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Alcohol brands: how to win the first glass of the night

October 17, 2019 By Renat Ageychik

When walking into a bar, a consumer faces an endless choice of drinks. Alcohol brands want to be the first choice in that consumer’s mind, but how do they achieve that? How can they create awareness for what the consumer wants, ensuring that they will pick their brand of beer, wine or spirit over the competition?

The consumption of alcohol has the context of the occasion: from a girl’ s-night out, a drink at Christmastime or buying wine for a dinner party. Culture, location, and season are all variables when deciding which brand to choose.

So how do alcohol brands take these occasion-based considerations into account and win the first glass of the night?

Bars and restaurants vs shops and supermarkets

Alcohol brands sell within two streams: ‘On-trade’ — at bars and restaurants, and ‘off-trade’ — such as shops and supermarkets. With each of those two streams, there are different occasions that create unique opportunities for planning. This is what is called “occasion-based Marketing.”

If done right, occasion-based Marketing can lead alcohol brands to be more effective in planning, driving sales.

With ‘off-trade’, consumers tend to go for the usual well-known choice or something that is on promotion. It’s habitual behaviour — we know what we like in the weekly shop. An example of this is certain brands capitalising on the increasing trend of home drinking, with campaigns that insert their product into specific occasions, such as food recipes made at home. These types of campaigns drive greater awareness around the drink and build the brand image.

Within ‘on-trade’, consumer behaviour is much more spontaneous. Consumers are more likely to try something new, or outside of their usual repertoire. After all, it’s just one drink, as opposed to buying in bulk at a supermarket and creating the opportunity to have a consumer think of a brand before they’re at the bar.

How to create spontaneous decisions in your favour

It’s all about Consideration — converting people at the right moment when it matters the most. Achieving this is about creating a spontaneous decision, driven by pure emotion. The first step is to understand the drinking culture. What are the main drinking occasions within that region? How do cultural moments impact the choices that people make when buying that first drink? An alcohol brand’s message needs to be as relevant and timely as possible. Creating that “I really need a beer” feeling. How do we do this?

Timing is everything

In some countries, after-work drinking can happen on any day of the week. Whereas in other markets, drinking occasions tend to occur at the end of the week. For example, a pint of beer is unlikely to be on the consumer’s mind during Monday morning rush hour commute, but once Thursday comes around, it could be a different story! Gradually increasing the intensity of your campaign as the week progresses is essential. Gordon’s #YayDelay campaign is a perfect example of how having the right timing, made for an effective occasion-based marketing campaign.

Gordon’s campaign capitalised on the misery of commuters suffering train delays. An algorithm was used to locate and target passengers who had been hit by delays and cancellations at major London stations and offered them a free G&T to claim at the train station.

Go beyond paid media

In today’s busy world, going out is usually a planned activity when it comes to socialising with friends. Do you remember how you planned your last outing with friends? It’s probably happened on instant messages in a chat group rather than over the phone call. Our instant-messaging culture is a perfect opportunity for alcohol brands to be part of the conversation when friends decide to go “out-out”. For example, consider the creation of bespoke gifs and sticker packs that can be used in a consumer’s friendly conversation with each other. Naturally, avoiding overly branded content will enable your drink to be associated with this occasion more broadly, and not fade into oblivion.

Double-down on relevance and proximity

We need to communicate with the consumer in the space of a heartbeat when he or she is just in the right state of mind to buy. Think of Digital Out of Home (DOOH), Digital Radio ads or Navigation and Maps integrations. All of these channels present an opportunity to remind consumers about your brand when they’re passing by their local bar downtown. For example, Diageo’s DOOH poster campaign featured five brands within their portfolio, serving different messages based on the weather and time of the day.

Associate your brand with the best choice of the night

People are always looking out for the hottest, and best-reviewed bars and restaurants in town. Appearing in ads next to this “hot or not” factor (often within lifestyle websites and apps), will provide a direct link between new and exciting restaurants and your drink.

Those moments where the cultural relevance between the brand and the consumer align, create opportunities to position your brand at the heart of the impulse decision many consumers make in buying that first drink. A well-balanced media mix will bring the most value for money with the same budget. Embracing the ability for data and technology will make every dollar of your marketing budget work harder and connect with the end consumer in the most effective way.

Cheers to that.