Celebrations mean libations. Ensure your beverage brand is in the mix with timely marketing.
Spring is in the air. And as any true Midwesterner will tell you, temperatures in the 60s are signaling summer – which means summer holiday marketing season for the beverage industry.
In just the next few weeks, the beverage industry will see a slew of major celebratory events: Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Graduations, professional sports playoffs (#GoCavs!) and the start of the summer season with Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- plus concerts, vacations, patio parties and good ol’ fashioned happy hours.
But before we put away our winter coats and bust out our best island-themed drink posters and graduation day email prompts, let’s revisit some marketing basics so beverage suppliers and distributors can spring their sales numbers up along with the temperatures. (Special Note: not every recommendation below may be legal in each state. Consult local laws regarding promotion legality.)
Special thanks to beverage branding experts from Brandmuscle's Chicago office for input and guidance, including digital marketing wiz Chris McNamara and deft account director Sarah Benoit who work daily with beverage Suppliers and Distributors.
1) Choose the Celebrations Right For Your Beverage Brand
The celebrations you’re marketing need to match more than just your product. They need to overlap with the essence of your brand. Bourbons are a fit for horse racing parties, sure, but be careful about mixing cocktails with your ultra-premium brand. (Put mint in my Blanton’s and I’ll smack your hand away!) Likewise, think beyond the no brainers. Tequila promotion for Cinco de Mayo is simple, but does your brand beg for more than margaritas? Blending relevance with new recipes will catch consumers’ eyes and ultimately get more orders. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Cinco de Mayo
Tequila reigns. But also consider featuring Mexican beers as the category is rapidly expanding and popular with consumers.
Also, think beyond the traditional margarita to Palomas and other bright, fresh cocktails for Cinco. Developing a signature cocktail or shot specific to an account for the holiday can be a great way to help consumers break out of the traditional margarita mindset and introduce them to new brands you're making or distributing.
Retail accounts will match their home team’s colors with colorful cocktails or shots, so think through which of your brands can be a chameleon (HINT: vodka, some rum, etc.). Distributors, it's worth reminding bars and restaurant that without clearance, they can’t use a team’s actual name!
The Derby is a great off-premise opportunity for brands. Consider a cross-merchandised display that includes products besides whiskey that would create the perfect race-day celebration at home. Bourbon and other whiskeys are staples, but keep mint-flavored mixers near-by off-premise and coach on-premise accounts about the art of crafting the perfect mint julep (remember to crush that ice!).
Wine yes, but what else does mom love? Vodka? Rum? Craft Beer?! (Okay, maybe my mom is just cooler than yours?) What about keeping Sangria ingredients near wine and spirits for off-premise locations? Distributors working with on-premise accounts should be asking about Mother's Day brunches 2-3 weeks in advance with a just-for-mom recipe in their back pocket.
Suppliers and Distributors alike should think through grad party opportunities from around mid-May to late-June. Point-of-sale marketing at off-premise retailers is the best target, so think about branding your sampler-pack of beer with “just add a bucket and ice.”
Dad's day is a unique opportunity for Suppliers to target older millennials starting their families with new or premium brands. Talk to your Supplier about hosting bottle or glass engraving events for whiskey, gin and even specialty beer brands at key off-premise accounts. Dad gets to drink his gift and keep it too!
Memorial Day/Summer BBQs
Summertime barbeques are a great opportunity to showcase an assortment of your brands for a well-rounded home bar that will make any barbeque a success. Distributors calling on on-premise accounts should think about these events at least 2-3 weeks in advance with suggestions for summer cocktails and craft brews to avoid the rush.
Lastly, get creative with the celebrations you target and leave room for local interpretation when designing creative. Sports teams making a playoff run are a great example to intercept a loyal (and thirsty) audience by showing that your beverage brand pairs best with the game, but it requires being ready to deploy various creative solutions and cocktail suggestions in different local markets. We've included a few here, but for additional creative ideas, check out Brandmuscle's Design boards.
PRO TIP: Consider brand positioning, occasion theme and your target audience when selecting occasions to market your beverage brand.
2) Plan Ahead to Be a Beverage Marketing Best Practice
Events and holidays are like locomotives. They cannot be stopped once in motion, so preparation is the key to making your beverage branding a success during a celebration. We’ve provided a tip list here for you to follow. Just count back from the celebration you’ve selected, then get ready for the gravy train to come your way!
Marketing Prep for Celebratory Events
This advice applies to Suppliers, Distributors and Retailers, so be sure to pass it on to your channel partners ahead of time. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork!
Ensure your email list is up to date. Collect emails consistently; have an opt-in form on your website (available on many free email providers). Empower your sales representatives to collect emails when visiting accounts. If available, offer incentives* for opting in such as a discount (*legality varies state-to-state).
1-2 weeks in advance:
Send an email to your subscriber list with a clear, immediate and compelling call-to-action (CTA) tied to the occasion (e.g., “Call/Email Your Sales Representative to Discuss Profitable Cinco de Mayo Cocktail Features!” “Mother’s Day Quantities limited, reserve now!”). If you can incorporate personalization (account name or their dedicated sales representative’s contact information), that makes your message much more impactful.
1-2 weeks in advance:
On Premise: Order table tents/get menu features at least 7-10 days in advance of your celebration to ensure timely delivery.
Off Premise: Ensure posters, shelf-talkers and eye-catching displays are in high-traffic areas to drive purchase. (*Where/As Legal)
On a budget? Have generic materials that can be adapted for local applications; leave room to swap out drink and pricing details as needed per location. Consider items such as a dry-erase or chalkboard that can be inexpensively changed for occasions/specials.
1-2 weeks in advance:
Share social media assets from your own channel, but leave room for on- and off-premise retailers to adapt the creative to fit their specific locations.
Consider creating a Facebook event to house imagery that can be reused on the major SM platform for local application.
Creative materials should be similar across platforms, leveraging enough branded content for promotion and also focused on the occasion, which is what consumers will be attracted to in the first place.
PRO TIP: Plan your beverage marketing across channels so distributors and retailers can promote your timely recipes with an integrated, consumer-focused theme.
3) Measuring Beverage Marketing Impact Goes Beyond Tracking Sales
While counting your money is always nice, determining marketing success requires more metrics than tracking revenue. What caused the increase in revenue and which marketing tactics should you invest in for your next celebratory campaign? Tracking marketing success will make sure you’re identifying the tactics and channels to optimize success. Here are a few tips from our experience:
Check open rates and CTRs (click-through rates) to gauge campaign effectiveness. Going a step further, did any of your recipients take action? Are you able to trace product orders based on when you sent the email? Go beyond digital metrics if you want to show ROI.
Always look to grow subscribers among your key demographics. Incorporate opt-ins to your social media pages to drive relevant subscribers. Sharing great social content with incentives to current subscribers is a great way to create potential virality and potentially watch the referrals pour in.
Sales of a product is the premier metric, but think beyond this. Depending on the brand and the way it was featured (e.g., if you developed a cool signature cocktail), permanent placement on an on-premise menu would be a great indicator of success as it would ensure continued sales.
Also, measuring output (e.g., how many flyers were printed/delivered) helps determine if an event was popular with distributors/retailers.
As print and digital converge to form integrated campaigns, your measurement should be looking across channels as well. Consider creative ways to tie printed materials to digital properties and sales. Coupons (where legal) can help, but think about driving consumers to a unique landing page for a holiday-themed beverage recipe to track engagement with the campaign.
Monitor social media for mentions for your brand and use a branded hashtag to see if campaign assets are being used.
Develop a social listening strategy for your business to help determine which celebratory events are best for your beverage brand.
What else would you add to the conversation about beverage brands joining in on celebratory moments? Are there celebrations we missed? Marketing tactics you have had a good experience with? Let us know in the comments below.