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  • Writer's pictureAlexia Saumon

How can influence marketing help brands operating in the alcohol industry

The alcohol industry has been booming in the past months and is expected to continue to grow by 10.51% between 2022 and 2025. However, the increase in consumption creates a strong need for agencies, governments, and brands to be responsible in the way they promote their product and alcohol consumption as a whole. At Clark Influence, we have been working with brands operating in the alcohol industry for a long time. Our experience has led to our ability to promote these products within the scope of government and platform rules, as well as making sure, using granular targeting techniques, that only our client’s target market is reached through our campaigns. While the vast majority of the industry revenue is driven by beer sales, it is quickly and drastically expanding and diversifying. The consumption of alcoholic beverages has dramatically changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Indeed, with restaurants and bars closing, North Americans craved new and different tastes, flavors, and ways to consume their traditional alcohol. Simultaneously, the popularization of social platforms and their impact on the alcohol industry has been tremendous. While most of the platforms are very strict on the promotion of alcohol brands whatsoever, we have been seeing a rise in content showcasing the creation of cocktails. It has helped individuals stuck at home recreate the drinks they used to enjoy at their favorite bars. Since then, TikTok has become the home of many viral drink hacks, tutorials, and trends in the industry. It allowed the low-key cocktail Negroni Sbagliato to become the trendiest drink after a video of Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy, stars of the House of Dragon series, went viral on TikTok. It has now become clear that TikTok and other social media platforms, when used responsibly, can be real allies for alcohol brands looking to increase their awareness, expand their product lines, or reach a new target.

New trends are currently shaping the alcohol industry and will likely have a great impact on future social media trends. If you are a marketing executive in the alcohol industry reading this article, we would strongly advise considering the following trends and working with influencers to increase your brand’s online presence and virality.

1. The rise of non-alcoholic drinks

In 2021 only, Nielsen reports the sales of non-alcoholic cocktails and beverages to have increased by 33%, while online searches for the term are up 45% in 5 years. In 2021, 60% of adults reported drinking alcohol - down from 65% in 2019. This decrease is largely driven by Gen Z and millennials, that are drinking 20% less than other generations at their age. Sober is the new cool: individuals are increasingly sober curious and are encouraged by trends such as Dry January or Sober October. These two hashtags have gathered more than 600,000 mentions on Instagram only, as of December 2022. While new players in the industry are quickly entering this lucrative industry, existing alcohol providers are expanding in this vertical as well. The launch of Athletic Brewing Company, an alcohol-free beer provider has accelerated the alcohol-free trend and has sold 100,000 barrels in 2021. Corona Canada’s CORONA SUNBREW, the new alcohol-free drink loaded with Vitamin D, is winning hearts.

However, individuals are not looking into shifting from tasty cocktails to drinking water: players in the alcohol-free industry need to be innovative and create drinks that are tasty, healthy, and look as crafted as any other alcoholic beverage. Working with influencers online could help in both the ideation and the promotion of a new alcohol-free drink. As an example, influencers could ask their audience to co-create the drink and its look, through an interactive and engaging ideation and creation process.

2. Celebrity-launched booze

Many celebrities have entered the alcohol industry in the past decade. This trend is not expected to slow down in the upcoming months. Sammy Hagar, Kendall Jenner, Nicki Minaj, Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Snoop Dogg, and many more. All of these celebrities have in common their expansion in the spirit industry. Brandy Rand, chief strategy officer at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis noted that “a celebrity connection provides immediate validity to a product and cuts through the clutter of traditional advertising”. New brands are tremendously benefiting from the star factor in generating awareness and easing the distribution and sales process. The clear winner in the star-made alcohol is tequila. The volume of tequila sold in the U.S. in 2021 grew 17% - compared to the 4% average of the spirit industry. Furthermore, sales of celebrity tequila have outperformed both total tequila sales and overall spirits, growing 50% between 2016 and 2021. The sale of George Clooney’s tequila brand Casamigos tequila for $1 billion in 2017 has been one of the driving factors behind celebrities launching their tequila brands. Today Adam Levine, Kendall Jenner, and Dwayne Johnson, among others have entered and thrived in the tequila vertical. Another interesting trend in celebrity-backed booze touches upon pre-mixed cocktails, which shows an increase of revenue of 39% in 2021 only. Nicki Minaj’s Myx Fusions line of prepared drinks, launched in 2013, features many flavors such as sangria, chardonnay, and rosé. Brands could leverage this trend and work with macro and mega influencers to promote their products, using innovative and out-of-the-box strategies. Forming long-lasting relationships with celebrities who genuinely enjoy your products through an ambassador program could be a strong avenue for an authentic and effective promotion strategy.

3. Upgraded and enhanced cocktails

Alcohol consumers are craving mix-ins, enhancements, and fermented mixers in their drinks. Today more than ever, consumers are increasingly challenging bartenders and industry players in being innovative. A survey by Bacardi Global ranked flavored bitters, coconut water, coffee, and fermented mixers as the most popular ingredients this year. In the bitter category, the rise of Campari and Aperol has been striking. The hashtag #aperolspritz has reached 2 million posts on Instagram. Other inspirations include coffee, with the explosion of espresso martini consumption, but also hard kombucha - fermented longer with more sugar and yeast to bump up the alcohol content, as well as cannabis-infused drinks.

An idea could include brands partnering up with chefs and barmen influencers from across the globe to create innovative and out-of-the-box cocktails recipes using their products and putting forward the chef’s home country. Through social media, using influencer marketing could help consumers travel from the comfort of their homes.

4. Canned Cocktails

The ready-to-drink vertical has seen its sales grow 126% between 2019 and 2020, mostly driven by the hard seltzer market, and accelerated by the pandemic. Consumers love these new types of beverages for their simplicity and convenience. Canned cocktails are quickly diversifying from Manhattan, Old Fashion, and Bourbon Whisky with ginger and honey. Millennials are the main consumers of ready-to-drink cocktails and account for 62% of sales in this industry. However, these consumers are also increasingly looking for healthier, low-carb and sugar alternatives, with a report showing that marketing labels such as “made with natural ingredients”, “unique flavor” or “refreshing flavor” are the most effective in encouraging purchases. As a result, canned cocktails are tapping into herbal, botanical, and citrus flavors that are enhancing the perception of health benefits.

RTD Brands looking to reach millennials online could work with selected influencers and create a gamified online experience around the drink, or even play around with the current fashion codes and trends to embed their products in the current pop culture landscape.

5. Quality over Quantity

In 2023, consumers will be increasingly looking into quality rather than quantity. Quality encompasses everything from taste to convenience, sustainability, and packaging. The rise of alcohol pouches has grown to become one of the most viable alternatives to non-glass packaging. Consumers are loyal to brands that are transparent about how they source their ingredients and how they act for saving the planet. Increasingly, they are willing to pay more for a more ecological and healthier product.

Brands could put forward their social and ecological values by working with like-minded influencers that could explain the brand’s initiative to their audience, or even travel to meet the farmers and processors the brand is working with. Being transparent is a key success factor in the alcohol industry. Corona has been a good example of societal engagement and has been working with social and ecologically focused influencers and causes.

Working with influencers and promoting your brand on social platforms has proved successful for years. However, strict policies against alcohol-related content targeted at younger generations may be an obstacle to being successful online. Working with strategic agencies such as Clark Influence can be a viable option for finding innovative and mindful ways to talk to consumers online and on social media, all of these based on data analysis and trend predictions. Clark Influence can help you throughout the entire workflow.

Our expertise includes determining KPIs, budget & targets, determining the marketing channels & timeline, matching your brand with the most relevant influencers, managing their briefing, negotiating rates and contracts, reviewing content, and delivering reporting and analysis of campaign success.

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