Alcohol brands are beefing up their online presence. Even if they steered clear of digital marketing for quite long for various reasons such as advertising and restrictions, alcohol brands are quickly catching up. Social networks, mobile applications or virtual communities- alcohol brands are making inroads to the digital realm.

The nature of digital marketing itself is evolving where these brands have been forced to blend communications and commerce to survive or to correctly reach out to their audience. Digital marketing techniques are equally being innovated as platforms like Facebook, YouTube or even Google are undergoing constant changes and innovations.

Heineken, the pioneer in digital marketing

It all started in 2007. When deciding to target the Puerto Rican youth, Heineken understood that neither a 30-second TV spot nor a traditional advert in the media would be enough.

To generate the impact it sought, the brand decided to have recourse to a “virtual universe” by setting up the Heineken City with the collaboration of the ad firm JWT. It tried engaging customers by allowing them to interact by using points- named “heikens”- earned when playing branded games on the website of Heineken or on Facebook. This marketing strategy proved to be a hit, with 10,000 loyal Heinken consumers.

Flouting regulations through digital marketing

The extent and breadth of alcohol digital marketing is booming. However, brands have to abide by advertising and marketing codes established with the clear objective of restraining the access to youth below legal drinking age. Brands automatically ask the age of online users who try to accede to their websites.

Besides, a large spectrum of regulations pertaining to digital marketing is obligatory to follow: proper monitoring of user-generated content on a site or page, content that can be shared should make age restrictions explicit, adverts should be placed in media where almost 75% of the audience is of legal drinking age and many more.

Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovation on social media platforms, these restrictions become void. The actual digital environment makes it easy for marketers to target massively by using various tools. The latter now have in hand consumer data that help them target their audience in a more accurate manner. Obviously, many of these tactics go through the obsolete safety nets placed by policy makers, parents or even health professionals.

An e-commerce media ecosystem

The media aka commerce landscape is undergoing constant changes. Having gained ground over TV and newspapers, digital marketing has become a major financial resource for e-commerce. Giants like Google and Microsoft are working in close collaboration with advertisers and marketers to make the most of the opportunities available online but which are nevertheless intertwined.

The new paradigm in digital marketing

Digital marketing is following a new pattern whereby three prominent features can be distinguished:


Digital marketing is a subtle process that is initiated to engage the customer. Messages are sent out with the aim of creating an impact in the latter’s subconscious. The idea is no more to present a product to the client but to present a highly desirable environment and conditions accompanied with it. Marketers thus expect clients to “befriend” their products. To hone their strategies, marketers are even going to the extent of using techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging, galvanic skin response, electroencephalography and eye-tracking studies. These researches allow them to identify patterns of brain activation predicting purchasing as well as the neurological basis of shopping. Brands like Absolut Vodka, Miller and Guinness do not skimp on resources to devise varieties of methods to engage consumers, such as applications, quizzes, discussion boards, videos and photos amongst others.

Targeted advertising

Ongoing data collection has allowed marketers to provide tailor-made marketing and sales appeals. By addressing the needs and desires of individual customers, marketers successfully build up unique and long-lasting relationships with the latter. Numerous studies keep going on to hone strategies while brands persistently urge consumers to provide personal data. One crafty method was used by Proximo’s 180 Tequila which invited artists and other people to design their own bottle. It was easy for the brand to gather massive personal data through this event.

The 360-degree strategy

To be sure not to miss out any segment of potential consumers, brands equally lay much emphasis on the 360-degree strategy, online and offline. Messages are hammered again and again while brands take advantage of the fact that people are now constantly “connected”. Cross-platform strategies are used to cut across various types of consumers. An example of a winning 360-degree strategy was that of Smirnoff Vodka that devised a “cross-digital and offline treasure hunt” in Australia. In order to attend what was called as the “biggest free party”, people had to obtain tickets by finding clues left on social media or mobile sites.

Main distribution platforms

The main distribution platforms for alcohol digital marketing have been classified into four major ones:

Social media

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace have boomed dramatically, entailing drastic changes to the marketing landscape. Young people have detailed personal profiles and are very active on social platforms. Consequently, marketers perceive this trait as an opportunity to exploit social media users in such a way that the latter become the sources of the messaging. Social media outruns all other platforms in terms of engagement opportunities and brands are sitting idle in regards to that.

Molson is one of the alcohol beverage companies that used “social media to humanize their brand and connect with their fans and customers”. According to the company, social media allowed them to get closer to their consumers. Other brands like Miller Lite, Diageo, and Bud Light have invested in social relationship management strategies to customize their wall posts and optimize their online content.

Online videos

Online video viewing forms part and parcel of a massive segment of consumers’ routine. As such, marketers do invest in placing ad with online videos. Sites like YouTube has developed a wide spectrum of tools devised to boost the visibility of brands. Facebook is now outrunning YouTube in terms of impact with its native videos. Alcohol companies like Absolut Vodka and Smirnoff Vodka are equally massively investing in content marketing hubs to create powerful impact with videos.

Mobile phones

Marketing through mobile phones is not outdated yet. Mobile advertising now relies on behavioural and location data of the user and is becoming embedded in mobile social networks. Malibu rum has come up with a free iPhone game called “Get your Island On”, Absolut Vodka has devised a crafty application for iPhones named Drinkspiraction which is GPS-enabled. This application has been designed to help customers “order or recommend a cocktail to match the moment’s mood, weather, colour, time, location, bar vibe and more”.

Immersive environment

State-of-the-art videos and animations have become crucial for alcohol digital marketing. This rich media experience is helping alcohol brands offer an “unprecedented depth of engagement” with consumers by tapping into the targeted audience, especially the youth. In the same breath, rich media allows to gather personal data of consumers.


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