Building a modern alcohol brand: how to connect with an increasingly aware audience

Nov 2019 · Design Strategy

The consumer landscape continues to evolve at a staggering pace. The growth of ‘craft’ industries and global brands conceiving and developing new propositions at a ferocious rate mean consumers have more choice than ever. These changes are taking place across all markets, due in large part to the way businesses of all size are able to conduct sales and build a large brand presence online. In the drinks and alcohol industry, this market dynamic means brands need to take advantage of these unique opportunities and new challenges in order to succeed.

An increasing focus on health and wellness, sustainability, product quality, shorter product lifecycles, and a greater need for variety all are mounting pressures on modern brands to deliver successful products.

Consumers take pride in, and to some extent, build their identities based on the brands that they buy. Because of this, they need to understand a brand’s purpose, its personality and what sets it apart before they’ll be willing to become a believer in a brand.

The rise in healthy thinking

Today, 19% of the UK adult population (10 million people) abstain from alcohol. One third of adults actively drink less alcohol than they did a year ago (MCA Healthier Eating Report 2019). This behavioural change is echoing around the world with Grand View Research predicting the global non-alcoholic beverage market to reach USD $1.6 trillion by 2025, a 30% increase from today.

In a world where consumers have more power than ever, cutting through the noise, understanding their true needs and telling a compelling brand story is vital to staying ahead of competitors. Not only this, more consumers are now considering how the products they buy are produced, packaged and traded. The rise in B Corp, ethical brands and wholesome organisations built around the positive aspect of change is transcending historically staid industries.

Looking at the financial market for example, the growth of ESG fund investment (funds where environmental, social and governance factors have been integrated into the investment process) is, through affirmative government regulation, beginning to showcase the importance of not only investing in profitable funds (a given), but funds that have a direct impact to better the world around us.

Back to the drinks industry

Daniel Woolfson from The Grocer states that “a new, younger generation of consumers, with a taste for experimentation and no longstanding loyalty to big brands has come of age”. It goes without saying then that in this new wild west consumer world, brands large and small must work harder to ensure a better customer experience. Effectively communicating the benefits of a brand, pairing a consumer’s need to a specific product range and embracing design thinking to influence perception and a consumer’s brand relationship is vital.

A greater focus on health and wellbeing means that it is increasingly likely that people will be drinking less, and when they do drink, prioritise quality offerings. In addition to this, we are seeing a rise in non-traditional product introductions such as non-alcoholic beers that maintain a focus on flavour and a strong appeal to craft beer drinkers. Take a look at Hop Burns & Black No and Low Alcohol range to see what we mean: https://shop.hopburnsblack.co.uk/collections/low-no-alcohol

With so many elements contributing to a successful brand, and more complex needs from consumers, how can a brand marketer affect change quickly and communicate their brand’s strengths to what may be a more specific audience segment?

Affecting change quickly to present your brand story

Digital innovation coupled with design thinking is vital to empower brand, product, and marketing managers who want to efficiently and effectively bring their message to consumers and potentially adapt their offering to capitalise on market trends.

As an experienced agency, our work with think tank Global Drugs Survey saw our team design and build a digital tool that helps people keep track of their alcohol consumption and informs them about ways they can take advantage of healthy drink habits. Drinks Meter is a prime example showing how today’s wellness-focused consumers are actively reviewing their relationship with alcohol and their approach to healthy consumption.

This digital tool, independently audited over the last six months by the Australian New South Wales Government, was proven to directly impact behavioural change for the better. In driving this habitual change, users became more aware and informed of their own alcohol consumption, the impact that it has on their health, how they compare to others like them, and ultimately how a change in approach to alcohol could positively affect their own lives.

We’ve also worked with Unilever to help them successfully launch a new vegan product, by building a digital experience within a short 8-week time frame. Through the site, we helped them tell their story, validating their ethical offering to consumers looking to learn who they were. We supported the brand launch with a coordinated social media campaign with collaborative artists contributing to the overall brand message. The success of this campaign demonstrated to us the importance of activating new ideas with quick-to-market digital activity.

There is more opportunity than ever before to launch new ventures, test new ideas, and grow a devoted brand following. Brands that are able to do this are those aware of the need to quickly bring their products to market and efficiently adapt their offering to the needs of their audience. With the research done by consumers online and the willingness to learn more about the companies they buy from, a brand’s digital presence has never been more crucial to its success.

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