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How spirits brands can up their digital marketing game

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14/09/2021 How your spirits brand can make the most out of the surge in online marketing.

Whether you’re an award-winning distillery, or a distillery creating something completely off the charts, in the modern world, if you don’t have an online presence, you might as well be non-existent.

Over the past decade, the internet has become the one-stop-shop for everyone, no matter what they’re looking for. Even if something is recommended to a consumer, the first thing they tend to do is tap off their screens and check it out for themselves.

In today’s day and age, having a well-designed website with an easy-to-use interface isn’t enough. But the good news is that if you dig deeper into the world of digital marketing, it can become one of the best and most cost-effective ways to gain awareness for your brand and bring in sales. 

As many brands and companies compete in building their digital presence, how are you going to stand out?

Social media rules all

Whether you’re informing your audience about a new launch or telling them your story, social media can be your most powerful tool. Social media engagement has become a big part of a consumer’s lifestyle. A report published by Mintel states that “around six in ten adults who visit digital media touchpoints do so on a daily basis”. 

According to an Instagram survey conducted by Accenture, food and beverage is the most interesting topic for social media users. The question here is, what are people looking for on social media?

“More than half of consumers say that staying informed is one of the top 3 purposes they use technology. The desire to educate and entertain themselves drives consumers to read articles, watch videos, listen to music and play video games regularly,” the Mintel report said.

A great way to leverage social media is by creating engaging and interactive content for your audience. Before you do so, you need to figure out who your audience is. Are you trying to appeal to a college-going crowd, or are you looking to market to 40-year-old men and women?

“Sometimes in wine, we talk a lot about communication, and actually, before you even start creating anything - whether it’s a social media campaign or content marketing, the first thing is to find out who your audience is. Who is the right person for your wine? And then, direct everything to them,” says Felicity Carter, Executive Editor at Pix (a wine discovery platform bringing people to the bottles they love).

Once you have your target audience set, most of your content creation issues will automatically be solved. Designs, content, and engagement will follow as content is tailored to the target audience.

Social media is also a great space to take something that already exists, and make it big. Whether you’re doing an event, collaborating with bartenders, or working with brand ambassadors - a push on social media will bring in the right kind of audience, and will also increase your brand’s reach. 

Here are a few examples of what you can do to build your social media presence:

1. Keep your audience updated with new products/releases, collaborations, and more. Along with that, make sure you’re giving your audience insights about your products. Is there a special berry used? Is there a special distillation process that only you follow? What makes your product stand out? It’s all about connecting with your audience here. Is harvest season coming up? Talk about it. Are you planning a tasting somewhere? Tell your audience and ask them to come.

2. Create virtual events and market them on social media. This could be a cocktail contest, a virtual class, or an Instagram live tasting. Think creatively and out of the box. The idea should align with your brand and values but also be innovative.

3. Create a physical event to tie in with an event taking place online. An example is a yoga class at your winery or brewery to tie in with World International Yoga Day that has a presence throughout the world with social media.

In April 2020, Highclere Castle Gin threw a Downton Abbey-themed virtual party, where Lord and Lady Carnarvon of the castle hosted the event at the castle - and attendees could talk to them, ask questions, and see around the castle with a drink in hand.

The event also included the Lord and Lady sharing information about the cocktails created at the castle, how the award-winning Highclere Castle gin is made, and more. 

In light of saving bees, Caledonia Spirits recently introduced the Bee’s Knees Week, which is set to take place from September 24 to October 3. For this week, the brand has collaborated with bars and bartenders - where a select number of bars will serve the Bee’s Knees cocktail made with the award-winning Bar Hill Gin.

Consumers can either order the cocktail from a bar near them or make their own at home and post a picture on social media with the hashtag #beeskneesweek. For every cocktail made, Caledonia Spirits will create 10 sq/ft of bee habitat.

Focusing on social affairs and events like these that involve the consumer connects with your wider audience and will help in getting your product out there to a wider audience.

Barr Hill Gin Instagram

4. Create podcasts about your brand, your products, and your story. People are listening more these days. A great example would be the Pernod Ricard Connect Podcast, where the brand talks about everything related to its wines and spirits.

If you’re not creating your own podcasts, then you can always make an appearance on the many successful drinks podcasts out there, like The Wine Whiskey Weed Show, Liquid Assets, The PodCask, Brews News to name a few. 

5. Tell your story. People want to know who is making what they’re drinking and how it’s being made. Are your products vegan, natural, sugar-free, free of sulfites, light on calories, or cruelty-free? Do you give back to the community or an organization? Highlighting these points on your social media accounts will attract the right kind of audience.

6. People want to know the person behind the bottles. Many wineries and distilleries tell their story in the same way as others - most of them revolving around being a family-owned company with a passion for the trade. But your audience wants to know what makes you unique, what makes you stand out.

The Uncle Nearest Whiskey brand has a captivating history that dates back generations, and they make that the cornerstone of their story, reminding their audience about their rich legacy. 

7. Share cocktail recipes that consumers can recreate themselves. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, many people have started trying their hands-on cocktail making - creating an at-home bar for themselves. Create a cocktail recipe and share it on your social pages for consumers to recreate.

You can also collaborate and connect with bartenders and brand ambassadors who will create your cocktail on their social media and gain a wider audience. Similarly,  a bartender could conduct a masterclass for consumers with a range of cocktails or recipes made with your wines/beers/spirits.     

8. Show your support with current events. For example, brands show their audience their support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month by changing their logos, bottle labels, and showing their support via social media.

Absolut vodka changed their bottle labels to a label with the Pride colors, while Goose Island Brewery collaborated with Shea Coulée and released a beer.

9. Social media gives you a platform to connect with your consumer. Use it to reach out and interact with your audience. What does your audience like? Tap into it. Brands can cross-connect with music, movies, TV, and pop culture to create a persona that the audience relates with.

As people gravitate towards a more sustainable way of drinking, many brands are including sustainable practices in their production. While it might take some time to be certified as a sustainable winery/distillery/brewery, showing your audience you’re making the effort to become more sustainable will help you to connect on a deeper level with your audience.   

10. Hosting giveaways on your social media pages works wonders in bringing in engagement to your feed. For example, you could create a giveaway where you’re giving off a wine subscription or perhaps a case of your limited edition beer. To enter, you could tell your audience to comment on your post, or tag a friend. Not only will this encourage the audience to engage with you, but ‘tagging’ other friends will also attract a wider audience to your brand.

When it comes to marketing, Caledonia Spirits knows a thing or two. The brand set up a giveaway for their consumers in collaboration with ArtsRiot and Higher Ground Music.

The giveaway offers 2 tickets to either show at Backside 405 in Burlington, 1 $50 gift card to ArtsRiot, and 1 $50 voucher to the Barr Hill Bar and retail shop. To enter, consumers had to like their post, share their post, follow Barr Hill Gin, Arts Riot, and Higher Ground Music, and tag someone. The post received over 120 comments on the post, compared to the usual 20-30 comments Bar Hill Gin gets on their regular posts.

11. Focus on your organic reach as well. Cash in on trends in the industry. For example, non-alcoholic drinks are trending right now - so if you have a non-alcoholic beer, then share it with your audience.

People are diving into products made from locally sourced ingredients, so if you do that, then inform your audience and use the right keywords to bring traction.

12. Reels, Reels, and more Reels. These days, Instagram users tend to spend a lot of time on Reels. The video and audio content on Reels attracts people to your page. Make reels about yourself, do a short ‘facts about the brand’ video, and such.

13. Connect with others in the industry. A great way to do this is by joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups, where your brand will be visible to those who align with your ethos and brand in general. 

SEO - your savior for all things Google

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a great way to bring in more organic traffic to your website.

Think about it this way, when a consumer is searching for something on Google, if it’s not ranked on the first two pages, then to consumers, it’s probably not there. So you have to make sure that your website comes up on either the first or second page on Google.

Keywords and other SEO practices like title tags, image tags, and internal linking will help raise your website’s rank on Google. The best way to go about this is to research what SEO practices work with brands like yours.

You can also check out what consumers are reading and talking about, what they’re watching, and what they’re searching for. This way, you’ll be able to know what the current trends are and embed them into your SEO practices. Along with that, you can also check out what your competitors are doing.

Take a look at their blogs, Youtube pages, titles, and such. See the keywords they’re using, the titles they’re using, and how they’re using SEO practices on their websites. 

Take for example, right now, the words ‘sustainability' and ‘health’ are the most trending keywords across industries. People are gravitating towards more sustainable brands, and with Covid-19 still a stark reality, many consumers look for things with the word ‘health’. Do your keyword research and see what is working right now.

With the rise of smart speakers like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri - it’s also important to make sure that your content can be read easily by technology. Work with an SEO professional to figure out how the words ‘Alexa, what’s the best distillery in the world’ can make Alexa read something from your website.

Marketing bucks: where to put them

Since digital marketing is a wide concept, one can easily get confused about putting in their marketing dollars. This, once again, relates to finding your target audience. Is your target audience more active on Facebook? Or would they view reels/stories on Instagram?

Once you know what social platforms your target audience uses most, you will be able to spend your money wisely. One of the most effective ways to make the most of your marketing dollars is to create ads that micro-target your audience.

For example, if you have a ready-to-drink cocktail launching during spring break - college students traveling for spring break would be a great audience to target. This way, your target audience would be males and females between the age of 21-25. You can also micro-target it even more and add a ‘location’ filter, for example, males and females between the age of 21-25 in college.

Similarly, you can go deeper into the demographics and add other filters like the name of the university, or a resort in Cancun where people might stay for spring break. Creating a specific and micro-targeted audience will help in the social platform show your ad to those that align with your brand, and the deeper you target your audience, the better your marketing dollars are used. 

Similarly,  if 80% of your traffic is coming through Instagram stories, then there’s no point in running ads on your regular feed posts. 

You can also get in touch with third-party platforms like FourSquare, Los Angeles Drinks Guide, Timeout, Infatuation, The Drinks Business, and more. Featuring your brand on one of these platforms will help in giving consumers a seal of approval and put more trust in your brand. 

Dive into personalization

The number one thing consumers like is to be addressed personally. Whether it’s a personalized bottle you can offer them, any sort of personalization helps in bringing more people to your brand. You will be able to personalize your digital feeds and services to people once you know their interests and what they are looking for.

A great way to bring personalization into your website is by giving a ‘suggested for you’ column for shoppers. For example, if someone buys coconut rum on your website, you could recommend other tropical-flavored spirits to them. This will show consumers that you are keeping a check on their likes and dislikes.

It’s also important to make sure you’re continuously engaging with your audience. Make sure you’re replying to your comments and DMs. You can also address your replies directly to the sender, and this way, your audience will be more inclined to interact with you.

For example, every time Reynolds Winery gets a new follower, the DM goes out to the new follower, welcoming them to the Reynolds Winery family.

Reynolds Wines Instagram

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s about being ready and hitting the right kind of audience. If you do these things right - you’re on the right track to grab a share of attention in the world of digital marketing.