The alcoholic beverage market is becoming increasingly competitive and brands, both heritage and new, are fighting for wallet share.
To appeal to consumers, especially Millennials, who are looking to express their individual personality through unique drinking experiences, alcohol branding and marketing is going beyond the product itself to craft lifestyle brands. Food, music, sports, fashion and art and culture, many brands have used these as platforms to build their brand story with little to no advertising spend.
We round up five of the most noteworthy examples in recent years.
Tito’s Distills Success with its Founder Story
How does Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a craft vodka brand that started out selling 1,000 cases in 1997, become one of the fastest growing and coolest spirits brands in America?
While giant competitors increase advertising budgets and tout their heritage to market to millennials, who are interested in storytelling, Tito’s taps into content created by its customers, also known as user-generated content (UGC), to authentically tell its story.
Created by Tito Beveridge, the founder’s personality and story—how he went into credit card debt, slept in his still shack with a pack of stray dogs and made his vodka by hand—is baked into their social and digital marketing strategy.
User-generated content helps tell Tito’s story across their homepage and their online store through to their philanthropic campaigns Love Tito’s and Vodka for Dog People. Aa a result, the number of #LoveTitos posts has grown by 254 percent since the beginning of the year with little to no money spent on advertising.
Sailor Jerry Brings Tattoos and Counterculture to Rum
Counterculture figure, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, an ex-sailor turned renowned tattoo artist based in Honolulu, was the inspiration and name for the American spiced rum’s lifestyle brand.
Everything in its marketing strategy evokes Collins’ story, from his signature tattoo style on a striking bottle or clothing line through to its presence at music festivals and connections with rock musicians.
Staying true to Collins’ heritage, the Jerry Can Ride 2016 campaign featured a mini documentary into the life of Sailor Jerry and its social media channels were littered with images of tattoos and motorcycles (they collaborate with Harley-Davidson).
Heineken’s Prank Super Football Fan
Heineken creatively uses its sponsorship of the Champions League to dominate Europe. The setup for its elaborate 2016 “The Dilemma” prank from Publicis Italy is familiar to many football fans: Simone and his closest buddies have a tradition of watching Champion League football matches on the couch together.
He is thrilled when he suddenly is offered a free VIP ticket to the A.S. Roma vs Real Madrid match. He decides to ditch his friends and go to the match, but is surprised when his friends reveal the prank on the stadium’s big screen. Why this short ad works is that it’s funny, real and relatable.
Perrier-Jouët Pairs Champagne and Art
Perrier-Jouët has built its brand around the world of art and creation. Its approach plays on consumer passion points, such as design and fashion, to build memorable consumer experiences while including education about the product itself.
The luxury champagne brand has brought its experiential L’Eden by Perrier-Jouët concept to London, Miami, Shanghai and Japan. Inspired by nature, venues are transformed into interactive installations and collaborations with famous artists.
In September, L’Eden by Perrier-Jouët was hosted at London Design Festival and London Fashion Week. It unveiled the first bio-responsive garden by Bompas & Parr, champagne tastings and parties alongside design and fashion talks.
By aligning with art and design, Perrier-Jouët brings its aspirational and desirable brand to a growing class of luxury consumers.
Absolut Elyx Fashions a New Image for Luxury Vodka
When Absolut launched its high-end vodka called Elyx in 2013, its challenge was how to appeal to a new generation of consumers living in a craft cocktail world that shuns the idea of a “luxury” vodka.
They’ve done this by wrapping up their craft spirit story (Elyx is an origin vodka made with wheat that comes from a single farm) with an aspirational, Instagram-ready lifestyle brand.
It started Elyx Boutique, with design products such as its signature copper pineapple drinking vessel and decorative pieces. All products are copper themed to represent the craftsmanship of its copper distillation process and many products are limited edition.
The website showcases UGC to create an emotional connection between the brand and consumers, who desire these authentic experiences. Their marketing campaigns aim to inspire people to create shareable UGC and spark conversation, while shoppable call-to-actions on UGC drive users to a point of purchase.
So, what can we learn from the above approaches? These alcohol branding and marketing strategies have all created unique experiences to build an authentic brand story around a product and lifestyle that consumers aspire to have. By harnessing user-generated content to authentically tell your brand story, you can make emotional connections that build brand loyalty.