Alcohol marketing – especially on social media – is a tricky endeavour.
On one hand, you want to reach your audience, engage with them, and promote your products.
On the other hand, regulations in various countries make it a challenge to market alcohol products on social media.
Plus, it’s easy to send the wrong message with certain alcohol advertising and you definitely don’t want to do that.
That’s why today we’ll cover how alcohol brands should do social media in 2021 including tips, best practices, and strategies to connect with your audience. Let’s go!
Alcohol companies didn’t have a great 2020. Cancelled events around the world meant no revenue from major venues, concert halls, and festivals. Even restaurants seriously slashed their alcohol sales as dining ground to a halt.
At the time of writing this, the US and the UK are still struggling with lockdowns. In 2021, alcohol brands should just keep connecting with consumers on social media through engaging and thoughtful content. Here’s how.
You can’t sell alcohol directly through social media platforms, so you’ll need to establish other concrete goals for your strategy.
Brand awareness is a big one. Most beer, wine, and spirit brands use well-timed social media ads to keep their product on the top of customer minds around holidays, weekends, and events.
Awareness campaigns are especially important for new alcohol brands that haven’t built a cult following yet.
You could also use social media to collect information on your customers through quizzes, email lists, surveys, and questions.
Whatever your goals, make sure to set trackable metrics and KPIs to see how your campaigns perform and adjust accordingly.
Most countries and social media platforms don’t allow alcohol giveaways. That’s fine. Just get creative with your contest ideas.
Drinking-related prizes are still fair game – like wine glasses, coolers, mugs, flasks, and other accessories. Gift cards for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, or Uber Eats are fun prizes to encourage responsible drinking too.
After the pandemic passes, vacations and event tickets make for smart grand prizes as well.
Think about what’s trending. Chessboards are all the rage right now thanks to The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, for example. Boardgames in general are fun prizes for people to enjoy at home with their roommates and close friends during lockdowns.
If you’re feeling super generous, PS5s are nothing to sneeze at.
Some creative prizes could include:
It all depends on your audience.
Different social media platforms cater to different age groups and demographics. Your audience on Facebook, for example, might include more Generation Xers and up. Whereas Instagram users are mainly between 18 and 35.
It’s super important to keep this in mind where regulations are concerned. Most platforms let you restrict your audience to certain age groups.
Bear in mind that while some countries allow drinking from the age of 16, others don’t allow drinking until 21. Some parts of India ban alcohol consumption to anyone under 30!
Think about what type of content is relatable to each group too.
Someone in their early 20s might enjoy drinking with groups of friends on the weekends. Meanwhile, professionals in their 30s might prefer unwinding with a cocktail alone.
Content targeting one scenario won’t resonate with the other.
Here’s why it’s so important to understand your audience beyond the booze.
Ask yourself, what does your audience do while they’re drinking? How about when they’re not drinking?
Since beer, wine, and spirits often act as an equaliser across people of all backgrounds, you’ll need to do some digging – and segmenting.
A quarter of your customers might prefer spending their time off in the woods or on the water. Another quarter might sip your beer in between bread baking. Others might just enjoy watching Netflix with their cats.
Whatever you do, just don’t make the all-too-common mistake of assuming your entire audience loves sports.
Once you know who your audience is beyond drinking, you can create valuable content for them. Use infographics, video series, and blog guides on these topics to break out of the recipe rut.
Pabst Blue Ribbon knows their audience. The iconic beer’s YouTube channel includes music and art videos. Looks like they even held an art contest a few years ago.
PBR made a smart choice asking for user-submitted artwork because it didn’t involve drinking.
Asking your followers to submit photos or videos of themselves consuming your product will fill your hashtags with well, exactly that. What I’m trying to say is, most of the content you receive probably won’t send the best message about your brand.
Plus, brands themselves aren’t supposed to share images or videos of people directly consuming their product. In other words, asking your followers to do just that strays a little too far from ethical – at the very least into a grey area.
Instead, default to lifestyle content with all your requests for user-generated content (UGC).
Ask for UGC that you know will produce awesome results like:
It’s hard to get creative with events – unless you know your audience.
Cocktail courses, mingles, and production Q&As are good, but I know you can do better than that.
With everyone baking bread, why not host an event (or series of events) on making different types of bread with your craft brews?
Straying away from alcohol entirely, live cooking contests are fun. Keep the attendee list limited for best results and provide a strict ingredient list. Ask contestants to create a recipe on the fly with only those ingredients. Viewers can judge from the livestream and each contestant’s roommate can taste test.
Baking and cake decorating contests work too. Pumpkin carving, scavenger hunts, harmless pranks – whatever you think your audience will enjoy! Creativity is the name of the game here.
Influencers are useful but it gets pretty tricky with alcohol brands.
For starters, an influencer might be of legal drinking age themselves but that doesn’t mean most of their audience is. Obviously, you can’t control every one of their followers – that’s on the influencer – but even a hefty minority of underage followers could trigger a PR disaster or ethical consequences.
An audience analysis is key here. Especially on Instagram where users tend to lean young, you’ll want to run a proper audience analysis to vet any potential influencer before linking up with them.
Plus, an audience analysis will tell you if the influencer’s followers overlap with the lifestyle and hobbies of your target audience.
Unless you’re trying to expand into new segments, you wouldn’t want to partner with outdoorsy influencers if your target audience (and your content marketing) veers more into baking and cooking, for example.
Finally, you also want to properly vet the influencer themselves to take precautions against any future mishaps that could tarnish your brand’s image. You clearly can’t control what a person does or how they behave, but you can look at past behaviour to predict the future. Even a deep dive into Google can tell you quite a bit.
Of course, bartenders and mixologists are go-to influencer choices for alcohol brands – but why limit yourself?
Look for influencers who share your audience’s lifestyle interests like fishing, snowboarding, baking, or sewing. People with homebrewing or distilling setups could also be useful.
Most customers can immediately identify beer or spirit logos, but could your customers name a person of interest at your company or pick a face out of a crowd? Probably not.
Social media is your chance to add a human element to your brand. Show customers that you’re not just a large animatronic distillery.
Ask questions on your pages to engage your audience. Share Stories on Instagram and Facebook of your people working. Answer comments with conversational (not bot-like) replies.
Drinking shouldn’t feel detached from emotion and conversations. If it does, that’s a problem.
Use human connections to help customers form a positive view of your brand and the good times you promote – like what Wilson Creek Winery did in this Christmas message:
Social media is an extremely visual platform and drinking is a highly sensory activity. You can’t mimic smells or tastes through the internet yet (and I’m not sure that’d be an ethical choice for alcohol brands anyway) but you can use highly visually stimulating content.
Multimedia is your best chance to grab attention, reflect your brand’s message, and engage your audience.
Trust me, it’s worth the investment for high-quality images, graphics, and video. Try to stick within your brand’s colour pallet to really drive home the recognition.
The Sailor Jerry Instagram account mainly posts images and graphics on par with the brand’s old school tattoo theme:
Partnering with other brands gives you the benefits of a wider audience reach and instant trust without the same risk associated with many influencers.
Look for potential professional partners within your lifestyle niche: camping brands, bread baking supplies, even artists and musicians.
Brumate partnered with TUSHY for a contest. You might not think a travel mug company and bidet brand have much in common, but I’d bet there’s plenty of audience overlap since they both sell luxury products and target the same demographics.
Stories are an excellent medium for behind-the-scenes content because they’re less permanent and more casual than timeline posts. Sure, you can save Stories to your profile if you like but you don’t have to.
Use your Stories on Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn to show what it’s like to work at your company. Show your audience the effort, emotion, and energy behind each sip.
Highlight your ingredients and explain where you source everything from.
These types of behind-the-scenes Stories go a long way towards humanising your brand too and forging a deeper connection with your audience.
Well, you can’t officially “claim” your hashtags on Instagram like you would with a Google business listing. You can, however, make sure your brand’s official content dominates all your branded hashtags.
Why does this matter?
You can’t stay in control of user-generated content as much as possible. Obviously, you can’t control everything, but you also don’t want the top posts in your hashtags to include a bunch of bad hangovers.
Use your branded hashtags in everything you post. Ask your influencers and partners to do the same.
It’s also smart to create a hashtag specifically for user-generated content. Just don’t make the same mistake as Budweiser with their #UpForWhatever campaign. It kinda sent the wrong message, especially in context with the “remove ‘no’ from your vocabulary” quote added to the bottle:
71% of consumers say they would rather spend money with a brand that shares their personal values. For Millennials, shared values matter even more with 83% saying they’d rather buy from aligned brands.
Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand your audience.
At this point, the only thing worse than not giving back at all is picking a generic cause like “the environment” and donating money to some politician’s laundering charity.
Now, that’s not to say the environment isn’t important but that you should get a little more specific and do your research into organisations. What about the environment? Fossil fuels? Clean water? Nuclear energy? Solar power?
Brumate chose a Denver-based foodbank for their Giving Tuesday proceeds. It targets a specific location and makes an important impact considering that many Americans are currently relying on foodbanks.
Let’s be honest here. Alcohol isn’t exactly the healthiest thing you can put into your body – no matter how many antioxidants are in that glass of red wine.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with moderate consumption, but alcohol’s nature also makes its ingredients and production process that much more important.
Look, your customers aren’t drinking beer or vodka for the health benefits. There’s no reason to insult their intelligence here by touting the health benefits of your organic, antioxidant-rich, fat-free, alkaline, berry vodka.
However, it is smart to show your audience that you only use the best ingredients available and put your heart into creating the cleanest product possible.
Frequent drinkers especially will care about your low-carb, low-calorie, or sugar-free options. Just make sure to keep the promotional copy light-hearted and self-aware with a little meta humour.
One of the first posts on the Prairie Organic Spirits Instagram page is a picture of their pesticide-free, non-GMO, organic farming process. It’s cool AND good to know.
Think fast: Who are you?
What would your brand sound like in a conversation? What jokes would your brand make at a party?
Would your brand be the quiet, reserved, and sophisticated type? Or would your brand be the first to grab the mic on karaoke night?
These questions matter. They dictate how your brand will “talk” on social media and what aesthetic you’ll give off.
Let’s go back to the Prairie Organic Spirits page. Their voice is warm, friendly, and sophisticated – not outgoing, energised, and edgy.
Once you understand your audience, it gets easy to curate interesting content from non-competitors.
Trail guides for different regions, snowboarding gear, gaming setups – it all depends on your audience.
With the bread baking craze, use brand monitoring tools to look out for bloggers and foodies creating recipes with your products. Share the images and links to your social media with a shoutout.
Sailor Jerry dives deep into its rockabilly/old school tattoo aesthetic. Conveniently, this style also provides the perfect opportunity to curate content from tattoo professionals:
The Sailor Jerry account can share interesting on-brand content, drive traffic to the tattoo artist, and hopefully earn traffic from the tattoo artist’s shoutout as well.
You can’t sell your products on social media, but you can help people figure out where to get them. Keeping pandemic restrictions in mind, use your page to highlight local distributors, restaurants, and venues.
Look for niche craft beer stores, high-end liquor stores, combo cigar bars, and restaurants that fit with your lifestyle demographics.
This is a win-win situation because you can also encourage your customers to shop from small local businesses – which 53% of consumers in the United States say they’re more likely to do post-COVID-19.
Especially with lockdowns driving isolation-induced depression, loneliness, and despair, alcohol brands need to stay aware of their power via advertising.
It’d be nice to see alcohol brands go above the required “drink responsibly” disclaimer with infographics and posts explaining the differences between healthy and unhealthy drinking habits. Something this simple could make you stand out from the competition too. Just some food for thought!