Understanding the Customer is Crucial for Alcohol Brand Marketing
- by Andi Whiskey
Marketing is never about the product.
Marketing is always about how the product will best serve the customer.
Marketing is about the customer.
Don't make the mistake most do and just talk about your product in all of your marketing efforts. That's like going on a date and just talking about yourself the whole time. You never get a chance to learn about the other person, what they like, and why they might like you. You don't have the opportunity to pitch them the best parts of you that might appeal to them most, because you don't know.
I'll take this metaphor just a touch too far here. Let's say you used to play the drums in a metal band in college. And you're on a date with a person who was super into listening to metal in college and even briefly played piano for a nu-metal band. And it turns out, you both still listen to metal on the weekends when you're wanting to let go a little. But you spend the whole time on your first date talking about your current corporate job instead of asking them about themselves, so you never get the chance to relate on this one endearing thing you both share.
Missed opportunity for a deeper connection.
It's similar in marketing. You're trying to build a lasting relationship with your customers, right? Ask them about themselves, relate to them, and then share with them the parts of your brand that fit into what you learned about their lives.
How This Looks in Practice
We have a client who distills their vodka 51 times. That's a notably large amount of distillations. They are deep into the product, real nerds about vodka, so they like to talk about how much work is put into making the perfect product.
The customer doesn't care. They just don't, and this confuses the customer when all of the messaging revolves around something they doesn't mean that much to them.
Instead, as their marketing team, we've shifted the marketing to be about what this does for the end product, and how this effects the customer. The 51 distillations makes a smoother product without the ethanol harshness. The vodka has a velvety mouthfeel, and rich flavor notes for an unflavored vodka. It tastes unlike any other vodka on the market, for that reason. That's how to talk about it, while still slightly educating on the hard work that went into it.
Sell the hole, not the drill.
It's an age-old saying, but it still holds up. Your customer wants something that makes them feel good, makes their life better, makes them look good, makes their occasions more enjoyable, etc. Tell them why your product does that for them.
Exceptions to This Rule
For this particular vodka client, we will sometimes create top of funnel/mid funnel ads that say, "Yes, the number of distillation matters," next to a photo of the bottle with the label that says 51 on it. This sparks conversation and engagement in the ad, which helps increase its reach. People will ask, "Why does the number of distillations matter?" And loyal customers will respond, "It removes more particulates and creates for smoother flavor."
This kind of social proof and conversation goes a long ways, not just for potential customers seeing the conversation play out, but also for the algorithm. All the platforms favor ads that create more engagement.
So if there's a conversation piece about the product specs that can be used this way, then you can focus on that in the copy.
ASK the Customer
Think like a bartender. When a guest first sits down, they don't start telling them what they should drink. A good bartender will ask what their typical preferences are, and then shape their experience around that.
When we start up with new clients, if they can't give us a crystal clear picture of who their customer base is, we suggest... asking.
How we do this is by running an open-ended question survey via email (and sometimes by DMing engaged customers on Instagram if the email list isn't extensive enough).
The survey consists of basic questions like:
- Why did you buy X Brand?
- Would you buy it again? If so, why?
- If you tell friends about X Brand, what do you tell them?
The magic of this type of survey is it gives you marketing copy pre-written for you. You're in the customer's heads. You know what they like about the product. So repeat that back to other potential customers.
By Asking, You Can Find Surprises About Your Customers
All too often, we start up with brands who have a very distorted idea of who their customer base is. This can be because the executive level team keeps talking about their "ideal customer", not the actual customer in meetings. Sometimes they don't even realize there's a distinction that they're missing. And that depiction of the customer becomes the only image the team has to act on. Those executive level people, however, are sometimes the furthest from actually seeing and talking to real customers.
That's why when our marketing team comes on to run social media for brands, we keep open communication and report back to our clients about who their most engaged consumers are.
We had a brand that started up with us around the time they were going through a full rebrand of their products. They were going from a dark, masculine aesthetic to a more feminine aesthetic. They told us their customer base was primarily late 20s to 30 year old women who liked making cocktails at home. Within minutes of being in their accounts, we ran to them to let them know they were way off. Dangerously off.
A quick look at the main engagers and the key demographics across Meta Ads and Instagram found that their customers were primarily 40 to late 50s year old men who liked a good cocktail at home. Those customers were not going to like a hard feminine aesthetic switch up.
The brand was able to pivot slightly so as not to alienate their best customer base, and still potentially capture the more feminine customer base, but this info did inform their decisions moving forward.
Understand Your Customer's Journey
Just knowing who your customer is is not enough, but it is important.
Understand what they like, how they act, and how they want to interact with your brand.
One of the ways you can do this is by using a listening tool like Inspectlet. We use this tool occasionally if buyer behaviors don't match what we expected, or if we see a low Average Order Value (AOV). We'll use a tool like Inspectlet to watch buyer behavior as they click onto the web site and go through the order process. What we often find is that the customer is not exposed to enough of the SKUs on the site, not knowing that there are other products they might like.
It's your job to tell them about all of your products that they might like.
Our vodka client does a decent job of this, as they have a whole Cocktail Party Pack that offers their products in a mix pack for customers, but with a name that suggests their end use. So the customer's journey might start with an ad about their flagship vodka, but then through the customer funnel, they're presented with the Cocktail Party Pack that also includes two of our client's gin products.
They could have just called it a mix pack, but by suggesting the end use that the customer likely wants it for, it helps the customer envision how they would use it. Think about seeing just a "Mix Pack" on a web site. If you're in a hurry or distracted, you might think, "Why would I want gins when I was coming to just buy vodka?" But by calling it Cocktail Party Pack, they've answered that objection and presented a compelling reason to buy more all at once.
At some point, our client realized that their customers who placed larger orders of more products were ordering to make cocktails for friends or guests. So taking that idea from other customers and selling it to potential customers is an effective way to increase order value, and also serve your customers better. If you have a good product, it benefits your potential customers to have it, does it not? So make it easier for them to figure out how it fits into their lives.
Alcohol Brands Need to Look to the Bars to Understand Their Customers
This is 100% why we only hire bartenders-turned-marketers.
If you'll notice, all of the photos for this article are in bars, because this is where your customer journey often starts, or at least needs to emulate. Bartenders are the expert guides in your brand's story.
The experts at understanding alcohol consumption are all behind the bar. Nightly, they talk to customers about their preferences, how they like to enjoy each spirit, and introduce them to new ways to experience spirits.
We cannot encourage brands enough to talk to bartenders about their spirits. Get their words. They're going to have their own personal opinions, plus understand how your product will do with consumers. They'll know who it fits best, how they'll prefer to drink it, and how to introduce it to new customers.
Bartenders are the frontline for alcohol brands all around the world. Utilize them for your brand.
And again, that's what we're here for. All of our marketing team have spent time behind a bar. Plus, we put every single person through rigorous bar training at our own private studio bar with our beverage director. We make sure everyone understands the nuances of every spirit that we work with, how to talk about flavor profiles, how to build cocktails with the base spirit as the focus, and more.
If you're looking for experts on your customer's journey, you've found them. We have our fingers deep, deep into the industry. We talk to consumers daily about their own drinking habits and preferences. We can use this information to better market your brand and spread its reach.
You can schedule a quick and free consultation to learn a bit more about us, or if you're ready to grow your marketing efforts, schedule a Marketing Blueprint Strategy Session with us. In that session, we're going to look at your current marketing efforts, your marketing goals, and what you can do immediately to start reaching those goals and expanding your brand awareness.