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LED Scrolling Labels, virtual reality, supermarket popups and celebrity endorsements are some examples of innovative activations over the last few years. Each of these activations is discussed below and an overview of each provided. A recent article in Forbes described the alcohol industry as “a close-knit one. Brands know that bartenders act as its beating heart.” COVID-19 has devastated this community and with that in mind, much of the brand education currently online is taking this into account and using it as an opportunity to raise funds for those struggling financially.

CREATIVE ACTIVATIONS IN WINES AND SPIRITS AT RETAIL

1. LED Scrolling Labels — Medea Vodka

  • Medea Vodka is a Dutch-based vodka company. They were looking for a way to make their bottles stand out from other brands on the shelf while exploring a potentially untapped market, the gift market.
  • To emphasize the idea of the vodka as a gift, Medea produced a number of limited edition bottles to be sold through retail stores. The limited-edition bottles also came with an LED gift tag. Some preprogrammed messages like Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas had been included, but consumers are also able to customize the tags as they wished.
  • The tags serve the purpose of helping the brand stand out on the store shelves as well as having a functional element. The result of the activation saw a new market emerge as a potential revenue source, with the product becoming increasingly popular as gifts. The tags allowed the company to realign its existing clients and allowed them to view the product in a new light.
  • Introducing the product to a new audience, while increasing its appeal to the current one, increases sales, and generates brand recognition and familiarity.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) — William Grant & Sons

  • There is little doubt that technology is impacting on the way products are marketed at both a retail and wholesale level. William Grant & Sons is an example of a company that has attempted to capitalize on this new technology, offering consumers the instore experience of touring their distillery, Glenfiddich, by VR.
  • The VR presentation, Journey into the Mind of a Malt Master, travels with consumers across the Speyside countryside, inside a mash tun, and into a warehouse lined with casks to telling the story of the product. The technology was first released at the Charles de Gaulle Airport retail store and expanded to others over time.
  • The combination of 3D CGI and drone footage, delivered via a VR headset, creates a positive experience for the consumer that promotes ongoing brand recognition and familiarity among the consumers.
  • Using this VR technology, the company has created a retail experience for the consumer, while educating them about the brand, and creating a degree of familiarity and affinity for the brand and products.

3. Supermarket Wine Pop-ups — Tesco

  • In recent years the pop-up has become an increasingly popular mechanism for promoting different products and brands. It was only a matter of time until the wine and spirits industry acted on the theme.
  • In the United Kingdom, Tesco took the lead when they became one of the first companies to embrace the concept when they temporarily opened a pop-up bar to showcase the wines on sale in the store. In all, they had about 70 wines showcased, that consumers sample for $3-4 a glass.
  • The bar was designed to have an upmarket feel. The bar was an opportunity for consumers to learn more about wines, so Tesco had wine experts on hand to answer any questions from consumers. Tesco set up the bar to introduce consumers to the range of wines it had on sale in the supermarket and to “see and taste the quality themselves and build brand awareness for Tesco as a destination for fine wine.”
  • In 2019, Tesco reemployed the concept in the lead up to Christmas, opening a series of similar pop-up bars. Those bars built on the concept of the first one and were open throughout November and December.

4. Celebrity Endorsement — Smirnoff

  • According to an article published in February 2020, the biggest trend in the alcoholic beverages market currently is celebrity endorsements. This is considered the trend that is most likely to pay dividends. The alcohol market continues to grow driven primarily by the increase in the young adult demographic and the increased demand for premium and super-premium spirits.
  • Celebrity endorsements are seen as a god way to increase the visibility of a product, while providing the consumer with some insider knowledge into the product. As one alcohol licensor put it, “People are looking for some of the fairy dust to be sprinkled on them from that celebrity’s lifestyle.”
  • The latest trend toward celebrity endorsement of alcohol products re-emerged in 2017 when Ted Danson became a brand ambassador for Smirnoff.

BRAND SPONSORED EDUCATION

1. The Mexican Standoff — Tanteo Tequila

  • Tanteo Tequila recently conducted its semi-regular Mexican Standoff. The Mexican Standoff is an Iron Chef-style contest where bartenders pit their skills and creativity against each other. The event serves multiple purposes, including introducing and educating bartenders around the product, introducing the public to the product, creating brand familiarity and recognition, while emphasizing the fun aspects of life.
  • Bartenders battle it out in one on one battles until a winner is chosen. The creations have to incorporate one of Tanteo’s infused tequilas and a specific ingredient (chosen by the Judges). The contenders battle it out until a winner is crowned. This years’ event had a twist. In light of the impact of COVID-19, the event became a virtual event, with the public voting on the winner.

2. Ghost Tequila — Cocktails For Cause

  • Ghost Tequila started an online round robin cocktail contest. The contest sees bar tenders go head-to-head with public voting determining the winner of each round. Part of the reason for the competition is a recognition by the founder of Ghost Tequila that bar staff have been among the hardest hit groups as a result of COVID-19 with many facing long periods of little or no work and many struggling financially to survive.
  • Contestants involved in the contest are all out of work bar tenders. They receive cash and prizes for their efforts each round. Ghost also contributes $1 to the Restaurant Workers Community Relief Fund. Ghost also announced that it will donate $1 from every bottle from the sale of every bottle to the same fund. So far Ghost has raised $15,225.
  • Having been a former bar tender Chris Foran has an increased awareness of the impact that the lock down and subsequent new rules around social distancing means that this impact will continue to be felt in the foreseeable future and wanted to play a part. The cocktail contest itself was a valuable educational tool for both the public and those in the industry.

SOCIAL MEDIA BRAND SPONSORED EDUCATION

1. Cointreau Cocktail Hours

  • Since the lock down due to COVID-19 began, it has become increasingly common for alcohol brands to host virtual happy hours. One brand using this style of brand education is Cointreau US, which hosts the Cointreau Cocktail hour. This is a virtual education session with well-known bartenders.
  • The bartenders are recruited by Cointreau US to host an Instagram takeover, where they take over Cointreau´s Instagram account for the hour. During the virtual cocktail hour, the bartender teaches their followers how to make a specialty Cointreau cocktail, answers questions, and gives followers advice on mixing cocktails with Cointreau.

ANALYSIS

  • Both the brand focused education and the social media brand sponsored education rely on the sharing of industry knowledge to reach their target audience. Although contests technically fall into the category of brand education, they appear to be more orientated toward the consumer than the industry.
  • Currently the social media content is focused on COVID-19 related issues. This is largely because opportunities are limited. There is a recognition from the industry that a number of the members are having difficult times presently and there is a focus on helping them through the difficult patch.
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