Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Marketing decisions in the premium alcohol category are being driven by gender-neutral concerns, authentic partnerships and consumers’ desire to stand out, according to research conducted by wines and spirits company Pernod Ricard over the past festive season.

In the 18- to 35-year-old segment, influencer marketing is still effective, says Kuhle Belu, consumer insights manager at Pernod Ricard, the company behind brands such as Jameson, Absolut and Chivas Regal. She says her company makes use of macro- and micro-influencers, and both are very effective in the right context.

The research shows that consumers tend not to buy into influencer marketing when they can’t see the link between the influencer and the brand. It’s also important to steer clear of influencers who work with conflicting brands – it screams inauthenticity and consumers dislike that, she adds.

The Gin Box, SA’s first subscription club for craft gin lovers, has successfully used micro-influencers to grow its subscription base since launching in the second half of last year. “In the context of our own brand, we have found that micro-influencers tend to produce authentic, personal and very relatable content,” says company founder Jean Buckham.

Pernod Ricard’s research also shows that consumers use their choice of premium brands to say something about who they are. While gin is still very much a trend, with approximately 87 different craft gins on the local market, Belu says rum and tequila are also growing in popularity. “Premium offers in these categories are enjoyed by consumers who want to show that they are discerning, they’re quick to identify new trends and they know how these drinks should be consumed,” she says.

Marketing that is inclusive – talking to people across gender, race and LSM – is becoming crucial when it comes to connecting with consumers, Belu says. “Why does whisky advertising tend to be targeted at older men when it is enjoyed equally by women? And what’s wrong with a group of men ordering pink gins?”

In fact, men have embraced the craft gin revolution as much as women have, says Buckham. “It would be wrong to categorise gin as a typically female beverage,” she says. “We have as many male as female subscribers, and both genders interact with the brand via social media. The reality is that no premium alcoholic brand will succeed without utilising gender-inclusive marketing.”

According to Belu, trends suggest that women are growing in financial stature and making the bulk of consumption decisions in households. Men are increasingly switching to gender-neutral drinks, a choice that could be attributed to the increasing influence of women. Moreover, the alcohol brands that have shown the greatest growth in the past four years are those consumed by women. “Every consumer demands representation in this category,” she adds.

Living a healthier lifestyle is another trend among consumers, as is the importance of social media: cash-strapped consumers want to have a good time and have an impact on social media. “As a brand, we believe we have a responsibility to understand the impact that we can have on fuelling the desire for the unattainable [that is] driven by social media, and drive a balance between that and providing offerings and experiences that offer an escape when it is needed,” says Belu.

The big take-out:

Marketing efforts in the premium alcohol category are being driven by trends such as gender neutrality, offerings that allow consumers to stand out, and authentic partnerships. Heathier choices and looking good on social are also important for consumers.