The global alcoholic drinks industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2014, according to MarketLine. Market volume is predicted to reach almost 210 billion liters in 2014, a 10% increase in five years and the industry is characterized by increasing fragmentation (with the three leading companies holding almost 40% of overall market volume.) Alcohol marketing ranges from mass media advertising to sponsorship of events, product placement, internet, merchandise, usage of other products connected with alcohol brands, social networks etc.
So you think it would be fun to work on an alcohol brand? We have certainly had our share of experiences over the years with brands like Mikes Hard Lemonade, Molson Canadian, Molson Dry, Rickard’s, Creemore, Heineken, and Coors Light to name a few. This experience has taught us a number of lessons chiefly that the alcohol industry is a crowded one.
You're fighting for shelf space where people judge you by your label, it's highly regulated (especially in Ontario and Canada,) and while alcohol marketing might sound a lot more sexy than whatever you're selling, it's really, really hard work. But that doesn't mean you have a Super Bowl commercial or buy a billboard to get attention or disrupt. There are a number of great examples of clever creativity from alcohol brands - both big and small. For example:
Disruption 101: Make a spectacle of yourself
To celebrate their "Anytime Ale," Austin Beerworks created a limited edition 99-pack of beer for $99. At seven-feet long, this thing takes two people to carry out of the store (if you can find it). Since they only released a limited amount of these 99-packs, Austin Beerworks gave clues as to which grocery stores and gas stations around town would have them in stock on their social media accounts. People were lining up outside of convenience stores for hours to be the first to get them.
The lesson: Austin Beerworks didn't change their product or spend a ton on advertising to spread the word. Instead, they relied on the exclusivity to build up excitement and the spectacle of a seven-foot-long box of beer to keep it going. Even better, a 99-pack of beer is a perfect excuse to have a party and tell even more people about Austin Beerworks.
Exclusivity 101: Send them a golden ticket
We've talked about Maker's Mark's amazing Ambassador program before. It's all about helping their biggest fans take ownership of the brand and take pride in talking about it. When you sign up, you get your name on a barrel plaque. Once the bourbon in that barrel matures, they send you a golden ticket for the opportunity to come pick up your personal bottle from the batch and hand dip it in their iconic red wax.
The lesson: It doesn't get much more personal than that for a distillery churning out mass quantities of bourbon every day. Your customers love feeling a personal connection to your stuff, and Maker's Mark proves you don't have to run a small shop to pull it off.
Gamification 101: Product as Conversation Starter
Did you know that Pabst Blue Ribbon's beer bottles have playing cards printed underneath their caps? Or that Lone Star bottle caps have riddles written on them? These aren't just fun little gimmicks. They're conversation-starters. You can make a game out of the PBR "cards" you collect or ask your friends to help you solve Lone Star's bottle cap riddle (because they're not always easy).
The lesson: The more excuses (aka opportunities) you give your customers to talk to other people, the more they'll talk about your product.