UNDER THE INFLUENCE: How To Sell Alcohol On Social Media

An influencer marketing guide to making alcohol brands fly – from following the rules to nailing the brief.


Being locked up inside for 12 months has a significant impact on how much alcohol we buy. No surprise there, really! According to recent data, social engagement with alcohol brands has risen far more than other sectors during the pandemic. The research showed that in March 2020, social engagement was up 326.51% compared with March 2019. As restrictions ease, those sales are not set to slow. This is the summer of posh picnics, and tinnies in the park won’t cut it. So, if you’re in it to win it as a booze brand, your content has to do three things. Climb all necessary obstacles, appeal to your niche market and provide an experience. With that in mind, here’s our guide to advertising alcohol responsibly and effectively, with the help of influencer marketing.


By Alejandra Ponce via Unsplash


Why influencers?

The world of ‘drinkstagram’ is “full of frothy sours, meticulously placed garnishes and perfectly frosted highballs made not for sipping, but for the thirsty eyes of scrollers.” It makes sense really – people drink with their eyes. Influencers are the new journalists; journalists were the original trendsetters and trends (until the dawning of a new world… but probably still after that) come from the innate human desire for an aspirational lifestyle. And no one’s ever seen a Peroni ad that didn’t make them want to hop on a plane to Italy. See? The two –influencers and alcohol – are a match made in heaven.


By Heather Barnes via Unsplash


Audiences need more

Influencer content is not the same as it once was. Gone are the days of hero-product shots – a cool beer in hand doesn’t quite cut the mustard anymore. Although, Tesco’s community-minded ad to get people back into their local instead of buying a 24-pack was simply genius – as was Heineken’s pop-up pub barbershop. Now, there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write! Audiences need brands to go the extra mile. Tesco’s ad was simple but it did more than just tell people to go to the pub. It showed their customers that they’re down-to-earth and grounded in community, which gets you big brand brownie points in 2021. TV channel Dave created the world’s first ‘pub in a box’, allowing thirsty Brits to build their own bar. They learnt that 61% of British pubs lack any outside space and 75% of people struggled to secure outside bookings. Dave’s flat-pack pub was launched by celebrity comedian John Richardson. The perfect example of using someone influential to go that extra mile.


Tesco’s ‘pop to your local’ Newspaper Ad


So, who stands out on the social drinking scene?


  • Jack Daniel’s: Jack Daniel’s wanted to raise awareness of their Honey whiskey, best served over ice. They aimed to reach new audiences outside of their usual customer demographic. To bring the product and party to life, we worked with Jack Daniel’s to create a content series. We interviewed influencers about how they unwind, kick back and enjoy an ice-cold Jack Honey. Influences ranged from snowboarders to ice-cream makers, rap artists to bakers. And in addition to revealing new sides to these characters, we broke new ground for Jack Daniel’s audience. All this work drove a 7.9% engagement rate across earned content – whilst industry competitors at this time only managed 2.2%. As a result of our communal success, acquaintances turned into relationships. Influencers who worked on this campaign have now been transformed into friends of Jack. They exist as an always-on extension of Jack’s team after the activation received a 100% positive sentiment. Those results call for some Honey over ice.


Hannah Louise (@hannahlouisef) for our Jack Daniel’s campaign, via Hannah’s Instagram


  • Absolut Vodka: These guys are like the Ben and Jerry’s of booze. The theme of community is one that’s echoed throughout everything they do. From fair farming and delicious recipes to zero waste and Pride rainbow vodkas. Absolut have key issues and helpful content covered. They’re also a great example of using always-on influencers well. Rico – Absolut’s in-house bartender – has been mixing drinks for over 18 years. He’s a trusted expert, who brings friendliness and familiarity to the brand.


Absolut Vodka’s Pride Campaign


  • Red Bull: Not technically an alcohol brand, but definitely not kid-focused. Which makes Red Bull’s approach to social worth considering. Red Bull’s presence on TikTok is genius and revolves entirely around the brand’s archetypal community. Their videos are basically all clips of extreme sports or adrenaline seekers. And their products or logo hardly ever feature, which is pretty unique for any brand. Red Bull’s content does extremely well. It’s also not surprising when you notice who posted *that* skydiving maniac. Because as well all know, RB gives you wings.


Via Red Bull’s Instagram


Do the rules apply?

As per the Italy reference, the alcohol industry definitely knows what they’re doing when it comes to advertising. A lot of brands have scrambled to add ‘#ad’ onto every social caption. But alcohol brands are already well-practised in the art of what is and isn’t A-OK. They don’t have a choice, really. So, despite the strictest of rules and age restrictions, most alcohol brands have managed to keep quality high. They create engaging content, adopt new formats, create alluring campaigns, and engage with their audiences. But we reckon there’s always room for improvement…


How to get it right

One area of interest is definitely influencer marketing. A well-vetted, archetypally aligned team of influencers can do what big marketing campaigns do for a fraction of the price. You’re not having to climb so many obstacles if you go through influencers. And chances are, they’ll give you a higher return on investment as well. As Kate Dingwall writes for Forbes: “Influencers aren’t new, but in the beverage space, they have become prevalent – often as a growth strategy for new product launches or stale brands needing an image refresh.” They act as part brand ambassador, part trusted source, part content creator. However, it goes without saying that balancing the two worlds can be tricky. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming influencers are a loophole for the alcohol industry.


  • START WITH VETTING: Before you jump in and pick your favourite influencer with X number of followers, think carefully about obstacles. It’s vital for alcohol brands to thoroughly vet any influencers they collaborate with. Investigate which brands influencers have worked with in the past. Are they age-appropriate? What is the age of the influencer themselves? What age is their audience? What’s their lifestyle and what beliefs do they hold? How relevant are their interests? And so on. As a rule of thumb, require your influencers to prove they’re over the age of 25. But also, that at least 70% of their followers are too.


  • REMEMBER YOUR PASSPORT: Different countries – or in some cases, even different regions – have different laws around what is and isn’t acceptable for alcohol brands. For example, in Thailand, it’s actually illegal to post a selfie with your beer. Or any kind of booze, for that matter. Celebrities have been fined huge sums of money for posting pictures of themselves drinking on the beach in Thailand. And plenty of other countries are sure to have their own rules. Travel is often a cornerstone of alcohol advertising. And influencers tend to travel a lot. So, you must check the posting rules in any country your creator will be visiting.


  • NAIL THE BRIEF: Not only are the influencers you choose important, but also the direction you take them in. So, for that reason, a good brief is essential – especially one that covers content limitations. While this has become second nature for alcohol brand’s marketing teams, it’s likely completely new for influencers. Unless they’ve worked with age-restricted products in the past. Overcoming advertising obstacles, and still managing to cater to a mature audience, will be possible with influencers. Because their following is often niche and highly engaged. Meaning, it’s easy to get messages across to the right audiences in a legal, tasteful way.


Jon Richardson for Dave’s flat-pack-pub campaign via The Star


  • DEFINITELY DISCLOSE: A recent study conducted by Collective Bias shows 67% of consumers have no negative reaction to sponsored influencer content whatsoever. If you’re new to the world of influencer marketing, you might disagree with that statistic. However, there’s really no better way of ensuring your brand doesn’t end up in headlines – for the wrong reasons. If in doubt, always add #ad, #sponsored or even #gifted. Or take things a step further with the various built-in, paid partnership platform features.


  • OPT FOR ALWAYS-ON: Instead of creating a one-off partnership, building a team of ambassadors will give you far more authentic content. And ongoing access to a colossal number of stats. This is very unlike an out-of-home ad, that airs on everyone’s TVs or radios. Influencers will be able to tell you exactly how many people see each of their posts. And how many times they’ve seen it. They can tell you where their audience comes from. The common interests they share, which content does well and what they want more of. It’s a bit like having your own product taster who shares a tongue with 50,000 other people. You’ll also be able to build relationships that bring added brand safety. And this will make it easier to edit or approve content before it goes live.


  • TRY A NEW PLATFORM: A platform like TikTok provides the playground necessary to make alcohol fly. Granted, there are a lot of kids on TikTok. But there’s plenty who are of drinking age, too. There’s also an unbelievable variety (see @spiritedla) of content and all sorts of fun niche corners to tap into. Additionally, it’s still unsaturated. At least compared to a platform like Instagram, which means you’ll have a greater chance of cut-through. There might be fewer “alcohol influencers” on TikTok. But, they’ll likely have more followers and significantly higher engagement rates. ‘Bartender’ is in the top 24 hashtags on TikTok. Which suggests alcohol is prominent on the platform. And a great place for showing off everything a booze brand can do with their choice of poison!


Spirited LA proving you can sip and Peleton at the same time via TikTok!


Let’s get to work…

Are you keen to get the “drinkstagram” ball rolling? Or looking to join TikTok as a booze brand? Maybe you just need a hand flexing that influencer marketing alcohol arm. Drop us a line at info@seenconnects.com – we’d be happy to help. Any platform, any time.