Blog 002 // Drinks Strategy 101

Wag The Dog.

Imagine a TV. New or old, doesn’t matter. It’s on, and you’re sitting comfortably in front of it. An advert comes on. Ooh pretty you think. Look at the pretty swirls of colour. Here comes Kylie Jenner. Or is it Kendall? She’s just done something. Now there’s a plastic bag. It’s swirling in the wind, in a black and white alleyway. It’s so beautiful, didn’t the Simpsons do this a few years ago you think. Fade to Black.

Glenhoddle whisky… made for drinking.

I’ll come back to that advert in a bit. First though, I want to talk about one of the things Sweet&Chilli does well, and why it’s important. We work with businesses, more accurately, drinks brands, and help them define what to serve and how to serve it. This can then influence the way people engage with and consume their drinks. In short, we come up with a drinks strategy.

Brands have been coming up with these for years, but it’s worth discussing why so few incorporate them fully into their marketing strategy. It’s partly to do with the perceived power of advertising, and it’s partly down to a misunderstanding of the power of a well-designed serve.

Advertising, or more accurately marketing, has accrued this almost mythic ability to influence the public to buy whatever it wants them to. Too many episodes of Mad Men and you’ll believe they have the power to sell you London Bridge.

But the reality is that in a world with so many options for consumers, marketing only works when the product is grounded in something really strong. A need being filled, a problem being solved, or sometimes even an innovation being created.

Equally, when it comes to signature serves, many brands seem resigned to tread the same path they, or their competitors, have walked for years. An ‘if-it-ain’t-broke’ thinking that is safe, yes, but unlikely to recruit new customers.

Drinks strategy should be the cornerstone of a brand’s marketing campaign.

An engaging, drinks-led marketing campaign does three things:

01 //   Makes the consumer aware of a drink that suits their tastes

02 //   Creates a desire to try the drink, and where better to do so that at the bar

03 //  At the point of purchase, the consumer wants to order this snappily titled serve from the bartender

This chain of events fulfils all aspects of the classic purchase funnel, the step by step marketing model of Awareness / Consideration / Conversion, in a way that modern advertising often fails to. This ultimately creates loyalty, the other side of the funnel, which is the key to growth at scale. 

If we go back to our whisky advert from earlier, we can see that a beautifully crafted, high profile campaign that conveys beauty, messages of personal progress, or at the very least, David Gandy’s cheekbones, will ultimately not have the desired impact. There is nothing in our advert that puts the consumer at the point of consumption. They should be able to feel/taste/smell a delicious drink in their mind. It will create awareness, but sadly, no conversion. Glenhoddle Scotch Whisky is an empty vessel, all style, no substance. At worst, the drinks strategy is then devised as a result of following the marketing strategy and brand world. A bad case of the tail wagging the dog.  

In a truly integrated drinks strategy, signature serves are just the beginning. The strategy ensures that all brand channels – from marketing, to messaging, to sales – are defined by the drinks and not just the brand world. In the end, it’s what makes people call out a brand name rather than a generic spirit mixer, like ‘gin and tonic’ or ‘vodka and soda’. 

How do we come up with these serves? Well, the best strategies try to forecast trends, rather than follow them. Think about a boat bobbing around on the open sea. This is a yearly trend, that everyone can see and follow. The underwater currents are five-year trends, slowly pulling the boat here and there, predicted by many, followed by a few. The TRULY great strategies though, are the ones that can see and predict the deep-sea currents. The 10-year forecasts that influence everything above them. And that’s what we try to do. 

We’ll let you know in ten years how we did.