Today, we take an in depth look at the world of experiential marketing for alcohol brands. Over the course of this article, we outline some of the innate advantages alcohol brands enjoy, 5 popular experiential strategies, campaign examples and potential pitfalls to look out for when using experiential marketing for your brand.
Alcohol Brands & Experiential Marketing
Before we delve into specific strategies, here are a few innate synergies which predispose alcohol brands for experiential marketing success.
The Innate Advantage Of A Social Context
Firstly, brands in the drinks industry are fortunate in that the consumption of alcohol is heavily tied to social activities. In fact, it is more unusual for an event to be ‘dry’ than not. Whether it’s cinemas, theatres, weddings, restaurants, sporting events, festivals, gigs or myriad other social occasions, alcohol is heavily entrenched in our social culture.
Inevitably, this has influenced the tone of industry marketing strategy, with brands aspiring to create a link in consumers’ minds between their product and experiences like a big night out, or a weekend at a festival. Naturally, this plays into experiential marketing’s hands, being a medium centred around creating experiences and developing relationships.
A further advantage of the inherent social context of alcohol, for brands employing face-to-face tactics is that it puts people in an informal, less-guarded state of mind, making them easier to engage with, and more susceptible to absorbing a campaign’s content.
Detailed Targeting Options
The drinks industry also benefits from having highly targeted audience demographics, everyone has heard, at some point or another, of football fans’ love for larger or hen parties’ (sometimes precarious) relationship with prosecco.
Again, this works in experiential marketing’s favour, it helps brands carefully research appropriate venues for activations or sampling activities, so as to achieve maximum brand exposure amongst a target audience.
Experiential Strategies For Alcohol Brands
Now we understand the affinity between alcohol brands and experiential marketing, it’s time to look at which campaign types are most effective, alongside examples that demonstrate where real brands have succeeded in the past.
The pop up bar is an experiential tactic, commonly used by alcohol brands for good reason. Firstly, it creates a physical representation of the brand, which is a USP in itself in an industry where brands prefer retail distributors over owned bricks and mortar locations.
This, in turn, creates an air of exclusivity. In an industry driven heavily by trends and fashion, this exclusivity helps draw in the relevant media outlets and influencers required to generate a buzz around, and therefore exposure of, the campaign.
Finally, a pop-up gives consumers a chance to have their own, organic experiences. The fun of a night out comes from the unique, unplanned experiences you share with your friends rather than strict adherence to a schedule of activities (unless you’re that friend). By hosting a pop-up you create a branded arena for those experiences, ensuring visitors will always associate the fun they had with ‘the time we visited X brand’s pop-up’.
Campaign Example: Pimm’s Teapot Bar
In celebration of Wimbledon, Pimm’s created a pop-up teapot bar, serving new varieties of their product, as well as offering visitors a chance to take a seat and watch the action from the tournament. This campaign is a perfect example of well-researched targeting and creative execution. Pimm’s have long been associated with both British summer and the storied tennis competition, pop-ups like this help cement that image, generating exposure during a critical period.
Add-on: Brand Partnership
If you’re looking to build on the traditional pop-up model, a well-placed partnership with a brand which resonates with your audience is a great option. The beauty of the tactic is that the partner’s industry can be anything the audience will enjoy, allowing for almost limitless creativity.
Take champagne brand Krug as an example. They partnered with chef Tom Sellers to create a premium fish and chip shop in London’s Covent Garden, using unconventional ingredients like lobster and Monkfish cheek to help convey the opulence associated with champagne.
Educational experiences provide alcohol enthusiasts the unique opportunity to broaden their knowledge, learning tips, tricks and skills to enhance their future enjoyment of a brand’s beverages. For brands, this creates a unique relationship driven by respect for the brand’s expertise.
Firstly, as the subject matter expert, engaged visitors respect the brand’s opinion, absorbing content and committing it to memory. Also, by improving the customers’ experience of the product brands demonstrate their willingness to go the extra mile to provide value to their customers, developing in consumers both a sense of respect, and the feeling of being viewed as more than just a sale by the brand.
Educational experiences can take many forms, cocktail masterclasses, tasting sessions, food pairing advice, perfect serve tutorials, the point is to give the consumer a deeper enjoyment of the product, encouraging them to repeat their purchase in future.
Campaign Example: The Macallan Residence
The Macallan Residence was a limited availability experience, taking visitors on a journey through food, fashion and photography, whilst educating them to nose and taste a wide variety of whiskies. Along with this, Old Fashioned cocktail masterclasses and chocolate pairing sessions were included to ensure there was something for everyone to try. Everything about this campaign was in line with the brand’s image, down to the manor house-like location.
Add-on: Linked Promotion
For those looking to go a step further, accompany your educational content with a relevant promotion, allowing visitors to put their new found skills to the test.
A discounted cocktail kit or tasting board not only generates more value for the consumer, but also demonstrates that the content from the experience can be applied when at home. This is integral to creating real, actionable value for customers.
An oldie, but still a ‘goodie’, sampling campaigns have a proven track record, according to EMI’s EventTrack survey, 78% of respondents were more inclined to purchase a product after having the opportunity to try it first.
In the context of the alcohol industry, distributing samples and encouraging trial of the product is essential. Purchase decisions are heavily motivated by taste and value for money, therefore sampling not only provides valuable feedback, but also demonstrates a brand’s willingness to provide more value than they are taking, an essential part of any relationship-based marketing campaign.
As previously mentioned, sampling campaigns are highly flexible in where they operate, allowing forensic targeting of key audiences and the influence of consumer preferences close to the point of sale, both of which are proven to have a positive effect on sales.
Campaign Example: Budweiser Brewmaster tour
The Budweiser Brewmaster tour is a perfect example of a sampling campaign tailored to convey the Budweiser brand message. The mobile structure acts as a brewery, allowing visitors to see the brewing process first-hand and taste the immediate results.
Additionally, Budweiser employed well-trained brand ambassadors to help educate consumers on the finer points of the process, replicating the experience of the famous Anheuser Busch brewery tours for those not fortunate enough to be able to visit one.
Add-on: Mobile Retail Unit
A great add-on for a sampling campaign is the mobile retail unit. With 80% of those that purchase at events doing so because they sampled or used the product, it is important to provide them with the opportunity to do so. Not only does it enable the sampling campaign to be permanently close to the point of purchase, it removes the brand’s reliance on coincidental retailer promotions, allowing them to set their own, a rarity in an industry reliant on third party retailers.
As an added benefit, mobile retail units provide a base camp for sampling activities, improving visibility, and therefore exposure, a well-designed unit may even tempt consumers into sharing an image via their social channels, again improving exposure and potentially future engagement.
Note: Due to the restricted nature of the product, alcohol sampling campaigns can come under heavy scrutiny. It is important to exercise caution, employing capable brand ambassadors to check identification and restrict the number of samples an individual can receive through a system like hand-stamping. This will help ensure your campaign doesn’t run into unnecessary trouble.
Publicity stunts, when done correctly, are a valuable experiential tactic in any industry, however the informal nature of the alcohol industry allows brands to be more creative in their endeavours, having less accepted ‘codes-of-conduct’ to adhere to.
The main benefit of publicity stunts is the exposure they generate. When timed correctly, with the correct outreach to influencers and media outlets, publicity stunts can generate global exposure from an extremely localised event.
There is no cookie cutter approach to performing a PR stunt, as you can see from our previous article they can be extremely diverse, designed to promote the individuality of the brand itself. However, a rule, which rings true throughout all experiential marketing, is especially pertinent for publicity stunts: focus on a solid creative idea, execute it well, the rest will fall into place.
Campaign Example: If Carlsberg Did Billboards
Publicity stunts have a long, storied history with the alcohol industry, with campaigns like Guinness’ 1959 Message In A Bottle, a creative ahead of its time, setting the bar high. However, the undisputed kings of the modern-day publicity stunt are Carlsberg.
Having created many successful campaigns including, ‘If Carslberg Did Cases’ and ‘If Carlsberg Did Taxis’, however, it is Carlsberg’s infamous ‘Probably the best poster in the world’ campaign, featuring a beer dispensing billboard, which takes the cake. The stunt received blanket national, local and trade press coverage, and is used by many thought leaders as the perfect example of effective creative execution.
Add-on: Social Amplification
Not so much an add-on as a necessity in the modern marketing mix, social amplification allows brands to dramatically increase the reach of highly localised campaigns. Techniques include sharing user generated content, promoting PR stories and seeding interest prior to the event with targeted social advertising. As I said, social amplification is an absolute must if you want your publicity stunts to achieve their full potential.
Festivals and alcohol go hand in hand. The tried and tested combination of music, sunshine and drinking has been around for generations, and shows no signs of disappearing. This is great news for alcohol brands as it provides them with captive audiences to promote to. Factoring in the fact that festivals have their own core demographics means that much of the audience research and targeting work has already been done for you.
The key to a successful festival activation is the draw, in what has become quite a congested market, consumers simply don’t have enough time to visit every single activation and see the music they want, which means somebody has to miss out. It is therefore important to research, in depth, the wants, needs and dislikes of the festival crowd to ensure your brand’s ‘stage’ is always heaving.
Campaign Example: Aperol Spritz Social
This activation was extremely well put together, and having visited myself, I can confidently say it was a blast. Aperol created a two-story bar-come-stage, providing a chance to sit down, get out of the sun, dance and more importantly, enjoy an Aperol-spritz. In addition to providing a social space, Aperol welcomed several big name DJs, including Shadow Child and Plastician, ensuring the crowds were always swelling and the tills constantly ticking over. The Aperol Spritz Social is a perfect example of a festival activation done well.
Add-on: Exclusive Area
Many festival-goers relish the sense of ‘roughing it’ in the outdoors, however for every free spirit that cares not about sharing a freezing cold shower with 30 other people, there are 10 that really do. This pain point sparked the ‘glamping’ craze, and can be used by brands to great effect if done correctly.
With either a fixed-cost ticket or a pay-as-you-go rate, brands can offer weary revelers some of the creature comforts of home to pick them up when they reach their lowest ebb. Foot-spas, luxury hair washes, massages or simply just a comfortable bed in the shade can go a long way to reducing the stress of a festival. And, given the right nudge, these visitors will be more than happy to share their ‘VIP’ experiences across their social networks, developing relationships, driving revenue and generating exposure in one simple package.
- The social context of the drinks industry plays heavily in experiential marketing’s favour.
- Given industry preferences, it is easy for alcohol brands to target locations where they know their audience will be.
- Pop-up bars are a great way of driving exposure and revenue, especially with a partner brand.
- Educational experiences help customers get the most value out of the product, encouraging them to repeat purchase.
- 78% of people are more inclined to purchase a product after having the opportunity to try it first. (EventTrack)
- Publicity stunts can generate massive exposure from extremely localised events.
- Festivals and alcohol go hand in hand, making them the perfect place to stage an activation.