BY KATHRYN JEFFERIES
DIGITAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, EQUIMEDIA
One of the most important sales periods for alcohol brands is fast approaching and with challenger ‘artisan’ brands becoming ever more influential, there are some key tactics that can be deployed to effectively raise the visibility of your brand and make the most of the festive period.
By looking at the key search terms used around the 2015 festive period, combined with a review of current alcohol search trends in Google, here are some top tips for up-and-coming craft brands looking to leverage their budgets effectively to compete with the more established spirits during the key festive dash.
Focus your content creation, PPC (AdWords) and social activity on party inspiration and new recipe ideas
Common search terms highlight that typically people don’t look for specific brands while on a mixology mission, rather using terms such as ‘gin cocktails’ or ‘vodka cocktails’. Craft brands can be much more agile than the bigger players when it comes to creating new social content and AdWords campaigns as part of their digital marketing strategy to compete effectively with established brands at this key sales time. If brands think beyond the drink, they can find different stories, such as unusual cooking recipes, new cocktail recipes and Christmas party inspiration to bring the brand into people’s lives, which can connect the brand with new audiences.
Inspire your audience to buy their ingredients early
Within the search trend data the biggest cocktail recipe search spikes come on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve – both days where it’s harder, if not impossible, to buy the required ingredients – so drinks brands need to be doing more through existing or new channels to target those buying habits now, and encourage people to stock up in advance. Content that focuses more on the needs of the consumer with less of a direct sales focus than ‘core’ product pages, and more engaging content to sell the lifestyle presence and identity of a brand, can show to audiences how the brand identity fits with their own and capitalise on seasonal searches, in turn helping with a brand’s SEO.
Pay to play
Gone are the days when brands could distribute their content and communicate with their audiences on social networks for free and achieve the cut-through you need. It is common knowledge now that organic reach has reached an all-time low, sometimes as low as 2% on Facebook. Therefore if challenger brands want to be seen by their core target audiences, as well as by new communities, they need to be budgeting for content amplification in the form of paid social (or boosted posts). We are seeing many craft brands appealing to the key 18-24 demographic who tend to proliferate on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and so on – and therefore social is a key way to reach these audiences to promote live events and sampling opportunities, for instance. Social is a natural channel through which to grow your followers, involve and engage this audience with a unique brand story.
Embrace the difference
BrewDog founder James Watt has referred to the rise of craft as a ‘middle finger’ to established drinks brands. While this is typically strong wording, the element of difference, and even a curated image of a small and bespoke community of individuals who are passionate about a brand, can prompt buy-in from an audience which often can’t easily be bought. It can be managed, and the internet is the natural home to try new, innovative and even risky marketing approaches to embrace a drink’s brand heritage and story, while also tightly targeting specific audiences and maintaining an ‘invite only’ approach.
Don’t cross the line
Alcohol marketing is tightly controlled at the best of times, and for good reason. Linking a brand to irresponsible behaviour, encouraging underage or binge drinking are legally banned, and in many cases the ASA will police the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Your paid social activity should only be targeted at the over 18s and include country targeting as age restrictions can vary country to country. You can then overlay further audience targeting to reach the right sort of people for your brand, and can use your most engaged audiences to find other look-a-like audiences to maximise success. If you don’t have profiles for your best customers, this is a good way of reaching people more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. While the proliferation of new channels, which tend to attract high value, young audiences, will look attractive, you will need to think carefully about ensuring a campaign is conducted in the right way. In a passionate rush to gain exposure and eyeballs before the peak festive period, spare a thought for the people who may be seeing campaign messages more than once, and how that might look. The line between a passionate fan and a bombarded consumer is a fine one, so make sure you consider your ad frequency caps and how your campaign will mature and tell a story so you don’t annoy customers.
Above all, the festive sales dash may be the apex of the year for many drinks brands, but it does not necessarily stand alone. Activity begun now can set a product name up well for the year ahead, Many established associations of brands with Christmas – such as Bailey’s and Famous Grouse – have been years in the making, but it is repetition and a focus on the drink brand core values which can sustain the brand long into the New Year and embed them in people’s hearts and homes. While the imperative may be to stand out now, campaigns begun in December can boost a brand in the long term, bringing new audiences and find avid fans for the future.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020