When the first lockdowns of Covid-19 hit early in 2020, we began to see a paradigm shift of the entire world, and the U.S. was no exception. Commerce was reduced to essential services, and people were either restricted from or outright prohibited from interacting in larger groups or anyone outside their household or highly limited circles.
The restaurant and bar industries were hit especially hard. Even with many of the restrictions lifted in 2021 many are still wary of going out for dinner or drinks and socializing with friends and family over a beer or glass of wine. But consumers didn’t quit drinking. Many state governors included liquor stores among essential services that were allowed to stay open even as many other businesses closed their doors or limited their hours.
Marketing Alcohol Direct to Consumers (DTC) Gets a Surge
The increase in direct-to-consumer sales means that alcohol brands need to be mindful of the guidelines and regulations that promote responsible drinking whether a person chooses to drink beer or similar beverages, wine, or spirits. Regulations state that marketers cannot suggest in their advertising that people who consume alcoholic beverages violate the law or act irresponsible when they are consuming these beverages.
Regardless of the type of alcohol sold, all brands need to follow rules and regulatory codes set forth by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the Beer Institute, and the Wine Institute. Many states have loosened restrictions in 2020 and 2021, but these should be checked before marketing in a specific area.
With beer and similar beverages, such as hard ciders and seltzers, the brewing industry needs to continue following long-held policies to appeal to adults of legal drinking age:
- There should be no direct or indirect suggestion that applicable sales not be completely followed
- The themes suggested in advertising should be in good taste and present the brand as one that is responsible and is opposed to excessive or inappropriate consumption of the beverages.
- Wineries and distilleries should follow similar guidelines in order to help assure that alcoholic beverages are consumed safely as much as possible.
Creating a Responsible Marketing Plan For the New Normal
Every aspect of our lives looks different from what it did a little before 2020. Even with some bars and restaurants opening, many have become accustomed to social distancing and virtual gatherings. Long before the pandemic alcohol marketing has paid close attention to the stories behind the brand. Many breweries, distilleries, and wineries are family businesses and marketing for alcohol brands often focuses on the bonding experience of both creating the beverages as well as consuming them.
In many ways, enjoying alcoholic beverages has long been associated with finding and holding on to connections that we have with family and friends. As this became more of a challenge, alcohol marketing professionals began to think outside the box in order to help that connection stay strong even with social distancing. This resulted in online happy hours on Facebook Live and similar venues. Professional bartenders providing drink mixing instruction and promoting brands that reflect varying values and reinforce the idea that we need to find safe ways to stay connected.
Promoting Brand Loyalty and Image While Marketing For Alcohol Brands
The image behind a brand of alcoholic beverage can vary considerably depending on many factors. Sometimes smaller companies struggle to compete with larger brands that have become large household names. They need to develop a more specific niche for their brand and the type of image they want to reflect. By choosing a specific target market with the help of marketing consultants, or even by using software to help with the sales process, it becomes easier even for smaller producers to find their core market and begin the process of expanding on it.
Before the pandemic, there were many smaller wineries, distilleries, and brewers that hosted tastings on site where they would aim to make consumers feel like part of the process. By taking advantage of CPG, smaller quantities of beverages can be marketed to consumers directly along with whatever values the company may have. Some companies show a sense of social consciousness by supporting certain types of charities, or they may emphasize their commitment to sustainability or positive environmental or health practices.It is important for companies to display a clear picture of who they are and who they aim to be, and continually look for stories that support that image. The less that people are able to connect in person, the more important it becomes that they are able to stay connected through consistent and entertaining sales and marketing practices through their own website as well as various social media channels, e-commerce sites, and email marketing campaigns. In the end the connections and relationships remain important for any brand, and this is especially true when it comes to developing the right campaign for alcohol marketing.
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