Luxury Branding: Summer Promotions At The Liquor Store

July 26, 2013

We’re halfway through the summer and it’s time for another installment in our Summer Fridays out-in-the-real-world blog post series.​

For some Spirits brands, summer means big business, so I’ve decided to visit three different kinds of stores to check out Luxury Spirits Brands’ in-store promotions. I’d like to see how brands are attracting consumers and getting them to reach out, grab the bottle and make the purchase.

COSTCO

My first stop is Costco. In big-box stores, there’s very little opportunity for any kind of promotional materials (signage, banners, etc.). These places are all about the product, and that’s where the promotions are generally found. First I come across a 1.75L Patrón Silver Tequila with a branded pitcher. It looks fairly high quality, and the sheer size of the box is attention-getting. Patrón usually executes at a very high level and I think this is a great idea for making a batch of margaritas. But here’s the thing, the recipes on the back are for single drinks. OK, I suppose there are any number of possible reasons for not featuring a batch recipe on the box (legalities, oversight, etc.) and margarita recipes can be located in seconds via smartphone, but that really seems like a missed opportunity. ​

Bombay Sapphire caught my attention with a really high-end take-one recipe card. It’s been extremely hot out, and the quality of the photograph makes you want to reach right into that card and take a cool drink. Had Bombay Sapphire used an inferior image, I might have walked right past.

TAKEAWAY

There’s a big opportunity for Luxury Spirits brands to stand out from their competitors with some well-crafted POS (Point of Sale) materials in this busy but brightly lit environment. Quality imagery, solid messaging and good instructions – it’s the details that matter most in making the connection between brand, product and consumer.​

STEW LEONARD’S WINE & SPIRITS

The last stop for the day is Stew Leonard’s Wine & Spirits. Wow. The store is large and there’s merchandise and POS everywhere. Clearly, the intent is to excite the shopper with options. The sales floor is crowded with competitors in every category screaming for attention. I see virtually every kind of POS and display unit all in one location but here’s the thing:​

IT’S TOO MUCH. I JUST CAN’T ABSORB ANY OF IT

I also find a 1.75L Bulleit Bourbon VAP (Value Added Pack) with two branded glasses. The box is totally on-brand (high quality materials, understated graphics, well-considered design) and the glasses, which I happen to own, are really nice for drinking Bourbon on the rocks.

Nice job Bulleit. (Full disclosure: The O Group has done work with Diageo, who owns Bulleit.)

I am really surprised when I come across the Cointreau-Kirkland Signature co-pack. Why? Even though the pairing makes perfect sense (Cointreau tastes much better than Triple Sec in margaritas), I think it’s a bit unusual for a well-known brand to be packed with Costco’s house brand, Kirkland. The box itself has three margarita recipes on the back, along with some Cointreau brand copy and a history of the margarita on the sides. I think people will make the purchase in response to the “Just add Tequila” message. Pretty good work. (Again, full disclosure, we’ve done some work over the years with Rémy Cointreau USA.)​

TAKEAWAY

This co-pack is a clever way to educate consumers on how to upgrade their margaritas with Cointreau. It will push trial of Cointreau, while allowing Kirkland to share a portion of Cointreau brand equity. The big-box store environment subverts any negative pull from the “added-value” messaging, as consumers are willing to give even Luxury brands permission to utilize this tactic during warehouse-style shopping.

BUY RITE LIQUORS

The next stop on my journey is Buy Rite Liquors, a chain with about 45 locations across New Jersey. I’ve heard Buy Rite referred to as a discount store but I’ve never really perceived it as being specifically aimed at low pricing (not usually a Luxury brand tactic), so it should be interesting to see how Luxury brands are activating in this space. Although this location appears to be quite new, it’s small and has a pretty minimal Spirits selection. There are a handful of VAPs and shelf-mounted take-ones.

TAKEAWAY

So, what are Luxury Spirits brands doing within this space that works (for me)? Again, a well-thought out VAP like the St. Germain “Apertif Kit” that tells me clearly how to use the product. It’s great. Also, Hennessy Cognac (yes, another former client) has a simple, acrylic shelf-mounted piece that helps unify and call attention to their bottles. It’s understated and cool.

Try to remember the shopper’s state of mind. I was slowly making my way through the store specifically to observe, while an actual consumer would be faster and would likely be seeking out specific products to purchase. Benefit brand-based messaging will cut through the noise and clutter better than traditional Above-the-Line advertising headlines​

ALL IN ALL?

While mass Spirits brands can always rely on discount pricing to capture the attention of consumers, Luxury brands have to be more creative. For Luxury Spirits brands there’s a huge in-store opportunity: added-value seems to work in big-box stores, while well-crafted materials with good imagery, messaging and content will connect with consumers. It really comes down to properly considering a consumer’s pre-existing perception of the brand, because after someone crosses the threshold into these spaces any number of executions and distractions can steer them toward or away from brands and products.

Luxury Spirits brands would be better served to pivot away from just trying to increase visibility with posters and banners, and instead develop engaging promotional materials that provide education and/or a clear functional benefit to consumers.​

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