While we don’t completely understand the long-term impact of the communication revolution yet, one thing is certain: the advent of changes such as smartphones and social media have profoundly shifted the fundamental principles of human communication. Consider, for instance, that many schools don’t bother teaching kids how to write in cursive anymore. What does this have to do with booze you ask? Well, everything we do as professional beverage communicators must continue to evolve accordingly. This truth, coupled with the U.S.’s position as the world’s most crowded marketplace for beverage alcohol brands, leads to an unavoidable reality…a brand has to be dynamic or die trying.
So how do you do it? Especially without spending $10 million a year which, let’s face it, only enormous spirits brands can afford. Traditional PR campaigns with a few tastings and occasional lifestyle partnerships sprinkled on top are a thing of the past. For growth and long-term positioning, even a basic promotional campaign strategy has to include all elements of engagement with beverage alcohol consumers and those who supply us them. Media relations, social media, event production, retail promotions, on-premise partnerships, branding, advertising and trade education all have to work simultaneously, from one source. Why are these integrated approaches not only better, but really the only option?
Driving a message holistically is a must
The perception of a beverage alcohol brand’s image is what sells it, not just the quality, taste, price or other more benevolent factors. That’s the fact of the matter in a market where consumers have more choices on what to drink than anywhere else in the world (I mean, where else do you find a cutthroat selection of diet beer). Unless you are conducting a multi-tiered campaign, you won’t be able to impact the way your brand is perceived on every level that matters.
Reinforcements at the point of sale
Negotiating visibility in a liquor store, supermarket or restaurant is not optional. You cannot rely on a distributor’s sell-in alone. You have to be able to walk into the corporate headquarters of a fancy restaurant chain and conduct an impactful training that will lead to servers actually recommending your brand repeatedly. No amount of New York Times editorial coverage is going to make that happen day in and day out, it’s that simple.
Engagement means growth
OK, great, so a server recommended your brand, now what? All the trade relations in the world essentially boils down to insinuations. At the end of the day, the decision is up to the people on the receiving end of a waiter or retailer’s approach, so how do they actually get them to listen and take the leap into their your glass? When a server points out a table tent or by-the-glass special, it has to strike a cord. That is when the Facebook posts, Instagram/Pinterest curating, broadcast coverage and blogger outreach will come into play.
An integrated promotional campaign allows beverage alcohol brands to achieve major milestones and sustained growth. The ability to negotiate new placements on a wine list and create commercial alliances matters so much more when they are also backed up by a feature in a top tier publication. That is what will bring those coveted sales and keep the ones you have for the long haul. It’s what makes you different from every other brand out there.