In the Spirit of Alcohol Marketing

You can always count on the liquor companies to produce beautifully glossy ad creative. As they continue to increase their use of online media, they’ve also become the source of some of the most innovative interactive marketing efforts you’ll find.

Who could forget the award-winning Diageo’s thebar.com and Bacardi Mojito banner widget? Marketers working within this progressive industry are often among the first to experiment with interactive technologies, whether creating custom music stations corresponding with a new Absolut Vodka product on Pandora, or developing shareable widgets designed to boost engagement with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs’ Ciroq Vodka.

Last year marked big news for this industry online when Google announced it would allow AdWords search advertising for alcohol brands, first permitting beer advertising and then approving ads for hard liquor products as well. Hard liquor ads must be used for branding purposes only, for example, by featuring innocuous content like recipes and seasonal drink ideas, while beer advertisers can promote a purchase with sales promotions and the like. Either way, though, the move has given these advertisers the freedom to go beyond display advertising online.

Banners With a Kick

Don’t think that means they aren’t still actively producing fantastic visual campaigns. Last year’s “Captain Morgan Post Off” offers a great example of how alcohol brands are pushing the envelop with online ad technology. The brand’s rich media ad promoting its Pose Off contest — the prize for which was a visit to the Playboy Mansion — included everything from a virtual spokesperson to numerous videos of “The Girls Next Door” stars offering tips on how to mimic the famed Captain Morgan pose in a workout video format.

Meanwhile, a display campaign that’s running on sites like Food & Wine for beer brand Stella Artois makes good use of the almost forgotten banner click. The ads link to an extensive Culinary Booklet in PDF format that includes information on Belgian beer styles, pouring rituals, product information on other renowned Belgian beer brands, food pairing tips, and recipes that incorporate the beers.

The genius here lies with the coupling of the media buy with the marketing content. If there’s an audience in the world with enough of an interest in the culinary arts to download and read a 50-page document on fine Belgian beers, it will surely be found on Food & Wine.

Expanding Digital Horizons

To complement their advertising efforts, alcohol brands are looking to other interactive tools that effectively boost brand engagement. One of Absolut’s latest endeavors on this front is “Drinkspiration by Absolut,” a branded iPhone application that’s sure to find favor with avid club goers and occasional drinkers alike.

The app makes drink suggestions for every major type of liquor based on user-selected criteria like taste, color, location, popularity, even the time of day. Perhaps most interesting is the GPS hookup that’s included in the app, allowing users to view collective user data on what others are ordering at any moment, whether across the world or around the corner. Recipes are included in the app in case your bartender isn’t familiar with a drink, and can be shared with friends through Facebook and Twitter.

A Campaign With a Twist

Where most alcohol campaigns serve the purpose of increasing brand awareness, recall, and purchase intent, many are also born of the need to promote new products. Consider the marketing efforts surrounding the recent introduction of Bud Light Lime in Canada. According to reports, the cross-media launch included guerilla marketing, flash mobs, a YouTube microsite, and a contest that played out in social media.

When the product launched in the U.S., Canadians immediately mobilized on Facebook, creating five different Facebook groups heralding their desire to have Bud Light Lime brought to Canada. When the timing was right, marketers working on behalf of Labatt Brewing Company — the Canadian distributor of Bud Light Lime — sent “ambassador kits” to 100 of the groups’ members in an effort to encourage them to become product advocates.

The YouTube site, meanwhile, featured product TV spots, footage of the flash mob in action, and a link to the official Bud Light Lime Canada Facebook Page.

This industry has a lot to offer in the way of advertising and marketing insight, dedicated as its marketers are to delivering fresh and exciting content, contests, and creative. When you come across a digital campaign for an alcohol brand, take pause; you’re likely to find some inspiration there.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center. Spend Day 1 learning about social media and video strategies with ClickZ.

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