The rise of the teetotal student’, ‘Low and no category exploding’. The daily headlines are hard to miss. There’s a huge alcohol drinking trend in the drinks industry right now: people are drinking less – and brands are investing and innovating to serve this market.
However: there’s another side to this trend, and one that is likely to have a negative impact for many drinks producers: if ‘low and no’ is where it’s at, what does this mean for the ‘short and strong’?
Let’s be clear – we aren’t talking about cocktails, or stronger drinks to be sipped and savoured. This is about the change in a specific occasion of drinking – those ‘single serve/shot’ items, often consumed for the sake of getting drunk, rather than any additional pleasure.
No one has ever gone for a quiet Jägerbomb or two with the idea of staying sober. The rituals and occasions for drinking and nights out are shifting.
What’s changing – and what can brands at risk do about this threat to short and strong?
The big shift is in the occasion for drinking – what’s declining is the activity of drinking to get drunk. Therefore ‘shot’ culture is likely to decline – figures already reported suggest a 2.1% decrease in volume sales in 2018.
So if occasion is king, we can see why this spells trouble for brands like Jagermeister, Apple Sourz, Goldschlager, Aftershock and more.
Other drinks that are occasionally consumed in this way may also feel an impact – ie tequila, Sambuca and schnapps. As responsible drinking messaging rises rightly to the fore, short and strong brands need to consider how they are perceived and marketed and move away from these occasions.
So what occasions are there for the short and strong in a marketplace of low and no drinkers?
Cocktails offer one a way to move to a more considered market strategy. If your brand can be mixed and evolve into a more rounded drinking experience, then this is an option.
This will be more successful for some brands than others, but one that all should consider. In some cases, this may also involve some brand repositioning work.
Heritage is another area brands could focus on: if a drink can be enjoyed as a complex, pleasurable product to be savoured – such as tequila – then brands need to work to convey this message and brand history. Of course, many tequila brands already do this – something other brands could learn from. It may even come down to protecting brands more vigorously – preventing stockists from serving your particular tequila with salt and lemon, for example (delisting the brand from venues that don’t comply).
DRINKING OCCASIONS ABROAD
Take an outside view: consider how drinks are positioned in other countries. Though a different drinking occasion, the idea of the early evening ‘aperitivo’ has been successfully marketed in Britain by brands such as Aperol and new vermouth brands. Schnapps might focus on its association with Après Ski, or as the traditional addition to Gluhwein. Even Jäegermeister, with its history dating back to 1934 was started as a digestif herbal liqueur.
THE DRINKING EVENT
Younger consumers are also changing how they experience a night out; with ‘event’ venues around darts, ping pong, golf and more becoming increasingly popular. In these places, there’s something other to do that sit and drink which is also changing the occasion dynamic. If your brand can find a way to become part of that drinking occasion, then this could offer some way to preserve share.
There will still be a market for short and strong drinks, but the next few years is likely to see it decline. Brands need to act now to ensure they position and protect their products through this change in alcohol drinking trends.
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