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By Clare Goggin Sivits On April 6, 2021

How To Build A Competitive Beverage Marketing Strategy

Every distilled spirits brand competes for space on retailer shelves. Even niche beverages crafted with select ingredients and unique flavor profiles must contend for consumer consideration. In order to effectively grab that retailer and consumer attention, it’s important to craft a beverage marketing strategy that takes those competitors into account. 

Want to get a leg up over your competitors? It helps to be keenly aware of who those competitors are, what they’re doing well, and where they’re falling short. Here are a few steps you can take to build a more competitive marketing plan for your distillery.

IDENTIFY YOUR COMPETITORS

When it’s not immediately clear which brands share a competitive space with your spirits, there are a few ways to identify them. Some methods are free while others may require a little investment but it’s worth it to determine who you’re up against.

  1. Google Yourself: Search terms or keywords used to describe your brand’s products. The results should pull up your distillery as well as others targeting similar searches.
  2. Invest in an SEO Tool: A platform like Moz or Semrush provides tools that allow brands to improve search results. It also digs into other brands already ranking in those searches. 
  3. Talk to Retailers: Whether your bottles occupy retailer shelf space or not, liquor store operators know what’s selling in the market. Contact retailers both large and small with a few simple questions about what brands are selling products similar to yours.
  4. Ask Your Consumers: Asking those who visit your website or purchase a product online to take a quick survey could reveal a few competitors for your brand.

With a clear picture of the competitive landscape, it’s best to choose between three and five competitors to track. Focus on those that match the size and scope of your distillery but it doesn’t hurt to include a larger brand for aspirational comparison. 

STUDY COMPETITOR MARKETING

Once a list of competitors has been set, get familiar with the messaging, branding, and design incorporated into their beverage marketing. Knowing how competitors are situating themselves in the market will prepare you to counter their messaging.

A simple Google Alert can keep you in-the-know about news and developments around competitors’ beverage marketing campaigns. It’s also wise to follow competitors on social media (preferably from a personal account, not the brand account). Sign up for newsletters to get direct insights into campaigns. Finally, take a close look at the package and brand design and stay up-to-date on any rebrands. Taking these steps can allow you to gauge how competitors are positioning their products.

COMPETITIVE BENCHMARKING

A spirits brand should already be tracking its KPIs, such as website traffic, social media engagement, and other metrics. Once a distillery identifies its competitors, it’s wise to add easily trackable analytics from those brands to the monthly metrics reporting.

Social media following — likes and follows on a competitors’ social media accounts — is the easiest metric to record each month. A subscription to a service like Moz or Semrush provides additional insight into competitors’ site rankings, backlinks, traffic, and other search engine optimization measurements. For additional intel on competitors, a service like IWSR can deliver market analysis on the alcoholic beverage market as a whole. While an alcohol marketing agency can give you a more in-depth report, starting here will allow you to use competitor weaknesses. 

USE COMPETITOR WEAKNESSES

With a few months of data and intel collected, it becomes easier to narrow down what a competitor does well and where they’re lacking. Knowing competitors’ weaknesses gives a distillery an opportunity. 

Start with consumer reviews. A close examination of reviews on sites like distiller.com offers insights into where a competitor may be falling flat. Look for keywords, like flavor descriptors or packaging sizes, that your spirits offer and your competitors’ do not. Incorporate that language into the website, ads, blog posts, and other materials. This could draw customers looking for something your competitors can’t offer.

TARGET COMPETITORS’ AUDIENCES

Now that you know who your competitors are and what they offer to their consumers, you can angle your marketing toward their audience. For instance, when a distillery sets up an ad campaign on Facebook or Instagram, it can choose its audience based on the consumers already following their competitors. Similar techniques can be used on Twitter and savvy advertisers can find creative ways to target competitor audiences on Google Ads as well.
All of this is just the very beginning of a competitor analysis. If you’re looking for a deep-dive into the competition, you may want to work with an alcohol marketing agency such as High-Proof Creative. Email karen@highproofcreative.com for more details on competitor analysis and audits!

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.
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