In the third of Kantar’s category-specific touchpoint investigations for WARC, Renita Jude takes a look at media effectiveness for alcohol brands.

Whether we are happy or sad, animated or tired, relaxed or anxious, in a group or alone – alcohol can enhance almost any emotion. The recent Jack Daniel’s – With Love, Jack ad neatly showed how it can be relevant even whilst we’re social distancing.  The science behind why we drink alcohol has many reasons, but the overarching principle is that, when consumed thoughtfully, it creates an experience for the mind and body. By the same token, alcohol brands can maximise marketing effectiveness by blending touchpoints into a rich experience which engages multiple senses.  

Based on Kantar Connect learnings, non-paid touchpoints drive 77% of the impact for alcohol brands, more than other categories, perhaps not surprising given the tight legislations in some markets around above-the-line advertising.  Crucially, 45% of touchpoint impact comes from a range of product experiences such as TASTING the brands on nights out, in combination with HEARING strong word-of-mouth. Retail touchpoints such as SEEING the brand on shelf, the look and FEEL of product packaging and in-store promotions contribute another 10%.

To fully capture the power of these touchpoints, brands should create immersive experiences through innovation and technology. Social media channels where consumers SHARE experiences as well as websites with useful features such as cocktail recipes are becoming more important. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted that alcohol brands can no longer rely just on a physical presence in bars, clubs and restaurants but they also need to offer a captivating virtual experience. Grey Goose vodka has done just that by launching a new ‘House Pour’ initiative on their social media channels, hiring bartenders who lost their jobs in the pandemic to run online cocktail making classes.

Key to touchpoint effectiveness is understanding which touchpoints have the greatest impact for which consumers. A whiskey brand in East Asia wanted to promote highball drinks by better understanding the role of different touchpoints across six consumer segments. Kantar Connect identified that product experience was the common touchpoint driving all the segments along with recommendations from specialists. E-commerce websites and online shops specialising in whiskey worked better for heavy whiskey drinkers. Occasional drinkers and aspiring connoisseurs responded well to TV and other informative touchpoints such as comparison websites and distillery tours which enabled them to learn more about the product. Equipped with these learnings, the client successfully re-defined their communication strategy to shift attitudes of the different buyer personas.

Among paid media, despite having relatively high spend levels, TV is more cost-effective compared to other categories, contributing strongly to image associations and purchase motivation. Amongst other paid media touchpoints, OOH relies heavily on synergy with other touchpoints and is not working very well. High costs from premium locations could be driving down effectiveness, but given the nature of the product, this can’t be compromised too much. Facebook and online video ads are exceptionally cost-effective for alcohol brands, around twice as much as other categories.

Understanding this, a popular beer brand collaborated with a Music Festival, designing 6 bottles dedicated to each type of electronic music being performed at the festival. They aimed to use niche touchpoints to reach certain audiences. The assessment by Kantar CrossMedia showed strong uplifts in both creative and brand metrics. Although TV didn’t cut through as expected since the bottles were hardly featured, online media took centre stage with well-targeted personalised ads which cost-effectively generated buzz. 

Going forward, more and more alcohol brands will be seen embracing hi-tech experiences to provide a unique and memorable experience. Such immersive experiences will help consumers discover and enjoy the products better. For example, Diageo are using VR headsets and created an experience for all five senses while the user was tasting a range of Guinness beers. They also created an app using visual recognition technology to assess how well each pint is poured to help coach bar staff.

The industry will also adopt new trends in product and packaging to deliver greater convenience and respond to emerging consumer preferences. This will range from RTDs (ready-to-drink) such as canned wine or alcohol pouches to sophisticated eco-friendly boxes suitable for gifting. In-store advertisements coupled with promotions can work well in making consumers aware of these features at the point of sale and shifting behaviours.

Finally, the consumer landscape for alcohol is definitely not set in stone. Evermore, women are becoming key users of the category which will force brands to refine their media strategy, e.g. the ideal sponsorship event will no longer just talk to men. Similarly, we will see a surge in health-conscious, young adults who prefer low/no alcohol drinks and brands might increasingly use targeted online ads and perhaps even channels like e-sports sponsorship to influence these niche groups. Alcohol brands, therefore, need to watch out for such stark changes not just in touchpoint landscape but also in consumer landscape and master the finest media mix that could work well for both.

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