Sláinte, Cheers, Ganbai, Sauld, Za Zdorovye & PROST!

Despite my last name and my affinity for beer, I definitely wasn’t born into the spirits, beer or wine business. My first taste (pun definitely intended) started as a personal passion around the communal aspects of how it brings people together. In college, I was a bartender at a burger joint and it was there that I began experimenting with different drinks and cocktails paired with different burgers. Safe to say, when I found something good I would push my ideas on regular bar patrons. Since those days, I’ve had the opportunity to work for a national restaurant company, a global spirits company and a global marketing/PR services agency that represented global beer and whiskey brands, where I got to tell real stories and create unbelievable social content centered around booze.

From the outside looking in, I think the business is innovating and evolving faster than I could have ever imagined. When I talk to friends and past colleagues from Scotland to Los Angeles, I can see the industry is seeing a fragmentation among consumers and total players that few may have predicted. I think that fragmentation is forcing marketers to focus on really defining and building their brand. These are just a handful I’ve experienced:

  • Changing lifestyles and preference for lower calorie or non-alcoholic drinks, with big players investing in everything from hard seltzer to Kombucha
  • Craft beer saw mega mergers and acquisitions as ways to stave off sales losses to more niche and local breweries who innovate, brew and release new beers in a seemingly non-stop cadence
  • Traditional spirits brands from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, etc. are finding ways to innovate new flavor profiles, and we’re seeing non-traditional distilling areas of the world from India and Tasmania create award-winning spirits

With that being said, I think the greatest challenge marketing and PR professionals must face is how to connect the brand to its consumers during a pandemic without bars and bartenders?

Word of mouth is important. It’s a cornerstone of this industry. Bartenders are the original influencers, whose recommendation about a new wine or what’s on tap, has carried incredible importance. You can see how important they are when the entire industry banded together to build a fund to help the bartending community who lost work due to COVID19. 

Beyond that, the playbook for the liquor business is simple: stay relevant. Here are some things to think about:

  • Connect with consumers, where they are. Beyond virtual tastings and happy hours, how can we help stoke that communal fire?
  • Enhance storytelling. How can you lean into the amazing stories your brand has? 
  • Digitize. Can your distillery, brewery or winery experience exist past the in-person? Can you still connect the consumer to the people behind the innovations? 
  • Know the fans. Your audience is probably smaller than you think. How can you personalize an experience to show how you truly understand that core group?

In the end, this is an exciting industry to be a part of since there is something for everyone. It has global reach and local flavor. It’s equal parts fast-paced innovation balanced with decades of brand history worth exploring.  

For me, I’ll never grow tired of learning about the people, families and visiting the places that inspire and drive the business forward, and the best part, all those stories are definitely best shared with a drink and great company. My beer fridge and whiskey bar are well stocked. Come over anytime. Just text first, so I can clear it with the wifey. 

About the Author: Jason is the VP of Public Relations and Social Media at OH Partners. He’s a communications executive with over 15 years of experience across a diversified and has seen his fair share of crisis situations. Through all of it, he believes in challenging conventions and driving creative solutions and communications plans that add real value and breakthrough.

 

 

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