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    How alcohol brands can catch the experience wave

    Tom Jarvis at Wilderness believes brands in the alcohol industry can use the resurgence of retail to connect with their younger audiences. Here he explores the need for brand campaigns to be experience-led. 

    With the world re-emerging following two years of the pandemic, the experience economy is set to boom; a disruption driven by younger demographics as they go in search of experiences that enrich their lives and connect them with the people and activities most important to them.

    From sun-seekers getting away for their first proper holiday in more than two summers to music-lovers packing their months full of festivals, there’s a universal feeling of people being ready to get back out and about.

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    Experience-driven

    In a recent Eventbrite study, it was found that more than 65% of 18-34-year-old Brits say they are ‘more fulfilled by live experiences than purchasing an item of the same value.’ 62% plan to increase the amount of money they spend on experiences, rather than possessions, over the next 12 months.

    As experiences and events shape our culture in the months ahead, it will be the brands that can amplify this culture through community (specifically on social) that will win. Brands must prepare themselves to engage reactively in real-time with this new, experience-driven economy. At Wilderness, we’re working with the likes of Heineken and other leading brands to do just this. But why is this relevant to alcohol brands?

    Well, we often associate a drink with great times with friends. For many young people, alcohol brands represent or reflect broader culture, whether it be lifestyle, music or events. For example, consider how closely Red Stripe is associated with Notting Hill Carnival or how, for more than a decade, Tennent’s owned the conversation about music festivals in Scotland.

    For alcohol brands, the boom in the experience economy presents a unique opportunity to project this culture and what these experiences represent – ensuring they grab the attention of those who are immersed in it. Whether your brand is a sponsor, an organizer or just looking to get on the event hype, audiences are looking for content that connects them with culture.

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    Alcohol brands can capitalize on community

    Young people want brands that create a sense of community and togetherness – something we aimed to foster in our work with Southern Comfort, taking a once-stale brand and breathing new life and relevancy into it.

    Over the course of 12 months, we aligned the brand with core moments (such as Pride and Mardi Gras), created content that spoke to online culture, engaged fans directly in conversation and curated a collection of creators better known as ‘the friends of SoCo’ to produce content on the brand’s behalf.

    All this led to an explosion in organic engagement (increased by over 280% year-on-year) as a result of the audience feeling that the brand was part of a wider community and culture. 

    It’s not just alcohol brands that can benefit from this re-awakening. Any brand that wants to engage and connect with its younger audience in an authentic and meaningful way can adopt an experience-led approach. The challenge for brands is to remain nimble and reactive. More and more users expect instant engagement and connection with an event or experience, so brands being present ‘in the moment’ is key.

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    Authentic activations 

    Brands can also lead the way by creating a culture of their own. Spotify recently showcased the power of creating authentic moments with its audience as it opened a greasy spoon cafe in London called ‘Greasy Tunes,’ bringing fans and artists closer together.

    Olga Puzanova, Spotify’s head of consumer marketing for UK and Ireland, said: “We know that gen Z are looking for more than just a lean-back listening experience: they look for brands and products that allow for lean-forward engagement and emotional connection. And this is exactly what the ‘Greasy Tunes’ experience offers – real connection to their favorite creators in a fun, intimate, immersive setting.”

    This ability for Spotify to connect its audience with the culture it represents in a unique way is something I think we will see replicated more as brands look to create experiences that they can own and define – with alcohol brands at the forefront. 

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