Reaching for Relevance

As 2015 draws to a close, a number of iconic adult beverage brands are feverishly implementing strategies to reinvigorate sales in the new year. Captain Morgan’s launch of Cannon Blast in September positions the brand to appeal to the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky crowd, while Bacardi USA is targeting Millennials with a new advertising campaign that launched in October for Bacardi rum. The most recent leading brand to enter the repositioning fray is Bud Light with its first packaging redesign in eight years announced in mid-December. The new packaging involves prominent placement of the brewer’s “AB” crest on the label intended to invoke heritage and quality, as well as a new, more contemporary logo for the largest beer brand in the world. The all-blue design will roll out in early spring 2016, and is part of a broader comeback play that will kick off with a new ad during the Super Bowl.

This flurry of activity reflects the relevancy crisis facing these well-established brands. The way Millennials and Gen Z are embracing craft beer, micro-distilled spirits, next-level flavors and hybrid products while also pushing back against mass-produced products has negatively impacted numerous top brands across adult beverage. To stem the tide of decline, many brands are strategizing to re-establish relevancy with the key younger consumer demographic. This is no easy task as Millennials and Gen Z require high levels of authenticity, quality and flavor, all at an accessible price.

Retailers and on-premise operators need to stay on top of these brand repositioning programs, as the level of effectiveness may impact traffic and sales in their locations, for better or worse. These moves should also inspire operators to assess their concepts’ relevance to today’s consumer. Does your store or restaurant’s branding align with your target customer’s values, interests and preferences or is it dated and tired? Do key features, service elements and product selections appeal? Are you on top of not just what’s now, but what’s next in adult beverage? Rather than just watching these well-established brands reach for relevance, operators need to also ensure that their value proposition appeals to an increasingly discerning and demanding customer in order to achieve success in 2016 and beyond.

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Donna Hood Crecca

A veteran of the foodservice industry, Donna Hood Crecca leads the firm’s Convenience Store Practice and is active in its Adult Beverage Practice. She develops research-based insights and recommendations for leading and emerging supplier and operator companies to enhance their go-to-market and product development programs and strategies.

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