The alcoholic beverage industry, holistically, plays a critical role in adult society, touching consumers across their professional, social, and personal activities. With unique regulatory and moral considerations, of course, marketing in this space is inherently challenging, creative, and uniquely tied to popular culture. For individual brands selling wine, beer, or liquor, success has often resulted from an ability to associate a product with a particular lifestyle and a specific audience. Today, as digital communication channels proliferate, and a new generation of consumers come of age, brands are challenged with how to engage audiences in an authentic, responsible, and meaningful capacity. How can marketers identify the personality traits of new customers, and create experiences that will resonate with them?
More often, alcoholic beverage brands are turning the spotlight on their customers themselves, mining content and insights from social platforms in order to uncover trends, preferences, and lifestyles. Additionally, they have utilized storytelling as an engagement device, focusing on a brand’s unique heritage when introducing it to new audiences. At Olapic, we work frequently with lifestyle brands to help them curate and activate their customers’ content more effectively. For alcoholic beverage brands, we believe there are three primary ways that this user-generated, or “earned,” content can be used to create loyalty and drive better customer relationships.
Focus on the Lifestyle, Not the Product
Consumers of alcoholic beverages may choose a specific brand based on a variety of considerations, including taste, of course, as well as consistency, quality of ingredients, or the perceived lifestyle that the brand may accommodate. With its advertising strategy, Corona brilliantly co-opted beach culture, and a sense of relaxation and perspective in its audience. As a result, the brand is often top of mind for customers looking for a vacation in a bottle. Of the over 210,000 images tagged on Instagram to Corona’s promoted hashtag, #ThisIsLiving, a vast majority mirror the brand promise, with a focus on outdoor, natural settings, evoking a casual, yet active lifestyle.
Johnnie Walker is another example of a brand that has defined a clear lifestyle and audience, which is reflected in contributed content on social channels. Taking a quick look at the over 328,000 photos tagged to #JohnnieWalker on Instagram, consistent themes of sophistication and confidence stand out, while images of the iconic label are frequent. Within the brand’s traditional advertising approach, optimism, diversity, and courage are often used alongside its origin story. As such, the brand is able to tie its message to bigger cultural events without appearing inauthentic. Take, for example, Johnnie Walker’s recent commercial, “Keep Walking America,” strategically released around the election. While many brands tried to tap into the election to ride the wave of engagement, Johnnie Walker was able to map to the lifestyle and perspective of its audience without bending its broader brand narrative.
Connect the Brand to a Particular Location and Mindset
Alcoholic beverage brands are often innately tied to specific locations and cultural influences. Some brands that immediately come to mind would include Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon, or the Irish dry stout Guinness, or any number of local craft breweries that infuse local ingredients and iconography within their products.
Earned content can be used by brands to further calcify these regional connections, and to engage consumers across new or emerging regions. Bacardi has been a pioneer in connecting social engagement with local events, dating to the brand’s “Like it Live, Like it Together” campaign in 2011, where users could vote on Facebook for activities that were turned into real life experiences. These types of activations not only drive engagement online, but set up a cyclical process of creation, whereby in-person events result in increased social sharing by attendees, which helps to build momentum for future events.
Educate the Consumer on New Applications for the Product
As tastes and preferences have become more nuanced and personalized, we have seen a growing demand for recipes, ingredient information, and mixology tutorials from customers. On social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, users are already sharing this information with one another, and brands have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in that conversation. If brands analyze the content being shared by their audiences, they can learn how the products fit into the customer narrative and apply those insights across a broader marketing strategy.
Today’s consumers are looking at alcohol differently, they are using it to add flavor: to a meal, or a gathering, or an experience. Take Bailey’s, for instance, with over 680,000 unique photos tagged on Instagram. Scrolling through the content, it is apparent that customers view the liquor as a creative ingredient and are sharing their unique recipes using the Irish cream liqueur, with brilliant imagery of coffee, hot cocoa, macaroons, gelato, and pastries.
In this age of fragmented media, younger consumers desire deeper, more meaningful relationships and experiences with brands. In the alcoholic beverage category, there is ample opportunity for brands to simultaneously capture high-quality content at scale while better understanding their customers’ unique lifestyles, through the use of earned content.