Thirsty for more: How social analysis can transform alcohol brands

Understanding how trends rise or fade is crucial for companies in any industry. But for alcohol brands, when certain drinks are so aligned with uncontrollable factors such as weather, it can be make or break.

So, as an alcohol brand, you have to really understand your audience, their passions and mindsets, in order to communicate with them and, more importantly, predict what they will want and when they will want it.

In the past, trying to understand how consumers think when they drink has been based on a mix of survey results, transactional data and gut instinct. And while those are all acceptable indicators of a possible trend, they can also be highly unreliable.

So, what is the solution for alcohol brands? Enriching the data that they do have with social data, to reveal the passions and mindsets of consumers. Not only will this help to segment customers into groups based upon what they drink, and allow for highly personalised and effective communications, it will also allow a brand to identify the competition, spot upcoming trends, develop great brand partnerships and identify the right influencers.

Of course, that’s easy to state. So, we turned to Starcount’s pioneering emotional analysis platform, The Observatory, to see how, with social analysis, we could help a specific alcohol brand develop an entire marketing strategy.

First, we created an alcohol audience, then segmented this based on what types of alcohol brands people follow: rum, gin, vodka, whisky and craft beer.

The first insights reveal the demographics of each audience. Across all these alcohol categories, the 18 to 24-year-old male audience makes up the largest demographic, followed by the 25 to 34 male group and then the 25 to 34 female group. These insights on their own are hardly surprising considering that these types of alcohol (except perhaps whisky) are generally drunk by younger people.

What is surprising are the fastest growing segments across the alcohol audience: the 35 to 44 female audience followed by the 45+ female segment. These are two groups who are not usually targeted by brand marketing in this industry, but are perhaps ones to take more of an interest in.

This only tells a fraction of the story, however. When we look at the demographic split for specific alcohols, we can see some interesting results. For example, the top two fastest growing segments are for rum and vodka with the female 35 to 44-year-olds, indicating a group that vodka and rum brands might want to keep in mind for future campaigns. Alongside this, the groups that are most active on twitter, the 45+ males and the 45+ females, are rum fans, not necessarily the groups you would have imagined to be interested in rum and to maintain a strong social media presence.

If we simplify this to look at a gender split across each of the alcohols, we can see that gin is the only alcohol with a majority female audience (56%), while rum and vodka are slightly more male but only just (59% and 56%), indicating that brands in these categories are doing a decent job at targeting both men and women. Craft beer & whisky, however, are heavily dominated by men (71%), showing that these brands need to try harder to target women.

Of course, demographics can only reveal half the story and the social data becomes most interesting when we examine the competition, passions, brands, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and the influencers that resonate best with the audiences of each category.

Let’s break this down as you would in any marketing strategy. Firstly, the competition: who are the top brands for each category of alcohol?

There are no major surprises in the rum and vodka categories, with the usual popular brands at the top. The winning whiskies are also certainly recognised as some of the best globally. However, the well-known gin brands such as Tanqueray and Gordons are notably absent from the list, whilst the smaller, independent distilleries (portobello and No. 3 are also in the top gin brands) appear most popular, reflecting the recent rise of the small, artisanal gin producers. As for craft beers, all three brands are well known and, despite having started as small breweries, have come to dominate the market.

Next in the strategy, the passions of the audiences for each segment.

Before digesting this analysis, none of these passions might have been the activity to pop into one’s head when thinking of a specific alcohol audience. However, upon closer examination, they do reflect an accurate reading of the audience. Take Craft Beer, which can usually be found in quantity at any festival or live music concert, especially those of the outdoor variety.

While this does not necessarily mean a brand should try to reach an audience with this exact passion, it does reveal a useful seed of information about the kind of person who is drinking a specific type of alcohol and gives some direction toward possible activities or methods of communication with which to reach out to customers.

Part three of the strategy: what are the top non-alcoholic brands for the audiences of each category?

These might not be brands that jump straight to mind when one thinks of a specific alcohol. But they can offer useful examples of possible brand partnerships that would resonate best with a specific audience. For example, a gin company partnering up with Hotel Chocolat to create gin flavoured chocolates or a craft beer company partnering with Waitrose to offer an in-store tasting experience.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the influencers that resonate best with each alcohol type.

Using Starcount’s platform, these can be broken down further to identify not just the best influencer for a category of alcohol but also the best to resonate with a particular brand. By incorporating an influencer who could genuinely represent your brand and resonate with your customers, you are developing even stronger ways to reach your audience and potential customers.

While there is a lot of information here, what it all demonstrates is the ability of emotional analysis to reveal insights that go far beyond simply understanding your current customers.

Analysis from The Observatory reveals details about the competition, not just within a single category, but across a heavily saturated alcohol market, where brands are not just competing for the attention of someone within their alcohol category, but for anyone who indulges in alcohol; it illustrates what the audience in each category is passionate about, allowing for insights in how best to communicate with them; it lays out the non-alcoholic brands that resonate best with a particular category audience, paving the way for possible partnerships; and it identifies influencers who would best appeal to a specific audience of one category or another.

As more and more brands enter the alcohol market, challenging each other for the attentions of the entire audience, the barriers between competing brands will be broken down and it is only using actionable insights like this that will determine who doesn’t go thirsty for customers.

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