With Millennials wielding a rapidly increasing spending power (now estimated to be over US $1.6 trillion globally) they’re fast becoming one of the most influential consumer groups in the spirit world. It’s logical then, that factoring in what both they and the next generation of drinkers are looking for is something brands have been intently working on in order to capitalise on that target group.
What they want, we’re told, (presumably other than not to be pigeon holed once again by some middle-aged hack, looking on with thinly veiled condescension as is usually the case…) are more immersive experiences. Countless surveys and summaries have placed this at the heart of Millennial interests, and with a general focus on conscious consumption, we’re not surprised. We want memories, not things that’ll clog up the earth long after we’ve left it.
Whether you believe the hype (or any form of poll or survey since Brexit and Trump occurred) or not, it seems only logical that given the crowded market space, encouraging drinkers to engage with their brand in a face-to-face capacity will be key to many a gin’s success in 2018 – no matter what the age group they are targeting.
We hope brands take heed of this fact too, as we’re still a little mystified as to why there weren’t more brand experiences this past year. When it comes to those currently aged 20 – 35, it has been repeated time and again by experts, marketers and trend reports that the way to a young(er) consumer’s heart is through interactive engagement (integrated across both physical and digital touch points).
It’s not that much of a build on conventional wisdom, nor mind blowing fact either, as great marketing is a two-way dialogue held in places and platforms where your consumer is likely to be receptive. Currently, however, when it comes to the younger vote, Gins succeeding in that arena are few and far between.
So what’s going out there?
When we ask around to find out about what “experiential” stuff is going on, bar takeovers and pop-ups are the most commonly talked about activations we hear in response. Pop-ups are happening frequently in the merry-go-round of global bartending and yes, so too are menu take-overs by specific gin brands.
These don’t really count as brand experiences though; this doesn’t invite consumers into the brand’s world, rather the experience and memories are of that bar, not the gins. This is mere sponsorship, and never really seeks to educate or inform the consumer other than by cross-association. An example of this was when London’s The Savoy popped-up in Melbourne’s Black Pearl. Mr Black’s footed much of the cost of making it happen, but even they wouldn’t go as far as calling it their brand experience. They facilitated someone else’s.
On a less cross-global scale, most in bar pop-ups that are sold to us as “mini brand experiences” tend to be in the form of a menu take over. Let’s be clear here, a menu insert is not a brand experience. If it was, then any given brand would have thousands of mini-brand experiences based on the listings they have. Furthermore, the only times we’ve even seen fully experientially driven bar menus (Beaufort Bar’s pop-up menu, several of the Callooh Callay menus, The Dead Rabbit’s narrative focused story books, or the Little Red Door’s image associative menu), they’ve all come from the bars themselves and not a brand, and while the drinks are fundamental to the moment – the impression, memory and experience being discussed is that of the bar, not the brands within the drinks.
All is not lost. There are some brands going all in, and extra credit goes to Bombay Sapphire for showing the way (and reaping the rewards) with its Laverstoke Express experience in 2017, in which it took passengers on an immersive dining adventure through all of the countries from which it takes its botanicals. It was the very best of experiential activity: fun, engaging and clever at communicating the ideas and personality that goes into the gin. It shows that none of this stuff has to be wacky, stunt driven marketing, nor does it have to be based on a ludicrous, frivolous concept. Of course, that was a big set piece that few others could afford to create at the same scale, but all of the elements can be learned from and translated to match different budgets and objectives.
When done well, a great brand experience pushes advocacy and awareness to new highs and creates a lasting moment that you just can’t replicate any other way. It’s a big commitment getting made, hosting it, and maximising the return on investment, but ultimately, they prove invaluable time and again. Let’s hope others take note of Bombay’s success and pull out all the stops (pun very definitely intended) in the year ahead!
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