I’m a graphic designer who’s worked on small, startup alcohol brands right through to huge multi-nationals, and right now one thing is clear to me: booze brands should be focusing on experience over product.
What on earth does that mean? I sell beer/gin/whiskey/wine/mixers – not experiences!
But you do sell experiences. People don’t drink alcohol for the taste. They don’t drink it to rehydrate. They certainly don’t drink it for the health benefits. They drink because of how it makes them feel, in relation to a certain place or time. They drink it to connect with other people.
Gone are the days where a customer was a ‘whiskey man’ and only drank scotch, no matter where he was. Gone are the days when women only sipped wine, as beer was a man’s drink. Drinkers are no longer brand loyal, or even product loyal. Consumers these days choose what to drink, and what brand to drink, depending on where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. They love to try new things, and they want novelty and variety.
Small alcohol brands need to tap into this (pun intended)
The big brands are onto this. Historically, the large companies like Diageo and Pernot Ricard built their marketing strategies around types of alcohol. That is, ‘we sell vodka and our competitors sell vodka, to people who like vodka.’ But the landscape has changed considerably. Today brands are marketing the experiences or lifestyles behind their products. Perhaps the drink is for lazy Sunday afternoons with friends, or high-end drinks, or an exotic taste to impress at a dinner party.
It’s not about what it is.
It’s about what you do with it, and how it will make you and your friends feel.
Pernot Ricard categorise their products into what CEO Alexandre Ricard terms “the five key moments of conviviality.” Let Loose, High-End Drinks, Hanging Out, Out to Impress, and Sharing a Drink. Absolut Vodka fits into the ‘Let Loose’ category, so is marketed as the drink of choice in bars and nightclubs. Its competitors are not just other vodkas, but any other drink people could choose in that situation.
It follows that smaller brands need to think about the way consumers choose their drinks when creating their branding and marketing too. Just like the large companies, they need to research who their target audience are, where they drink, why they drink, and who they drink with. Then focus on creating communication that resonates with these experiences. Do they want adventure? Innovation? Are they aspirational?
Drinkers want these experiences to be authentic, so the smaller brands actually have an advantage over the big guys here. It’s way easier to position a boutique, craft business as ‘real’ than a multinational conglomerate.
If you look at the 90s, people were looking for a nice logo. Then, there was a search for authenticity, which is why craft is booming.Eric Vallat, Global CEO for Remy Martin
Alcohol branding right now is all about experience over product. In fact, it’s the ultimate experience sector. If you’re an alcohol label looking to utilise this in your branding, design or marketing, get in touch and let’s have a chat about your brand.
Jessica Croome is a graphic designer and branding consultant based in Perth, Western Australia. She loves working with brands who want to be bold. Get in touch at email@example.com to chat about your brand.