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How Can Drinks Brands Reach Their Audience In 2021?

April 28, 2021 by Jonathan Paxley

Covid has had a huge impact on the whole world and has devasted many industries.

A particularly hard hit industry has been hospitality and events, which has been brought to its knees by ongoing restrictions on social gatherings, and the numerous lockdowns since March last year.

This has had a knock-on effect on drinks brands.

Now, while the trend for at-home drinking has seen a huge surge, it has still meant that drinks brands have struggled to connect with their customers in the way they would like.

With the news of restrictions starting to lift, drinks brands now need to focus on how they re-engage consumers in the new world.


What Is The Current Outlook?

As we stand, the road ahead is extremely rocky, to say the very least. Drinks brands tend to engage their customers in multiple channels, from above and below the line advertising, the on-trade, off-trade and social media to name a few areas.

The third space has been an area brands have had great penetration over the last five years – festivals, cultural and sporting events are all a great place for consumer touchpoints, as the audiences are open to being engaged by great brands.

The grim reality is, currently, it’s extremely difficult to put a robust strategy in place. Will bars and restaurants be a good place to activate with the enhanced restrictions and lower footfalls? Will events invested into even happen? Where will the public be socialising this summer?

Being careful about how strategies are developed and resources allocated, has taken on key importance this year.

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What Are The Trends in 2021 for Social Occasions?

For certain, 2021 has a different outlook and as a consequence, a well thought out brand strategy is needed to target consumers in their new habitats. It is also important to balance the risks and look to areas that wouldn’t be considered in normal times.

Here are some of our tips for reaching consumers as a drinks brand in 2021:

1. Events

What’s clear is that to some extent smaller events and gatherings will happen this year. Now although this has limited penetration into the market, a well-coordinated approach and collaboration with service providers (such as events planners or caterers) in private events could yield great results from a marketing perspective.

This summer will be a golden era of house parties and events at home, so brands could tap into this by partnering with companies who provide these services in the event industry. This would give direct access and get ‘brand in hand’ at a variety of events across the UK.


2. Premium At Home Drinking

This is a big trend that has been given gas by the pandemic. However, this will not be a flash in the pan. What the pandemic has created is new habits and given consumers the opportunity to try new things. For example, a recent CGA report suggests a large percentage of the consumer population have tried mixing drinks in the home environment versus pre-pandemic.

An obvious touchpoint for drinks brands is to tap into D2C drinks kits, subscriptions and at-home experiences.

There are many companies, such as our sister company The Cocktail Society, which offer D2C experiences for the consumers.

They have partnered with brands to use their products in kits and RTD’s, and drive awareness through CTA’s to repeat purchase. This has had a positive impact on increasing brand awareness in difficult times.


3. Premium At Home Dining

A huge trend is the emergence of meal kits for premium, at-home dining experiences. This is widespread from Pizza Pilgrims, hugely successful pizza making kits, through to Michelin starred gourmet kits from the like of Tommy Banks’ Black Swan at Oldstead.

This trend has opened up the opportunity for the brands to partner with these restaurants and piggybacks off the consumer touchpoint opportunity.

Pairing drinks with these meals kits as an upsell is an obvious and beneficial partnership to be made.

It enhances the overall consumer experience but more importantly, can create strong and meaningful long-term loyalty.


4. On Trade Opportunities

The on-trade is ready at the blocks to welcome its customers back and the general public are desperate to come back. The issue is the restrictions and how these restrictions may be imposed later in the year.

There are still opportunities for brands to effectively engage customers in the on-trade this year. Creating activations such as a bar build for pub gardens or on-site sampling to customers has always been a part of the wider strategy.

In 2021, this should be a key pillar of any programme to re-engage consumers.

There is a willingness to experiment and excitement amongst consumers, due to repeated lockdowns, and brands need to capitalise on this.

Where activations in the on-trade get really effective, is when it is tied into digital campaigns (see below) that encourage consumers to engage with drinks brands post activation. This might be driving them to an online competition or via encouraging social media engagement that directly correlates to the activity. A great example of this was the Laphroaig Opinions Welcome campaign in 2019.

The clever use of social media and a live sampling campaign allowed the whisky brand to drive far more value out of the campaign.


5. The Digital Space

Like it or loath it, the digital space is a key consumer touchpoint. However, when it comes to getting cut through online, it’s vital to have an understanding of how to stand out in the digital space.

The web is noisy and over-saturated, both through search, digital media and social channels.

To stand out, brands have to offer value. We have seen plenty of drinks brands run generic awareness campaigns, which yields virtually no ROI and gains very little in the way of the attention currency.

Brands need to get creative with how they engage their audience. Offer a value trade-off with consumers. Brands need to start understanding that the digital space is similar to the live environment – you need to build a rapport and offer the consumers something they want.

This could be through high-quality content (high traffic cocktail recipe and blog sites generally offer a huge amount of quality content)

Or it could be through free tools or resources that solve a problem, such as an online recipe suggester or how to cocktail making videos.

Whatever it is, ensure that consumer value is put first.


6. Subscription Addiction

Subscriptions have boomed in a big way. The appeal of one less thing to think about has really resonated with consumers. One company taking advantage of this is Savage Vines.

Food and beverage subscriptions are one of the biggest growth areas but in general, physical subscription commerce is growing in a big way.

Leveraging the reach that subscription companies wield, is a great opportunity for drinks brands to get their products in front of mass audiences.

Most subscription services have excellent demographic data allowing brands to collaborate with subscription services that have synergies with theirs but also highly targeted based on detailed demographics.



Drinks Brand strategy has to adjust for 2021 to meet the demands of the new world. The first port of call is understanding where the consumer prospects are congregating and what new habits the pandemic has created.

With all of the adversity the industry has suffered, it is positive that there are a large number of new opportunities to target consumers.

Habits have been changing for some time and the pandemic has accelerated this. What is key now, is that drinks brands pay close attention to these changes in future strategies.

For more tips on how to start a drinks brand, read when we sat down with humble warrior.


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