an imprint of a memory – a moment in time that reminds them of their wedding or a first date, a trip to Ireland or a celebration with friends and family. There is a reason why people fight over the best tequila and why just any tequila will never do. The same is true for those who enjoy a cold beer. Your influencer marketing strategy is not about numbers. It is about being impactful. The influencers you select to showcase your brand must align with your brand’s mission. It does not matter if they have one million followers if the stories they tell do not support your long-term goals.

Effective influencer marketing strategies require research. Once you have zeroed in on influencer campaigns that inspire your team, it is time to curate a list of influencers who create content that supports your vision. Influencers are storytellers. The storyteller for your beverage must get the story right. What does an effective influencer marketing strategy have?

●   Clear direction: Do you know who you are? Are you a botanical gin? If so, you should lean towards influencers who create content that supports a healthy lifestyle. Who thrive on creating content that is about finding alternatives for mainstream gins. An influencer who drinks organic alcohol will most likely create content that supports their lifestyle choice to consume clean beverages. Avoid the temptation to solicit a well-known influencer who does not create content that supports who you purport your brand to be. At the onset, this is a good idea. But remember, influencer marketing is not a one-and-done game.

●   What is your message? Influencers need to know every detail about your brand. Do not send your beverage to them and hope for the best. A marketing manager should spend time with them going over product education. A media deck should be available for reference during the campaign. Once you have provided the information, they should use their unique storytelling ability to convey the message to their audience. Generally, for experienced influencers, you will not need to approve their content before sharing. But when working with micro-influencers, review all content before it is shared. An influencer with experience will know that they should not deviate from brand messaging. A newer influencer may not be aware of industry protocols. You should not have any issues if you did your due diligence during strategic planning. Pre-approved content prevents brand inconsistencies.

Understanding Your Audience

  Now that you have selected your list of influencers to collaborate with, do not be afraid to audit your list. Do a deep dive into their storytelling style first. As tempting as it may be, ignore the numbers initially. Study all their content, from blogs to social media. If you spot more than five things that do not align with your brand, remove them from your influencer outreach plans. This does not mean that they are not great at what they do. It just means that they might not connect with your audience. Or, they may create content that does not support your brand mission statement.

  A thin line exists between having a successful influencer marketing campaign with the right influencer and tarnishing your brand with the wrong influencer. Celebrity chefs or food bloggers are often popular choices for beverage brands looking to dip their toes into this unpredictable marketing terrain. It is low risk and generally a good return on investment. The food and beverage sectors pair well together.

  Focusing your influencer marketing strategy on your targeted audience will help you express your desires if you work with a PR agency. Most influencers work through an agency, which can complicate the relationship since a third party is involved. Be clear. Do not get easily swayed. Some agencies represent other beverage brands and have strong influencer relationships. Some agencies are influencer-focused and manage a roster of talent. Your budget needs to account for the types of agencies you choose to work with if you do not contact the influencer directly.

  Agency fees should be included in your budget and separate from what an influencer would charge you. Ask your agency to illustrate influencer rates and agency fees clearly. Some agencies focus exclusively on food and beverage marketing. You are more likely to find an influencer with an audience you would like to reach if you work with a team that understands the importance of targeted marketing. They will ensure that you get the results you desire since they have an in-depth understanding of the beverage industry.

Hire In-House

  No one will know your product better than someone who works for your company. Hiring an in-house brand ambassador might be the right direction for your brewery. Did you know many influencers start blogging or social media channels to build an online portfolio? They do this to get recognition or a position at a reputable beverage or food company. Since experience matters, and there are few opportunities to build your resume, they create a portfolio of expertly curated marketing content. Hire an in-house content creator who understands your audience and has experience creating marketing content that appeals to them.

  Since they work exclusively for your brand, an   in-house content creator can develop a consistent online presence. Consider this to be a winning long-term marketing strategy. Another benefit is that food and beverage industry influencers have a big network of connections. As your in-house content development strategist, they can create content and work with other influencers on cross-promotion collaborations. In addition, it gives you free range to build multiple marketing campaigns without delays. Since your marketing team will work directly with them, there is no need to pre-approve content, thus giving you more control over how your brand is portrayed. While curating your influencer list, a quick LinkedIn or Muck Rack search will show you which influencers or bloggers are looking for work or offer freelance content development services.

Should You Opt Out of Influencer Marketing?

  If you are lucky, word of mouth and excellent product placement in-store is all you will need. If you are okay with slow growth and use other means to promote your beverage, then opt out. Influencer marketing is not for everyone and will not necessarily make your brand influential. It is a quick marketing tool. But it cannot be your only one.

  Before you delve into the world of influencer marketing to become the next influential beverage, make sure you are running a strategic marketing plan that will perform well on its own. Invest in in-house talent. A good marketing team may be all you need. When you decide to solicit the help of these industry gurus, you should feel confident in your beverage and the marketing materials you have implemented. Remember, influencer marketing is the bonus addition that can take you to new and unimaginable heights.

Hand Barrel Bourbon: Three Friends, One Idea and the Perfect Partnership

photo of 3 small hand barrel bottles in different colors

By Gerald Dlubala

We’ve all heard the phrase about loving it when a plan comes together. When it’s a plan that three friends come up and run with, we love it all the more. And that’s just what happened to Jim Hand, Scott Pirello and Beorn Brueckner, founding members of Hand Barrel Bourbon Company.

“It kind of started when I got recruited by Scott Pirello, a college friend, to play on a men’s softball team,” said Hand. “Scott was working on a project to make cool bottles for packaging. I thought it might be cool to make a whiskey bottle that resembles a real barrel and fill it with quality whiskey to sell. The initial idea was honestly as simple as that.”

Hand and Pirello were both fans of brown spirits and always considered the whiskey industry an exciting arena. They also believed that their bottle idea might just be good enough to attain what would become their first goal of surviving their first year in business. Well, they’ve not only reached that goal, which occurred the last week of October 2023, but they’ve done very well in their first year with an idea that admittedly seemed backward.

“Our approach was different, going from packaging first to the product inside,” said Hand. “But getting into the spirits market without some huge backing is tough. We brought in a third partner, Beorn Brueckner, who attended high school with Scott. Beorn was the GM of a bar in Boston during the pandemic and was now looking for something else. His industry experience fits in perfectly with what we needed, and he currently runs many operations within the company. Scott is our CEO and numbers guy. Additionally, Scott has an entrepreneurial background and experience starting and selling businesses. Without him, there would be no Hand Barrel Bourbon. He had the know-how to start this thing up and run with it. I come from a software sales background and now handle the sales and marketing aspects of the business. So, that’s the whole company, three friends and equal partners.”

Using Unique Packaging to Tell a Story

Hand tells Beverage Master Magazine that it came down to three friends getting together with an idea for a different and unique packaging idea and decided to put premium bourbon into it to sell to the public. Hand says that they knew they would run the risk of consumers thinking their bottle may just be a gimmick to sell their product. But the Hand Barrel Bourbon bottles are instead a motif, providing packaging that tells a story of what is inside the bottle. 

“We sell our single barrel, small batch in the white barrel bottle, signifying the unique minerals and deposits found in the Kentucky water,” said Hand. “Our double-oaked comes in a black, charred finish bottle, signifying the barrels and type of exposure the spirit encounters along its journey. These are specific ingredients and attributes to Kentucky bourbon whiskey, and we want to recognize, respect and make note of those attributes through our packaging.”

Partnering with the Right Contract Distiller is Key

After settling on the bottles, packaging, and message they wanted to send, the group had to find a contract distiller. Hand says they didn’t have the time or capital to start up and wait five or six years, so the search was on to find the best partner for them and their situation.

“We happened into Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky,” said Hand. “We tried their products, looked at their facilities and met the people behind the brand. From that day forward, they became the perfect partner and our contract distillery. It really was a slam dunk for us, and we are now completely vertically integrated with them. They are a state-of-the-art distiller with the best column in the industry. It is our mash bill that we use, a 64-24-12 sweet mash recipe. It’s not the traditional higher corn content (70 to 78 percent) of many bourbons. We wanted to try something a little different. There aren’t as many high-rye mash bills out in the market. We come in at 105 proof, which we believe is the sweet spot for bourbon and the perfect place to land. And because our bottles are preprinted, we don’t deviate from that number. Our barrels age at Bardstown’s facilities, and we use their blending team and bottling line. Our responsibility is to provide the mashbill, the marketing and the cool bottles to package our product.”

Hand says its goal is to provide a bourbon experience that positively appeals to all the senses, including touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

“We want our bourbon to be a total experience,” said Hand. “It’s an excellent-tasting, authentic Kentucky bourbon whiskey wrapped in a unique bottle that consumers will proudly display in their home or on their bar.”

One of those unique bottles was a special-release camouflage bottle.

“All three of us have connections or ties to the military somehow,” said Hand. “The camouflage bottle was our first special release and offered us the opportunity to give back 10 percent of sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SWOF) to benefit families of our fallen Special Operators. We feel that anytime we can give back to one of our military organizations, it’s absolutely worth it. It was a huge success, and we’re looking into other partnership releases. We’re considering things like NCAA or professional sports teams as well as personalized bottles for special occasions”.

Hand says their bottles would make perfect gifts for weddings, groomsmen’s and bridesmaids’ gifts or to celebrate and commemorate special occasions for clubs, groups and organizations. He also mentioned single-barrel picks to make the occasion even more distinctive.

“The bottle is one thing we can change to meet our customer’s special occasion needs,” said Hand. “That’s our edge in the marketplace. You can really only stretch one mash bill about three different ways, ending in a small batch, single barrel and double-oaked, similar to what we did. But we can also change the bottle to create something unique, distinctive and special for our customers.”

Pinpoint Focus and Smart Decisions Will Shape the Future

“We’ve been in business and on shelves for over a year now,” said Hand. “We started in just two states, Massachusetts and Kentucky. We had a minimal release our first year, maybe 6,000 bottles, and sold out within the first two to three months. That was a testament to the acceptance of our idea and gave us the confidence to try to gain market share. We’ve since added 19 more states to our distribution areas and are looking toward expansion and continued growth. We’ve had talks with Canada, South Korea and Japan, who all have interest in our bottles.”

“You know, we have a potentially wide footprint with customized bottles,” said Hand. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very daunting because we can go in many different directions. Since our path can go in so many different and diverse ways, we, especially as a small business, must focus on the best opportunities for us. If we have so much as a flop of 2,000 to 3,000 bottles, it would be very detrimental to us. We have to be careful about our choices and focus on what we need to do to build our business and gain customer commitment. We have to focus on who can commit to the best volumes early to get that extra volume and padding for us as a business. We’d love to eventually be able to do as little as six to 12 bottle orders for weddings or parties with names and dates, offering that custom gift for the guy or girl who has everything.”

Joining the Welcoming Community of Distilled Spirits

“The biggest surprise I’ve had along this journey is the general welcomeness of the bourbon industry. I mean, it really has been noticeable,” Hand said. “I was sitting with other bourbon reps trying to launch a market, and we were all sharing drinks, ideas and information. Unlike some other businesses, there weren’t any highly secretive behaviors or unwillingness to share our experiences. It helps everyone to grow with a better chance of success. This industry uniquely welcomes newcomers; everyone I’ve come into contact with has been willing to help and give quality advice. This industry is such a big piece of the overall spirits pie that we can all succeed. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, which is a truly refreshing and beneficial approach. Spirits consumers traditionally welcome variety. We love to build our bar cart with a variety of diverse brands. It’s just fun to build your display to share with friends, whether for a hobbyist or a serious collector. It’s a pretty straightforward sales approach.”

Displaying Products Together Boosts Sales

Hand tells Beverage Master Magazine that he learned a ton about the industry, which was expected. What sticks out for Hand and the other founders of Hand Barrel Bourbon is that along their path, they’ve noticed a distinct advantage to having all their products together on a shelf displayed as a suite or grouping. Because of their unique bottles and the meanings behind those bottles, when the products all stand together in unison on a shelf display, they combine to show and tell a story that ultimately leads to an increase in sales. Hand Barrel Bourbon’s sales are better when their products stand together, even if that means giving up less width on the shelf in return.

“When it comes down to it, we are just three friends who raised a little bit of money and came up with an idea that we thought was pretty cool, and we want to make an impact on the market with quality products that we are proud to offer, and that consumers are equally proud to own.”

Find more information on Hand Barrel Bourbon at www.handbarrel.com.

How to Disrupt the Beverage Industry with New Marketing Strategies

Jorge Olson

By Jorge Olson — Co-founder & CMO of Hempacco and Green Globe International, Author of “Build Your Beverage Empire

The beverage industry is growing rapidly, with innovators entering the space year after year touting the next big idea. The global beverages market is expected to grow from $3.56 trillion in 2023 to $4.39 trillion by 2028 at a CAGR of 4.26%, allowing room for disruptors to enter the space, especially considering two of the largest growing categories in the beverage industry are hemp beverages and mushroom beverages.

If you are set on being one of those disruptive entities in the beverage industry, you will want to devise some novel marketing strategies that will set them apart from the competition. Those entering the beverage industry or seeking to retool their marketing approach need to consider several factors, including budget, target audience, and branding.

Entering today’s beverage industry

The beverage industry comprises a litany of products, from ales and liquors to flavored seltzers, hard teas and lemonades, and more. As consumer demand grows, innovators in the beverage space churn out an abundance of ever-expanding options, and as markets continue to grow, more opportunities arise for beverage companies to get a foothold.

With over 2,000 beverage companies in the United States alone, effective marketing is more important than ever before. Marketing builds awareness of your brand and is especially integral to launching and growing new businesses within the beverage space.

The cost of launching and scaling a new business — especially one tied to a physical product — can be high. If you are seeking to disrupt a long-standing industry with a new product idea, you must be savvy about your marketing budget to have the greatest impact and bang for your buck.

Every marketing strategy begins with a great idea that should be formed with consideration to what consumers are seeking but not finding in the current market. The beverage’s formula should be consistent before being unleashed onto the market, and the opinions of experts and stakeholders should also be considered. Being thoughtful about your actions before launching can help you avoid costly (or embarrassing) mistakes.

The beverage industry is incredibly competitive, but with the right product and the right marketing strategies, your product can make considerable waves.

Innovative marketing approaches

In an industry that can be as crowded as the beverage space, new businesses will be required to think outside of the box concerning marketing approaches. The old standard marketing strategies will not likely garner enough engagement to disrupt such a massive industry.

Savvy marketing can also help consumers create an emotional connection to your brand. Many beverages can be connected to moments or memories for consumers — that bottle of Coca-Cola they shared with their dad on a fishing trip or their very first beer when they turned 21. Tapping into these emotional markers can help elevate a brand and solidify the brand’s story within the current culture.

There are several innovative marketing strategies that your beverage company can leverage, but your chosen strategy (or strategies) should depend on the market you are targeting, your specific product, location, budget, and several other factors. The thoughtful pre-planning discussed in the previous section will help determine the right strategy to meet their goals.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is nothing new, but it is constantly changing. It seems that with every introduction of a new platform or a change in an algorithm, the goalposts for marketers are moved.

Today’s approach to social media marketing utilizes a variety of platforms for a diversified strategy. TikTok is still going strong as the platform of choice for many Gen Zers, but older generations may still prefer Facebook or Instagram. This means you can capture a larger slice of your target demographic by splitting marketing among the various popular platforms.

Social media is still suitable for quickly sharing content with a large number of people and is still the best way to create a personal connection with your target market. By engaging with people across the platforms, answering questions, and sharing content they want to see, you can grow your social media following and brand recognition.

Even though social media is not a new marketing tactic, it is constantly changing and creating new hurdles for business owners. Remaining aware of changes and best practices will allow you to get the most out of social media use.

AI and new technology

It seems like everywhere you look; artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over. For marketers who know how to harness its power with predictive analytics, AI could revolutionize how products are created specifically for consumers. Through AI technology, consumer products like beverages can be designed to exactly what customers want and marketed to the market at large based on what they want or need.

Through AI-enabled packaging creation, specific segments of a market can be targeted and catered to. Branding, ingredients, feel, and culture can be considered — allowing businesses to elevate their new product above other products in the market.

AI also allows companies to gather data on consumer reactions to marketing campaigns quickly and accurately. With this data, businesses can quickly assess whether a campaign is working — or if they need to shift focus.

High-quality content marketing

The best brands are not just products on a shelf. They are entities with which people develop connections.

To help foster those meaningful connections, businesses should focus on creating high-quality content around their brand. This can include blog content that shares brand-related stories or learning opportunities. It can also include video content showing behind-the-scenes making your beverage product or people enjoying it in real-life scenarios.

The focus of your content marketing should be quality and engagement, so take a look at what your competitors do with their own content marketing and strive to do something different. Quality content marketing can drive new sales, create new customers, and help you unveil new products.

Paid advertising

Like social media, paid advertising is not a new approach but is being approached in new ways. As we enter the new year, video is still ruling the internet, so incorporating video content into your paid online ads will allow your ad to stand out over the ads that feature only static images or simple copy.

When approached correctly — and with your target market always in mind — paid ads can be incredibly effective. In fact, recent studies show that paid YouTube ads are 84% more likely to capture viewer attention than traditional TV ads, which can be far more expensive.

The way people consume media is always changing. Targeting the most viewed platforms with your paid advertisements will ensure better reach and engagement.

Seize the season

It’s an oft-repeated marketing myth that the Coca-Cola company owns the “rights” to Santa Claus. While that is not true, the company did have a hand in creating some of Santa’s most recognizable features for a 1931 marketing campaign. The white beard, the rosy cheeks, and twinkling eyes combined with Coca-Cola’s red and white branding became solidified in the cultural zeitgeist, forever connecting Coca-Cola and Christmas.

Beverage companies are positioned well to seize seasonal marketing opportunities. The dog days of summer go well with a crisp lemonade, while the dead of winter leaves many craving a hot cocoa or hot toddy.

Beverages are a part of gatherings, milestone moments, and seasonal celebrations, no matter the time of year. By connecting emotion with brand recognition, marketers can use seasonal positioning to further their reach.

Brand partnerships

With our hyper-connected world, forging brand partnerships is easier than ever before. Beverage companies have created some famous brand partnerships over time, such as GoPro and Red Bull, or Bonne Bell and Dr. Pepper.

With a brand partnership, a mutually beneficial collaboration is formed. New products can leverage the popularity of the established brand, and the partner company can have something novel to share with its audience. Brand partnerships can also allow a beverage company to create exciting new taste combinations or product ideas.

If you are interested in finding another company for a brand partnership, consider their target audience and brand identity. That potential partner’s goals should match your own to forge a successful collaboration.

Engaging events

When a beverage hits the scene, the creators often host a launch event to introduce the beverage to the market. This marketing strategy is still valid, but beverage creators seeking to disrupt the status quo should put a lot of time and effort into making their event stand out among the competition.

Knowing your audience lets you know who to invite to your event to get your new beverage in front of the right people. The proper venue and the right theme can also help elevate your event from just a simple launch to a night no one will soon forget. However, hosting elaborate launch events can be pricey, so an ROI analysis should be performed before you go all-in on the “event of the century.”

The goal of any marketing campaign is to increase visibility and engagement surrounding your new product. If you aim to disrupt an industry as long-standing and — let’s face it — crowded as the beverage industry, your marketing approach will need to be thoughtful, well-researched, and novel if you wish for it to make the intended impact.

By considering emerging marketing approaches and developing new takes on old marketing standards, a new beverage business with a great product idea can thrive.

Is Your Tweet an Advertisement?

photo of someone holding a cell phone up to a glass of beer to take a photo

By: Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

Members of the alcoholic beverage industry should be aware that TTB regulations require certain mandatory information and prohibit some practices and statements in all advertising of alcoholic products and brands.  But, what constitutes advertising may be broader than some members realize.  Specifically, how the rules apply to the expanding realm of social media may be a bit of a surprise.

What is an Advertisement?

  “Advertisement,” as defined in 27 CFR Parts 4, 5, and 7, for wine, spirits, and malt beverages, respectively, includes any verbal statement, illustration, or depiction that is in, or calculated to induce sales in, interstate or foreign commerce, or is disseminated by mail.  The regulations further provide that the requirements for such advertisements apply regardless of the means of dissemination.  Some of the specific examples listed in the regulations include: radio or television broadcast, newspaper, periodical, publication, sign, menu, book insert, or by electronic or internet media.  The TTB considers “electronic or internet media” to include all forms of social media.

Required Information

  All advertisements must include the responsible advertiser’s name and either its city and state or other contact information, such as a telephone number, website, or email address.  If the advertisement refers to a general line of products (beer, wine, or spirits) or all of the products by the company or brand name, then no more information is required.  If the advertisement refers to a specific product, however, then it must also include a conspicuous statement of the class, type, or distinctive designation to which the product belongs.  This statement must match what is on the product label.  For example, if the product is labeled as a “Rum with natural flavors,” an ad that identifies the product only as “Rum” would be non-compliant.  Further, in the case of distilled spirits, the ad must also include a statement of alcohol content and, if applicable, the percentage of neutral spirits and the name of the commodity from which such spirits were distilled.

Prohibited Practices

  The list of prohibited practices in the advertising of alcoholic products is too long to be inclusively presented here.  However, as a generalization, an advertisement cannot: be false or misleading in any respect; be inconsistent with the product label; contain inappropriate health-related statements; or contain representations, flags, or symbols that give the impression of endorsement or sponsorship of the armed forces or any government.

Applicability to Online Media

  Most breweries, wineries, and distilleries have a website to advertise their products and/or overall brand.  The TTB views a website and all of its subpages collectively as a single advertisement.  The required information, therefore, only has to appear in one part of the website to be compliant.  The information, however, cannot be hidden; it must be conspicuous, readily legible, and apparent to persons viewing the advertisement.  While the TTB does not require a specific location on the website, it recommends that information be presented in the place consumers would typically expect.  For example, name and contact information is typically found in the “about,” “profile,” or “contact us” section.  Class, type, and alcohol content for specific products would be expected to be found on the “shop” or “products” page.  One potential problem occurs with mobile versions of websites.  They are often structured differently from their desktop counterparts and are, therefore, considered a separate advertisement and must independently be compliant with the regulations.

Social Networks and Media Sharing Sites

  Social Network Services, such as Facebook and LinkedIn are treated very similarly to websites.  Viewed as a whole, they commonly contain required name and contact information on a main page or “about” section.  In that case, individual posts may not have to contain the mandatory information.  There are exceptions for shareable content, however, as discussed below for Media Sharing Sites.

  Media Sharing Sites, such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., allow companies to share photographs, videos, gifs.  As with websites and social network services, the TTB views a company’s media sharing site as a single advertisement. So, if the profile or about section of the site contains the required information, the company is generally compliant.  However, if the posted media content can be downloaded or shared by viewers, it is considered to have been disseminated by the advertiser and the content stands on its own as a separate advertisement.  So, for example, if a brewery posts a video introducing a new product and that video can be downloaded or shared by viewers, the video itself must contain all of the mandatory information.

Blogs and Microblogs

  Blogs allow a company to post stories, commentaries, images, videos and other content.  They are commonly included in a section of the company’s website and, if so, may rely on the mandatory information presented elsewhere on the website.  If the blog stands alone, separate from the website, or is electronically disseminated, then it is a separate advertisement and must independently be compliant.  Microblogs, such as Twitter and Tumblr, are different because they have a maximum character number that makes each post very short.  Because of these limitations, the TTB recognizes that the mandatory information cannot be included in each post.   Instead, to be compliant, the advertiser must provide the information either on their microblog profile page or use a descriptive link that directs the viewer to a separate webpage containing the information.

  Outside Links

  Advertisers will often include links and QR codes that direct viewers to sites outside of the original advertisement.  Similarly, a product label may allow viewers to access an augmented reality video or image.  So long as such outside content is only accessible using the product label or other advertisement that already contains the mandatory information, nothing else is required.  Otherwise, the content would have to be independently compliant.

Social Media Influencers

  Building a large following on social media can be difficult, especially for small, local businesses.  To broaden the scope of brand awareness, some turn to others who already have a large following to help promote their products.  These social media influencers may post content created by the company or may create their own content on the company’s behalf.  If the TTB determines that the post was published or caused to be published by the company or that the company compensated the influencer for publishing the content, it will be treated as an advertisement by the company and it must be compliant with TTB regulations.  The mandatory information may be provided through a clearly marked link to the company’s website, for example.

Beware the “Like” Button

  One of the benefits of social media is that the user does not have to create all its own content.  Posts created by others can be shared or “liked” by a company, which allows that content to be viewed on the company’s own page.  Doing so helps to build a following as a third-party whose content is shared is more likely to reciprocate, broadening the reach of company’s own content.  However, because shared or liked content then appears in the company’s feed, it becomes a part of the company’s advertisement and must, therefore, be compliant.  This is typically not a problem with regard to the mandatory information, because that is already included in the company’s profile.  However, the shared content must also not include any prohibited practices.  For example, if a distillery comes out with a new product that is a “rum with natural flavors,” and they share or like a user’s post in which they refer to the product only as a “rum,” they could be viewed as being noncompliant, because the ad is inconsistent with the product label. 

Conclusion

  The rules for advertising an alcoholic product or brand on social media really are not any different from the rules for advertising in more traditional media.  Issues may arise, however, because social media enables new and different ways of presenting information and it may not always be obvious that they are advertisements.  Further, because of the ease of disseminating content, it can become detached from its original source, which would take it out of compliance if it does not contain the mandatory information.  Having an attorney periodically review social media content and/or train marketing staff may help to avoid compliance issues. 

The information presented in this article is based upon TTB Industry Circular 2022-2 and the regulations contained in 27 CFR §§4.60-65, 5.231-236, and 7.231-236.  Review of those materials is recommended.

  Brian Kaider is the principal of KaiderLaw, a law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of licensing and regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.

Real World & Digital Marketing Beverage Trends-2024

marketing trends seen in 2 monitors

By: Hanifa Sekandi

The beverage race requires a lot of grit and stamina. It is about the long game and certainly not short wins. Although, every brand aspires to be the viral brand of the moment. What the alcoholic beverage industry learned in 2023 is that not all trends are beneficial to your bottom line. Also, your consumer values quality more than social acclaim. Let’s be honest: online growth is integral to modern marketing success. Although out-of-home (OOH) marketing is still viable, it must be coupled with innovative digital marketing strategies.

  So, where do you start in your next marketing cycle? Now that you have wrapped up your holiday marketing campaign, a new year brings endless opportunities to become a standout brand or to keep your current notoriety.

Where the Real World Meets the Digital World

  Subliminal marketing will never get old. Although some consider it to be an archaic marketing strategy, it is not. Have you ever walked or driven by a billboard of a chicken sandwich by a popular food chain and then later that day see the same ad while you scroll through social media? By the end of the week, when that hunger strikes, it is likely that you will find yourself either making a chicken sandwich with a recipe you stumbled upon on TikTok or firing up your food delivery app to order one.

  Traditional marketing still works, although it is hard to measure the return on your investment with tangible metrics. Remember, before the digital world took over, advertisers spent a lot of time creating campaigns for magazines, billboards, benches, buses or anywhere they could display. It worked, and it still does. What digital advertisers understand from this method is that the more people see something, the more likely they are to gravitate toward it when they are browsing through beverage options at the store. Something new is always worth a try when it is familiar.

  A notable example of this is when Red Bull filled garbage bins with empty cans of Red Bull. They also had empty cans placed outside of London’s popular clubs while at the same time distributing their beverage to DJs. Simple but amazingly effective.

  Another fitting example of this is Taiwan Beer’s use of Honey Beer Drones to deliver complimentary six packs of Honey Beer, the brand’s new beverage, to those who registered on their website. As a result, within just 10 days, 15,000 people subscribed. This interactive guerilla marketing strategy worked well because it highlighted the use of honey in the beer and added a visual effect that people could see, film, share and talk about. It also added another great component: delivery through drones, and tech aficionados approved of this creative delivery tool. Both brands understood that real-time marketing strategies allow consumers to feel connected to the brand.

  As you look ahead at your marketing strategies, keep in mind that people are expecting more than just digital strategies. Also, the assumption that your consumer only exists in the digital world is erroneous. With that said, digital marketing does matter. It is up to you to do the research to discern what digital strategy will best position your beverage in this competitive landscape. Hopefully, your brand mission and messaging clearly define your “why” – why your brand was made just for your intended consumer, and your “who,” – who your consumers are. How does your brand complement their lifestyles and their buying decisions when they purchase an alcoholic beverage?

Beverage Marketing in the Digital World

  Welcome to the modern digital world. It is not old, but honestly, it feels new since every day, there is something new on the horizon. Currently, AI technology is said to disrupt modern-day advertising. As you begin to adopt some of these tools, do not get carried away. Remember, these tools are meant to enhance your digital marketing strategy and, in some cases, streamline processes so you can spend time on other tasks. So, what are digital trends to implement into your next marketing cycle in the new year?

Video Marketing: Creating compelling visual marketing is no longer an afterthought. Companies need to invest in the talent and tools to create videos, both long and short-form clips, to highlight online. Consider these videos as mini commercials that can be uploaded to your social media channels or used as strategically placed ads. Your marketing team should perform A/B testing on the desired platform to see which videos are worthwhile paid ads. You may find that some videos perform quite well on Instagram as a reel, while others perform better on TikTok, YouTube or Facebook. Many great and easy-to-use marketing tools allow you to create videos. The benefit of these tools is that they allow you to create a lot of visual content and allocate your marketing budget effectively. Video marketing should also include testimonials by real consumers.

Curated Marketing: As you know, it is a numbers game, so your company must understand analytics to develop marketing campaigns that target specific consumers. Email marketing campaigns fall short when you do not invest the time to understand your customers. Paired with mobile marketing, having a good grasp of analytics and using this data to create personalized marketing campaigns will improve your open rate and engagement. For example, some consumers prefer to receive newsletters that feature sales and discounts, whereas others enjoy reading blogs that are informative while also displaying your product. There are many CRM tools for marketing now. Finding one that works for your team should top your list as the new year approaches. For example, HubSpot and Klaviyo are great tools for segmented marketing campaigns.

Real World Beverage Marketing

  Once you have a digital marketing strategy, devise a real-world marketing strategy to enhance and complement it. You may also choose to start with OOH marketing strategies before you delve into digital ones, but the two are needed for a complete package. In addition, you cannot assume that your digital strategy is the only golden ticket to success. If your goal is to be in the alcoholic beverage sector for the long haul, it is best not to rely solely on one strategy. Although spending time online has become the modern-day norm, it does not account for the real-time moments that people experience in their daily lives. Endcaps at grocery stores, miniature bottles placed by the cash counter or free samples or coupons handed out on the way into a store create real-world experiences for consumers. Earned marketing builds trust. Other than advertising in magazines or utilizing display ads, what are other ways to market your brand in real-time?

Experiential Events: Create experiential events where people can taste your beverage. This is a common strategy by agencies when marketing to the press and influencers. Instead, invite your consumer to these events! Partner with bars and restaurants to create events such as tastings or food pairing menus that highlight your beverage. Most hotel bars and restaurants have happy hours. Offer to sponsor a happy hour. Not only does this encourage these establishments to carry your beverage, but it also creates a fruitful partnership. They are also more likely to recommend your drink to customers, as well.

Think Outside the Box, OOH Marketing: The more you are seen, the more likely you will become an option. Some brands have cut down their marketing budgets in this regard. Understandably, digital marketing appears to be the most viable strategy. Do not get lost in the idea of going viral. It is nice to have, but consider it as luck of the draw. Just make a high-quality product and build authentic, evergreen marketing strategies. Reserve some of your expenditure for OOH Marketing. Oddly enough, these ads make their way into the digital sphere if they are buzzworthy.

  A splendid example is Corona’s billboard display in Brighton, Great Britain. When Corona wanted to highlight that their beverage is made with natural ingredients, they painted a wall with their brand’s classic yellow and placed the signature Corona label in the center. At a specific time, when the position of the sun changed, between 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., a bottle overlay of beer appeared along with text that said, “made from the natural world.” During this time, people could view the classic Corona bottle. Now, this is not only something to talk about but also a great intersection of digital marketing via social shares. 

Make 2023 Holiday Beverage Sales a December to Remember

Photo of different bottles and glasses and cans of beer and spirits hanging from branches

By: Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan – Founder of Loan Mantra

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Holiday season is in full swing so it’s time for one and all to get out of the house. Celebrating the holidays looks different for many people whether that be shopping for friends and family, attending parties or making a toast with a good cocktail or beer. And it’s a peak time for restaurants and bars.

  Festivities can bring more customers into your restaurant as they spend more time eating out with friends and family. Plus, there’s always a lineup of Christmas parties, concerts and winter festivals, so many people don’t have time to cook at home.

  It’s the perfect time for a promotional strategy to kick into high gear. Holiday marketing campaigns capture the joy of the season and encourage valued customers to indulge in a special meal, dessert and/or drinks. There are a variety of options to help your establishment standout. Here are some thought starters:

●   Sponsor a Charity Nigh: Choose a charity of your choice (Toys for Tots, Make a Wish, or a local charity) and select a night or two during the month to donate a portion of your sales to that program. If you can, a local charity is much more likely to draw in more customers, as people flock to support their community. Make sure you market which date you are choosing to do this, and when it’s over, update your customers on the total amount raised. Fun fact: According to National Giving Month, 31% of annual giving happens in the month of December.

●   Offer Gift Cards: The National Retail Federation (NRF), surveys consumers on their spending on holidays and seasonal events throughout the year. Over the last decade, consumers have been kicking off their holiday shopping early in order to spread out their budgets and avoid the stress of holiday shopping. Continuing the trend this year, 60% of holiday shoppers started browsing and buying by early November. Having gift cards available makes it easy for consumers to grab a gift card, apply money to the card for their loved one/friend and stuff it away until their holiday for a present or a stocking stuffer. So, what gift made it to the top of the wish list? It’s gift cards!

●   Add Holiday Spirit to Your Online Presence: Use holiday-themed stock images, Create holiday-themed social media posts using free online templates as a guide on sites like Canva, Ripl and PosterMyWall. Use festive images to engage your audience and update your social media graphics to quickly freshen up your accounts and help boost engagement.

●   Host A Fun Event: Draw people in by hosting fun, quirky events such as an Ugly Sweater Party. This is sure to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Anyone who’s wearing an ugly sweater, enters the contest. From there, an ugly sweater fashion parade is a must. A few possible categories: most festive, most original, just plain ugliest etc. Winner of each category gets a free shot/drink of choice.

●   Holiday-Inspired Drink Menu: Spiked eggnog, peppermint cocktails, holiday-inspired shots, all these drinks help capture the essence of this loved season. With minimal risk and utilization of current inventory, launching a new drink menu is a no-brainer! Seasonal drink menus appeal to new customers and build intangible relationships with your restaurant’s loyal guest base by reinforcing brand concepts and generating spontaneity within the restaurant. This operation, if done efficiently, provides a foundation for increased profit margins.

●   Host a Tasting or Pairing Event: The National Restaurant Association research indicates that the sale of alcoholic beverages can be a key driver to restaurants. Eighty-four percent of adults who drink wine, beer, or cocktails say that restaurants are a good place to learn about new alcoholic beverages while 82% of these consumers say they trust the staff at their local restaurants to make good recommendations when it comes to alcohol beverages. These facts present a great opportunity. Why not host exclusive tasting events for VIP customers? Or hold tasting events which pair the perfect cocktail or beer with the perfect starter, meal or desert? In addition, 70% of beer drinkers, 69% of wine drinkers, and 67% of cocktail drinkers are more likely to say the availability of alcoholic beverages makes them more likely to choose one restaurant over another.

●   Neighborhood Bar Crawl: Feeling collaborative? Team up with nearby bars and restaurants to host a bar crawl. A successful bar crawl is often organized with a predetermined route, listing a selection of bars to visit within a specific timeframe. Oftentimes, bar crawls follow a theme, like a polar bear crawl. So have your bar themed out and guests dressed accordingly! A bar crawl can do wonders for your business. Bar crawls not only bring a flood of new customers to your bar but also creates an atmosphere sure to attract more customers. It’s a great mix of entertainment and growth for your business. Organizing a bar crawl, or getting your bar included in one, requires strategic planning. Partnering with other local businesses, advertising the event, and creating a fun and welcoming atmosphere are all key to a successful bar crawl.

●   Make a Seasonal Favorite: Create a themed drink or special brew that is only offered once per year – think McDonalds Shamrock Shake and Starbucks Pumpkin Latte to get customers talking. Keep the customers’ senses in mind – what visuals, sound and texture can be incorporated to highlight the experience? How will the customer interact with the brand (via server, bartender, store pick up)? How can the presentation be kicked up to give it a little more sizzle as it’s being served? What elements could be included to help recreate the ultimate customer experience each time? 

  Holiday marketing can help you boost revenue, solidify relationships with current customers and gain new ones this holiday season to help make this sales season a December to remember.

About the Author

  Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan is founder and managing member of Loan Mantra. Connect with Raj: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tulshan/, Raj@loanmantra.com or 855.700.BLUE (2583), Ext. 101.

Build Sustainable Seasonal Marketing Strategies

4 assorted flowers

By: Hanifa Anne Sekandi

T’is the season to build a sustainable marketing strategy. The beauty of the beverage industry, any brand always has an opportunity to cut through the market. Do not count your brand out or assume that the big brands always finish first. What both old and new brands can learn is the importance of sustainable marketing strategies. A sustainable marketing strategy that runs congruent with the seasons. Mother Nature knows best when thinking about how to create marketing strategies that will captivate your audience. Before you begin devising your marketing plan, hopefully, you will have a clear understanding of why your brand is appealing and who your brand is made for. As you know you cannot be all things to everyone. Once you have these two essential business ideals and a brand blueprint set. Marketing strategies become clear and focused.

What is Your Focus?

  Understandably your focus is driving sales. The beverage industry is a business of making money. Although, it is driven by expert beverage artisans, history, and culture. On the world stage, the return on investments is at the forefront. Set this end goal aside for a moment and shift gears to your marketing plans. This endeavor requires direction and targeted focus. For example, Starbucks has created a great sustainable seasonal marketing strategy. They understand that there are certain times during the year that they can boost sales. How do they do this? They understand the behavior of their consumer. They focus on meeting their needs while realizing that the seasons drive buying decisions. 

  As the fall season approaches all pumpkin things will sell exceptionally well. Not only is the pumpkin in season, but it is also symbolic of a new seasonal shift. With this change, desires and behaviors change. As a beverage brand, it is important to understand the behavior of your target audience. Yearly marketing plans that focus on key variables prove to be effective. What symbols, colors, and themes draw meaning to your audience? Do they enjoy the outdoors? Where and how do they spend their time during the fall months, winter, and spring? Analyze your sales data to discern where your beverage has a high sales volume. What region, state, or town? What is the terrain and weather pattern?

  Simplify, do not overshoot your strategy — focused strategies garner long-term favorable results. It might seem like you are aiming small, but these numbers are a good framework for how to build your seasonal marketing strategies. The ripple effect will be that people who may not live in your targeted regions, and who relate to your brand messaging will be drawn to your brand. Although Starbucks may have higher sales and popularity in certain places worldwide, its targeted seasonal marketing will attract like-minded consumers in Scotland for example; fans of their product and branding. Although they may not be the star brand in this region since they will compete with local brands, they are still able to see increased sales during the holidays and seasonal shifts.

How to Build a Sustainable Seasonal Strategy

  Familiarity. Use recognizable seasonal branding that is familiar to your brand. Variations in design are admissible but familiar colors and brand mark should be implemented in targeted seasonal campaigns. Remember, people need to easily spot your brand. Your pumpkin spice lager or apple spiced rum should not be a surprise addition to consumers every year due to brand inconsistencies. What you can change is your copy. New slogans paired with familiar branding are a wonderful way to reimagine what is old and make it new. If you build a sustainable seasonal marketing strategy concisely you will not have to spend time during every new holiday or season trying to figure out how to boost sales in these competitive sales cycles. Why? Loyal consumers are attracted to consistency. Loyal consumers look forward to that cool fall branding you made last year because they know it is a limited edition exclusive to a certain time of year. 

  You might be thinking that there is always room for improvement. Surely, something new each season and year is needed to increase sales. Of course. Rather than reinvent what works, expand on it. Add marketing strategies that complement an existing marketing campaign that has yielded momentous results. The branding you used for your fall beer product line juxtaposed in a fresh setting. Last year you opted for campfire imagery and this year you may consider a tailgate theme. Fall and footfall are faithful companions. Or you can think bigger and add an outdoor projector screening a football game to a backyard setting along with a campfire, and a cooler full of pumpkin or apple lager. A familiar place where friends and family convene. In this scenario, the product remains familiar. But the marketing strategy is enhanced. Your consumers will know how to find this beer when they walk into the store. You can create impactful marketing campaigns without having to do an entire rebrand. 

Why is Seasonal Marketing Evergreen?

  What is evergreen marketing? It means that your marketing assets can be repurposed or reused with minimal changes year after year. The Tim Hortons ‘roll-up-the-rim’ marketing campaign is a notable example of this. Building strong evergreen assets should never be overlooked. Unless you just want your fifteen minutes of fame. It is okay to have a viral moment if your brand has sustainable supporting marketing material that is relevant for years to come. Always think about what is next if you plan to chase trends. When McDonald’s started putting the Happy Meal in paper bags consumers were not lovin’ it! People like the red box with golden arches. This is a sustainable evergreen marketing strategy that has proven to be timeless. Is there something unique about the items in the box, no but this box became an evergreen gold standard marketing asset. Referencing big chain brands is the easiest way to highlight why consistency and familiarity in seasonal branding and long-term marketing strategies are essential. 

  In a world where people are inundated with the next best and greatest. It is natural to default to what they can trust. Have you ever watched a classic movie every Christmas? Sure, there are other great new Christmas movies, but nothing beats Home Alone. How can your brand be the Home Alone in the beverage industry during the holidays? Further, new seasons are a perfect time for a new brand to enter the market. It is also a exciting time to introduce a new beverage. Consumers are already leaning towards seasonal buys. A good marketing strategist will do their research to understand what their target audience purchases during this time. Is it a warm cider or a pumpkin spice latte? Do they enjoy flannel clothing and long fall hikes? Put yourself in their shoes and understand how they find meaning. Give them what they are looking for.

AI Crafts Terrible Beer Ads

But Used Properly is a Valuable Customer Growth Tool

man drinking beer

By: David Wach, CEO of Handwrytten

Earlier this year, a U.K. beer advertisement created by AI went viral, but not necessarily in a good way. While the 30-second clip titled Synthetic Summer was viewed millions of times on Twitter, TikTok, Reddit and other platforms, viewers were tuning in out of horror, not because they really wanted to buy some beer. In the video, the humans enjoying a backyard barbeque appear distorted, sport extra fingers, and appear to be violently chugging beer that is not actually touching their lips. Let alone the columns of fire that are shooting out of the grills and the beer canisters that seem to morph from cans to bottles to a hybrid of both from scene to scene. This viral video is a perfect example of what AI is not yet ready to do for the beverage industry – namely create full-scale visual advertising content from scratch. But there are ways that craft beer and cocktail producers can be using to engage customers and boost sales.

  The most effective and unique way that beverage companies can use AI is through a traditional advertising method with a high-tech, modern robotic twist. A survey, conducted by Full Spectrum Insights on behalf of Handwyrtten, found that emails and text messages are, unsurprisingly, the most common way for businesses to communicate with customers but that 45% of customers would feel more valued and be more likely to make repeat purchases if they received a handwritten note. 30% of customers said handwritten notes are the most meaningful way a company could communicate with them and the least annoying, compared with the annoyance of receiving a phone call, email, or text.

  Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note. No one flips past or does not see a handwritten envelope in their mailbox. These stand out from everything else that was delivered. Recipients wonder what could be inside and while envelopes that look like bills or advertisements are set to the side, handwritten envelopes are usually opened immediately. The attention-grabbing nature of a handwritten envelope provides an instant advantage that even the biggest and most prevalent direct mail marketers cannot compete with. Handwritten envelopes have been found to have a 300% greater open rate than standard envelopes. And handwritten marketing has response rates 7-21x greater than printed mail, with a return on investment 3-7x greater than print. Some companies have even found that retention rates are 50% higher for customers who receive a handwritten thank you note.

  Rather than tasking an employee to sit at a desk with a stack of cards and envelopes and bucket of ice to alleviate hand cramps, the task of penning handwritten notes to customers can be outsourced to robots that are capable of using real pens to craft notes that are nearly indistinguishable from ones written by an actual human hand. There are also a variety of AI services available own that can help everyone from a marketing novice to a pro discover the right words to include in the message. From there, it’s about ensuring beverage companies are using the right direct mailing strategy to maximize ROI.

Spend Time On Your Call to Action

  Your call to action (CTA) may be the most important part of your direct mail campaign. This statement tells your recipients how you want them to respond and encourages them to do it. A strong CTA can boost your response rate substantially while a weak one can jeopardize your entire campaign. Every communication piece you send your customers should have a purpose. Identify it and your CTA will come naturally.

  Compelling CTAs are clear and concise. They contain actionable verbs which are impossible to misinterpret. When people read your direct mail letter, they should know what you want them to do. You can ask people outside your marketing department to read your letter and determine whether they understand what’s expected of them.

  Procrastination prevents action. Limit procrastination by adding a sense of urgency to your CTA. Asking your recipients to call today or claim a free sample by a specific deadline is more powerful than making similar statements without referencing time. The way you present your CTA can make it more compelling. White space draws the eye. Separating your CTA from the body of your letter prevents someone from overlooking it. Using a different color or font size can also help your call to action stand out. When using a generative AI program to draft a message be sure to direct it to include a CTA or to make the message time sensitive.

Use Personalized Text

  Savvy consumers will see through a handwritten form letter. Make sure you include personal details to strengthen your bond with your recipients. Using names rather than “To whom it may concern” is an important start. But you should look for other opportunities for personalization, too. Mentioning customers’ locations, past purchases, and pop culture references that people of their ages will probably appreciate are other ways you can show your recipients you’re speaking to them. This is where the human element will need to blend with the content created by the generative AI. You will need to determine a way to integrate customer information into the message created by the AI. For example, a few weeks after a customer has purchased a case of beer or cocktails, use AI to craft a thank you note for the purchase that asks the customer to share their experience and feedback on the vintage. And, linking back to the previous point about CTA, include a limited time deal if they buy the same case again soon.

Get the Timing Right

  As with all marketing campaigns, the timing of your direct mail campaigns plays a key part in their success or failure. Your direct mail will ideally reach your recipients when they’re receptive to the messages inside them.

  Getting the timing right isn’t a precise science, but you’ll do best if you put yourself in your customers’ shoes. The members of your mailing list will probably be receptive to a card promoting a great sale sent in the lead-up to Christmas when they’re searching for gift ideas and planning to spend money. Sales announcements can also be received favorably in April when your customers may have extra money from refunds on their tax returns. Your sales efforts are likely to be less effective in January when customers may suffer from a Christmas credit card hangover.

  Sending direct mail cards through your customers’ journey with your organization is also a great way to engage them and make them feel special. However, timing matters here, too. Send a card saying you have missed a customer’s business too soon and you’ll seem too insincere. However, with the right timing, this type of card can re-engage a lapsed customer and encourage a purchase. On the flip side, a letter thanking a customer for the individual’s business or referring a customer should be sent promptly. If you let too much time elapse, the thank you will seem unnatural.

Think Outside the Box

  Since households don’t receive many letters, your direct mail is already likely to be more memorable than a marketing email. However, you can increase the chances your recipients will recall your direct mail with a novelty. Think outside the box to create a direct mail campaign that makes a real impression.

  Knorr used leuco dye on a direct mail campaign for a new line of frozen food. The cheeky mailing read “Unlike any F****N dinner you’ve ever tried.” Recipients were encouraged to put the mail in the freezer. The extreme cold triggered a new message reading “FROZEN meals can be this delicious.” The quirky campaign, which had a 10.2 percent response rate, prompted 17,000 purchases. This campaign was so successful that half of the mail was delayed to help supermarkets manage the increased demand for the company’s products.

  The great part about all of these direct mail ideas is that they stay in the minds of recipients long after they open the mail. Even if your recipients don’t take action now, they’re more likely to think about your business when they need your products or services in the future. Brainstorm relevant ways you can also enhance your direct mail materials and make them distinctive, and don’t forget about finding ways to save time by implementing AI and robotics.

Can You Reinvent the Beverage Marketing Wheel?

2 people holding 2 small wheels

By: Hanifa Anne Sekandi

A lot of people believe that marketing a brand is an arduous task. Yes, it requires work. But if you hate this part of building a business, you may find yourself in the marketing denial loop. What is this?

  It is when brands do extraordinarily little marketing and expect big results. It is when brands put in less than what they desire to receive. This mindset leads to a sense of disillusionment and disappointment. We are sure you have encountered individuals who say running a brand is hard. The truth is, creating and growing a brand requires work. But the work should not be regarded as hard. It is important to eliminate this mindset. Embrace a simple, thought-out marketing plan and strategy whether you are a new brand, a mid-range brand or one of the big guys. Understanding how to market your brand should never be approached begrudgingly or negatively. Last Beverage Master issue, we focused on the “why,” as in why is your brand so unique? Why should consumers purchase your beverage rather than Bob’s beverage? Why is your brand making this beverage? Is there a story? The “why” is your first building block, and this will lead you to the most important phase of your simple marketing strategy — who is this for? 

  Nowadays, you do not have to look too far to see the dos and don’ts of marketing. You are in a time where the triumphs and tribulations of top-tier brands are well documented. As of late, major marketing blunders have been put to the forefront. The common mistake among all these brands, not just those in the alcoholic beverage industry, is that they forget the most important marketing building block: the “who,” and I’m not referring to the classic and iconic English rock band. In this case, the “who” refers to your audience, the consumer. Understanding their buying decisions and why they select your brand or your competitor’s brand when purchasing beer and liquor should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. 

Who is Your Consumer?

  All your marketing initiatives are built from understanding who your consumer is. A concept that seems obvious and basic, yet both new and old brands make it complicated. Since you and your beverage experts are creating the beverage, tasting it and perfecting it, start here. What would appealto you? What would make you run out and purchase your alcoholic beverage over a top-shelf or legacy beverage? Also, what do you wish some of your favorite beverage brands did? How does your brand fill this missing element? A large list is not needed. You are not going to be loved by everyone. Focus on three key features your “who” (consumer) would look for. Look at their lifestyle and how you can highlight that your beverage compliments their personal ethos. Remember, people attach feeling to their purchases. This is why the “why” story is such an essential first step in brand development. It lets you clearly map out how to appeal to and reach the “who.” 

  There are many ways to find your audience. The above is a simple and effective method. If you cannot sell this magical beverage to yourself or your team, then you will not sell it to anyone else. For those who have an existing brand and are struggling with your brand in a marketing landscape, which has become quite cutthroat with the advent of social media platforms, taking a trip back to where you started and your initial goals will help you zero in on your consumer base. Do not be greedy. Do not strive to be all things to everyone. If your brand has been performing relatively well and you are looking for more brand visibility to boost sales.

  Simple changes, more times than not, are needed. Creatively amplifying your existing message can increase your reach and growth. You do not need to burn the building down and start again, so you target a new demographic to buy your beverage. What about the people who have kept you afloat? Your loyal consumer bases? Some brands conduct surveys. Ask the people who have already purchased your drink what you can do better. Or what is on their wish list? Conduct a poll. This will give you some great ideas or help you re-strategize and expand your existing marketing methods.   

Should You Reinvent the Wheel?

  If you are a new brand, the alcoholic beverage world is truly your oyster. You can be outlandish and try something new. You have leeway to reinvent the wheel. Why? Aside from making a quality beverage, there is no sense in trying to copy the marketing strategy of a legacy top-tier brand. Their consumer is loyal. This does not mean that they will not become a fan of your brand. It is like football; people love the team they love, but when it is the Superbowl and their team has not made the cut, they will root for the team they like second best. Some people drink the beer their granddad drank and pass the love of this beverage on to their kids. It is a staple beer at all family events and their go-to beverage when dining out. Whatever the hook was that appealed to their granddad was passed on to them, and so on. Consider this a legacy brand. Legacy brands must strive to expand the wheel, but they should not reinvent it or break it unless they want to lose a loyal consumer base. Ignoring your “who” so you can reach a new consumer is sloppy marketing and a hasty marketing method often spurred on by newer brands going viral on social media. 

  You might be wondering how you would know who your consumer is. What other methods can you use to understand them better to build a formidable marketing strategy? This may sound contradictory to what was stated above. Start by identifying three brands that you are comparable to, your competitors. Study them, but do not copy them.

  Moreover, analyze them and look for what you do not like first. What would you do better, and what is missing? Make this list small. Next, look at the elements you like and what you would do better from a consumer’s perspective. For example, some beverage brands have made different-size offerings for their beverages. This is a simple yet effective difference that sets you apart and boosts sales. Who does not love those single-serve wines or a small-can imperial stout? Your consumer’s needs are not hard to understand if you start with yourself, assuming you are making a product you believe in, and then look for like-minded individuals with the same sensibility. Stay faithful to your plan, even when no one is looking, because someone looking for what you are offering will eventually turn into a large, loyal consumer base that will tell their like-minded friends to purchase your beverages too.

Is Your Brand Something to Talk About?

woman in shocked

By: Hanifa Sekandi

In the overly social world that we now live in, it can be hard to stand out. How does a brand become noteworthy? What makes a brand worth talking about?

  While you diligently craft your new alcoholic beverage, with hopes of becoming a formidable brand, it is important to remember as good as it may taste on the palate, it must also be as memorable to the imbiber. What do people see when they think of your brand? What feelings are evoked beyond an inebriated mind? Will people run to their local liquor store to purchase it? Now that production has finished, you know you have made a quality product. It is time to build a brand that is indeed something to talk about. 

  Fortunately, you have access to millions of people worldwide in the palm of your hand. One social media post can turn your brand into an overnight success. The truth is it does not happen overnight. There are strategies implemented before top-tier brands disseminate their marketing campaign to the masses. But, with just one post or compelling article written by a reviewer, a brand can quickly become a household name. Should you consider influencer marketing? It is an effective tool, but it is not necessarily the only way to spread the word. Instead, consumer reviews and testimonials are part of a long-term marketing plan for sustainable growth. View your customer as a micro-influencer who will host parties at their home, for example, and share your beverage with guests. They will also share photos and videos with their family and friends on social media. It is up to you to guide them, so let’s get started.

Build a Sustainable Strategy

  What most brands learned once social media became a tool to advertise is that it can be quite exhausting. Let us be honest; it is a free advertising tool that can yield impressive results when used wisely and innovatively. But guess what…social burnout is a thing! Most brands hit the ground running only to find out that they have run out of stamina and, more importantly, marketing content. It is important to build the ship before you set sail. Further, you must be building marketing materials that can be used for the entire year! If you are fortunate to hire an editorial or marketing manager, they will help you plan and execute marketing strategies that are viable daily, monthly and yearly. The biggest mistake that new and old brands make in modern marketing is thinking they can build as they go or create limited marketing resources. Remember, view your brand as a ship. Would you set sail with holes in your boat or without life jackets? Would you trust a captain who just goes where the wind blows or someone with skills, expertise and instincts? Of course, you will have to take risks, but your ship should still have an anchor. 

  So, how do you build a sustainable brand? Your first task is to discern the “why”? What makes your alcoholic beverage unique? Is it premium gin? Does your brand use sustainable production methods? Is it a family-owned business? You need to build the story to draw a connection to your brand. White Claw is a notable example of a low-cal RTD beverage that jumped in front of the line from what seems like out of nowhere. Their brand is built around a health-conscious consumer who enjoys drinking without worrying about the scale. They found their “why” and then focused on reaching their targeted consumers. Some consumers gravitate toward brands that have a compelling story. Some brands have attached their beverages to an impactful cause, pledging that a portion of their profits will go towards it. Back Country Brewing, a brewing company located in Squamish, BC, has effectively incorporated giving back to the community as part of its brand ethos. They have also effectively created a brand built off creatively thought-out branding. The continuous colorful and playful references to the outdoors are displayed on beer cans and paired with names that complement the brand’s rustic outdoors theme. Damn Alligator Just Popped and Don’t Cross the Streams are great beverage names that stand out but are in alignment with what their consumer would expect.

  Once you have figured out the “why” and what makes your brand unique, you can start to build marketing materials around this. It will also help you design a logo and select colors that you will utilize throughout your marketing initiatives. This stage is just as important as the product development stage. The same amount of care you put into ingredients, quality and taste must also be applied now. So, you are ready to get started. What is next? Consistency!

Stay Consistent

  Stick to your plan and only make minor adjustments. The foundation of your marketing strategy should be solid. It is okay to make minor variations, but your goal should be to build and evaluate your initial plan. It is easier said than done because this is a competitive industry. Do not forget your “why.” Focus on who you believe would enjoy your beverage and stay laser focused. Devise a marketing plan that includes a calendar that you religiously follow. Always be two steps ahead. What does this mean? Some months of the year have holidays or special days like National Pancake Day. When creating marketing materials with images, blogs and videos, mention and highlight these designated days.

  Unfortunately, there are no days off. There is nothing worse than looking up a brand online to find that they have not posted on their blog for a year or last posted on their social media a week ago. Curate behind-the-scenes features that allow your consumer to see how the beverage is made. You can also give them a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of your business experiences. Do you label your bottles by hand? Share this! It is easy to get discouraged initially. The idea that no one is looking will cross your mind several times. What you do not see during this time is the opportunity to push boundaries and try things that are out of the box before your consumer has an attachment to your product, and then there is little room for change. If you decide to build a blog to support your alcoholic beverage, view it as a mini-magazine and schedule a feature at the same time every week. Be sure to include it in your newsletter along with new product launches or sales. 

  As you build a consumer base, predictability is the only way to stay afloat. As stated above, White Claw appeals to the wellness consumer, and Back Country Brewing the outdoors consumer. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Expand and elevate your initial marketing strategy. Add new elements or products that complement it. This will help you stay consistent, give you more time to engage with your consumers and build a brand that is not a one-hit-wonder.

Imagine Your Brand in the Future

  Where do you see your brand five years from now? Ten years from now? Do not get caught up in current trends. This is why a sustainable strategy and consistency are the gold standard. You may have wondered why that blush wine in the odd shape bottle still does well with little marketing. This is what long-term, effective brand development looks like. This vineyard’s goal was to design a bottle that was aesthetically pleasing to the eye so it would be a great decor piece, while at the same time elegantly displaying the wine. This is a brand that understands that it appeals to a consumer who likes the finer things in life. Consumers will stay loyal to a product because it is consistent and because they feel connected to the brand’s mission. 

  Will the consumer tire of your product in the summer? Or are you a lifetime brand, like many exemplary legacy brands built around sports or music? If you would like to be the go-to campfire brewer, keep an eye on this consumer’s changing habits and desires to grow with them. 

TAKEAWAYS

Strategy: A solid blueprint will steer you toward success.

Consistency: Keep going even when no one is looking.

The Future: Can you stand the test of time?