Monday, October 10, 2016

What is Needed to Market Spirits in the United States?

    The United States is different when it comes to marketing spirits.   There is a different approach to things that make it necessary to “work outside of the box” to get to the customers here.   “Alcohol is a lifestyle industry,” says Spiros Malandrakis, senior industry analyst for Euromonitor International. “It’s not about flavors at the end of the day. It’s about music, it’s about movies, the Mad Men effect. It’s what people aspire to or dream about. Sometimes these things can easily be lost when just looking at dry figures.”   If ever there was a market more apt for such a lofty, dreamy, fantastical but also very true analysis, this is it. America – manufacturer of dreams, purveyor of the aspirational lifestyle – is a region where drinks trends are as diverse as the ethnic and cultural make-up; as nuanced as the individual state laws that govern consumption and production. And crucially, it is where consumers – and consumer trends – can be as fickle as Hollywood.
     In the United States, we are driven by our “lifestyle” rather that logic when it comes to our spirits.  We are looking for a brand or category that speaks to us about how the way that we live is the cool way.  We don’t need scientific data we want to be shown the way to fun and the right places to be.   So while US consumers seem to be in an exploitative mode, they are seeking out niche expressions and are willing to spend more on premium products.   Categories are becoming less important than the quality of perceived quality of the products. Drinks companies looking for growth now have to target an occasion, a moment or a demographic in order to draw new customers
     Several major factors stand out when you talk about appealing to Americans.  First is branding and promotions that are directed to specific cultures.   Ultra-premium Tequilas and Mezcals are expected to grow 16.5% by 2020, while the celebrity-backed Brandy and Cognac category, which continues to be name-checked in songs sung by the likes of Jay-Z, is set to grow by 14%, according to Euromonitor.   Perceived value is another major factor.   Things like imported spirits are felt to be more valuable than domestic ones.  This has led to the hybridization of many spirits.  Blending of local and global brands giving a perceived international flavor to the spirit seems to be a current trend.
    Americans prefer lighter and sweeter spirits, the addition of flavors to the spirits creating a new way to get customers to move to a different spirit.   Seasonal flavors at a feeling of freshness that is also big in the eyes of Americans.
     It is my feeling that all of those ideas are very true, but the most important in my mind is the authenticity of the spirit.  Is it a true aged product or something that is colored with sweeteners added to give this “looks like aged”?  Real premium spirits are fermented, distilled, and finished legitimately and not contrived.   New expressions that take aged spirits and finishing them in different types of barrels are very popular now, and are a great way to provide new premium flavors that are true to the spirit.   This is what I feel is really necessary before you start marketing a product that is really not “real”.
A great article was written on this subject recently and you can read more on the subject at