MONDAY 10 JAN 2022 12:06 PM


Jamie Maple, managing director at Wilderness, discusses the value of social media campaigns, and how alcohol brands can use Instagram to redefine its social strategy.

TikTok just passed 3 billion downloads and brands are making the app a key part of their social strategy. But as with all social media campaigns, you’ve got to think about your audience first! So, considering 45% of 18-30-year-old alcohol drinkers in the UK primarily use Instagram to research brands, it’s definitely not time to jump ship entirely. 

In order to stay ahead of the curve, alcohol brands need to effectively use Instagram to connect with younger consumers who want to hear from with companies that align with their principles and beliefs. Using social conversation and fostering an Instagram community for your brand should be a top priority. “But how??” we hear you cry. That’s what we’re here to explore.

What can Instagram offer alcohol brands?

Instagram is best known for people curating their ‘best life’, it is designed to be sociable and aspirational; the app allows users to show off, through various visual mediums. Something that alcohol brands would do well to tap into.

Posting engaging content and increasing their following, alcohol brands can raise their profile and build authority. The main clause is ensuring you toe the line with ASA guidelines, but that’s nothing new.

Whether it’s stories or reels, Instagram cherry picks the best content formats and, alcohol brands have the chance to play with all of them, it’s time to get creative and most importantly, have fun. For our client Southern Comfort, we used social to promote brand values around togetherness and self-expression. After 18 months of partying put on hold, Pride 2021 was the perfect time for Southern Comfort to use its platform to celebrate togetherness.

Bringing the spirit of New Orleans to the UK, the Southern Comfort team planned and executed the boat party of all boat parties: dripping in glitter; performances from Sink the Pink and slushies on tap. Our job on social was to get audiences engaged and involved from campaign start to finish. We first had to introduce Southern Comfort as a brand that has Pride in its heart for all the right reasons. We made the Southern Comfort social channels a platform for learning, education and beautifully executed creative with purpose and meaning. Our task was to spread awareness of the event and ultimately drive ticket sales. This was a roaring success, with the final ticket drop selling out in 20 seconds. We shared outfit tips and recipe content, as well as vibrant and FOMO-inducing event photography once it was all done and dusted.

Hashtags allow brands to be discovered by relevant audiences at the click of a button. It also works the other way round. Brands can search relevant hashtags –to join conversations that are already happening and then proactively reach out to users having these relevant conversations. For a brand to show proactivity and reach out to their audience is a big deal, it humanises them. For instance, Smirnoff uses its Instagram account to teach audiences how to make cocktails and positions themselves as a fun brand.There are many formats to develop a dialogue with users. Using polls and quizzes to learn more about followers is another valuable way to have fun with a brand’s community.

How can alcohol brands redefine their content for Instagram?

It’s important for alcohol brands not to fall into the trap of pushing out the same content from a TV ad or a poster on social and expecting to get cut through. Reusing the same content across multiple platforms is dull and will limit reach and engagement, especially on Instagram.

Insta content needs to be designed specifically for social. Brands need to ask themselves, what are the users keen on or expecting to see on their phone screens? Which formats are available to use? Who is the audience on the platform? From there you can figure out your sweet spot.

How can brands engage with customers on Instagram?

Younger generations care a lot about brand beliefs. In fact, 75% of millennials think companies focus too much on profit and not enough on social responsibility. It’s important that the brands they buy from reflect their values. Brands need to show tangible action when addressing any social issue. It is vital that they are not just paying lip service to achieve this. It’s about being authentic and showing that the brand is listening and intends to do something meaningful. For instance, The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey signed over brand rights and profits to Aware Northern Ireland, an organisation that helps battle depression - supporting a cause that is often negatively connected to alcoholic beverages.

Reinvigorating partnerships is a good way to produce authentic content in this space. Building relationships with other organisations whose values align is key. We’ve seen campaigns such as Absolut Vodka's campaign for change, achieve true success. The brand has been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community for many years and the group aligns with the brand’s values.

The worst thing alcohol brands can do is squeeze any self-expression out of the partnership. We’ve all seen brands put a bottle of booze in the hands of someone from TOWIE with no story or context. It just seems like a cash-grab, rather than an actual respectable valuable partnership.

Where do alcohol brands go from here?

There is so much possibility! The breadth and quality of content being produced for Instagram is inspiring. Recently, alcohol brands have cottoned on to the fact that social accounts aren’t just another billboard or place to put their latest TV ad. They’re choosing to better understand and engage their audience due to sharing the same values.  Alcohol brands are building their brand identity and establishing their presence online, the future of this space is exciting. So, crack open the bottle and have fun and most importantly engage your audience. Cheers!