5 tips for alcohol brands navigating new beverage categories

Consumer tastes are changing. New beverage categories are being created. How can your brand stay in the lead? We outline five things you can try to help focus your new beverage creation efforts.

CBD-infused. Single-serve cocktails. Low calorie. Low-No alcohol. As consumers experiment and their priorities shift, alcohol brands are hard-pressed to keep up. Staying ahead and innovating in new beverage categories is essential for fast growth and staying relevant to target audiences. 

But most brands know that launching a brand-new product is challenging and costly. You need to make sure that you - and your new product - stand out from the crowd. For example, some turn to celebrities who act as a marketing tool and are actively involved in creation. 

"I've tried every gin on the planet and Aviation is, hands down, the best," says Co-owner of Aviation American Gin, Ryan Reynolds. "Also, I don't recommend trying every gin on the planet. Stick with this one." A typical, pithy Reynolds-esque comment - and it's working.

But as appealing as a celebrity endorsement may be, this approach isn’t always within reach, or quite the right angle, for every new product. With the vast amount of resources that need to be invested in product creation, alcohol companies need to have a strategy that increases their chances of hitting the right targets in the right market. So if you can’t get Ryan to endorse your marketing efforts, try these five tips to help focus your new beverage creation efforts. 

1: Listen closely to consumer insights

Consumer insight is fundamental to ensuring your company's alcohol categories remain brand-driven and customer-focused. You can’t overestimate the importance of customer perception of your products; it's what drives your alcohol brands' success. The world's best-known brands rely on these insights to transform their approach to category and product creation. Find out what your target audience, or potential targets, are doing, how they feel, and what they plan to do in the future. This data can drive better decisions and help you bring new products to market successfully. 

Our recent eBook outlines five key ways to keep consumer insights at the heart of your alcohol brand.

2: Continually search for untapped markets

While your core product lineup may have put you on the map, your customers might have an untapped need that your legacy products aren’t meeting. While it's important to pay attention to everyone who's in the market for a drink, there will be some that aren't as targeted as others - and this could be a gold mine when you're thinking about new alcohol categories. While everyone else is “zigging,” the real innovative winners will be “zagging.”

For instance, many brands may be hyper-focused on targeting Gen Z and Millennials - perhaps neglecting another potential audience, such as Boomers.  In this scenario, there is potential for leadership if you can develop new products or even new categories that would appeal to senior generations and their attitudes toward alcohol. Again - this is where customer insights are essential - use them to determine what would attract additional customers and create products that fit their profile.

3: Harness market research technology

Digital transformation is on an upward trajectory, now more than ever. Technology is key to uncovering key consumer insights around the alcohol industry. This means you need a solution that allows you to quickly and easily mine consumer data for those insights. Look for an integrated, cloud-based software platform, one that's purpose-built to simplify the processing, analyzing, visualizing, and sharing of market research data. The tool should enable you to explore your customer data, answer your questions and provide continual, relevant insights related to the alcohol industry.

Find out how Harmoni enables you to efficiently process, analyze and share insights from complex survey data.

4: Keep a close eye on start-ups in the alcohol industry

When new companies launch, they often do so on the back of fresh research, their marketing strategies full of insights they've gleaned from careful analysis of alcohol industry data. Often, they'll have created categories that are unique, and it's what makes them stand out. With these as inspiration, you can harness your customer data to point you in the direction of new alcohol categories or unique products you might not otherwise have considered.

5: Build creation-focused teams

Organizational issues can often be a barrier to effective category and product creation. We’ve heard from some business leaders in the alcohol industry that they'd love to spend more time on creation and innovation, but who would they assign the task to? 

If you are armed with data-driven customer insights, you can build an elite term team that's purely focused on product and category creation. Gather people from different areas of the company - marketing, sales, finance, etc. - and allow them the time to analyze the data and work on new products based on those data insights. The way you decide to structure this within your organization may vary, but the critical factor is that this team is always thinking of new possibilities.

Category and product creation requires imagination, so think creatively and outside the box. Encourage your teams to think about ideas that may not result in big short-term profits but could move your alcohol company into new market spaces. And don't play it safe. Risk aversion is a significant barrier to innovation. Look carefully at your company’s culture and reap the rewards of launching new categories and products.

Our Insider’s Guide, Five ways to keep consumer insights at the heart of your alcohol brand, brings you the expertise and insights of some of our most experienced research veterans. 

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