Premium liquor brands and the millennials: Seeking the unconventional.

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How millennials are changing premium liquor brands

Promoting alcohol brands have become increasingly difficult thanks to the strict marketing rules. What’s even more challenging, the younger generation is elusive with the conventional way of communication. Distancing from billboards and TV ads, the well-established liquor brands have come to a realisation that a new channel of selling themselves is needed to speak to more tech-savvy and less brand-loyal millennials.

Despite much effort, some advertising campaigns still generate a rather tepid response. Take a cursory glance at Grey Goose’s “La Pursuit’’ , you’ll very likely to find it was nothing but another pretentious, condescending and over-the-top marketing effort, desperately attempting to win the hearts of the millennials. ‘Ok, I get it – it’s super European infused with cool vintage cars and a classic French cinema. But… so what?’

Sadly, alcohol advertising is rife with such ‘creative’ approach these days. And they often started to lose the grip of the connection between ‘aspirational experiences’ and the product they are selling.

All ears and eyes on the millennials

But some heritage and premium liquor brands are doing it right. Johnnie Walker’s recent ad (made by two young German filmmaking students) proved to be one of the exceptions from luxury material-endorsed, nightlife-centered pitch that is flooding the industry. The brand made a smart choice “to look at the kind of marketing young creatives are making themselves, to use that and make it part of their brand’s process.”, said MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer of Ypulse on the New York Times.

Frankly, their 90-second emotional short film was spot on. I won’t deny that it almost teared me up. It best illustrates that the brand is about social experience and personal memories instead of material luxury goods. That very much resonates the millennial’s ‘’more about experiences, less about products’’ approach.  

Keep it mobile, keep it social.

As more and more brands are spending incredible resource to better understand the millennial consumers/millennial drinkers, they are turning to social media. Now here is another – but perhaps more affordable – Vodka brand, Absolut Vodka. Despite the declining vodka sales between 2014 to 2015 in the US, Absolut is showing some sort of recovery following its marketing boost with their eyes set on mobile and social, according to Digiday.

The brand’s ‘Hoppr by Absolut’ utilised the Facebook-supported platform to engage with users by showing and sharing who is hosting a party nearby in New York City. With some help from influencers, the brand was also planning to expand the campaign to LA this month and eventually nation-wide at the end of this year.  

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(Image via Digiday)

Similarly, the brand developed a new campaign this time last year featuring a short film on real Absolut events in New York, Sao Paulo, Berlin and Johannesburg. The brand encouraged fans to share their Absolut Night with #SparkYourNight across social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But the company didn’t stop there, as it simultaneously introduced ‘a limited-edition Absolut Spark bottle’ that glows in dark. Finally, it is committed to spend more energy on eCommerce in the coming years, following the success it had when collaborating with ‘online and mobile alcohol delivery service Minibar to offer two cocktail kits — a Cosmopolitan Kit and a Vodka Gimlet Kit — on demand in New York City’.

Playing down the heritage?

When it comes to high-end liquor brands with rich heritage, it is hard to not associate with images of private jets and exclusive social club. For brands that have been around for centuries, it is understandable they want to protect their brand reputation and image in the face of democratic and unscrutinised social media domain. But exclusiveness and playing-too-hard-to-get approach is a tough sell among millennials.   

So it appears to be a reasonable move for some Champagne brands like Veuve Clicquot and  Moët & Chandon to downplay their long entrenched heritage branding. To some extent. Again from Digiday, the former is trying to bring its image down to earth with a new campaign and platform strategy, exclusively relying on Tumblr. With only a handful liquor brands being active on Tumblr, Veuve Clicquot innovatively combines GIFs, imagery and other user-generated content to show informal and unexpected occasions where their products can be consumed. It won’t take too long to figure out that ‘making their Champagne relatable’ is the main theme here on their Tumblr page.   

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Additionally, their Tumblr page also contains an eCommerce component as users can click on the button to buy the bottle as seen in any given images. Again, through their Tumblr page, the brand highlights the importance of ‘educating’ the right occasions where their products are drunk, instead of simply focusing on the product per se.

The similar strategy can be seen in Chandon as it also tries to find the delicate balance between accessibility and exclusiveness through a global photography contest where they encouraged users to submit photos of any celebration (see Luxury Daily for more).

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