As products become ever more complex in their myriad of aging processes, botanicals, fermentation methods, obscure ingredients, et al, some brands are inviting consumers into their worlds on more common ground.
Centrifugal flavour extraction is all well and good. So is reverse aging. But to the lay person browsing a shelf of products, or having a mooch around Amazon…. does it really mean anything? Probably not. As technology improves and products get more complex, forward-thinking brands are earnestly marketing themselves on their all-singing, all-dancing experimental, premium, and pioneering flavours and liquids. Which is great.
But there’s now a growing number of products going the other way. Simplified, quieter, more modest, and more immediate in their approach, the new wave of products making a play for the hearts and minds of less au-fait consumers, are well, doing just that… making a play for hearts and minds.
Describing how their product makes you feel, or rooting it in a colour, sensation, or landscape – all things that are universally understandable – these brands put the experience of drinking them front and centre, with the complexities of flavour and production coming a definite second.
Aiming to reach imbibers – especially those with a desire to explore, but with little prior product knowledge – these brands are selling an experience, rather than a vintage, a specific botanical, or an age statement. And it’s not hard to see why.
More in-tune with a consumer group raised on the visuals of Instagram, and largely starved of new experiences over the past couple of years, the brands speak to the immediacy a whole generation of consumers have been raised on.
Aspirational in the lifestyle dreams they sell, they locate themselves in a consumer’s drinking repertoire, making them an easy swap for their usual drinks choices.
In the past, LDA+ drinkers also have traditionally entered the drinks category through sweetened options such as flavoured ciders, and RTDs. Though drinks such as hard seltzers tap into the lifestyle needs and concerns of these drinkers, spirits that market themselves on experience, and take away the need for knowledge, reduce the barriers that must be overcome for such consumers to trade-up from RTDs to something stronger, more expensive, and often, more intimidating.
Foghouse Gin, housed in a matt pistachio-coloured bottle, does not visually reveal its liquid to consumers, nor does it immediately explain it. Instead, the brand’s website invites you to “discover”, while bottle features no information up front on its flavour profile, or the botanicals used. Instead, it prominently features the dictionary definition of the word ‘Escapism’.
Other products invoke a specific location to convey its liquid. Coastal Stone Whisky' by Australia’s Manly Spirits Co. is described as “an expression of the maritime elements, and raw nature of the Australian coast, distilled and matured on the northern beaches of Sydney.” The bottle front does not mention perhaps the most notable feature of the liquid, that it is aged in sherry casks.
Key for non-alc
Interestingly, this approach is being most strongly adopted by non-alc spirits; products that still have quite an education job on their hands when it comes to teaching consumers not only how and when to consume, but how they fit into a consumer’s lifestyle. Grounding them in a landscape, moment or mood, is a sensible play to establish these key consumption needs or moments.
While Californian brand AMASS, simply names its full-strength products (Dry Gin and Botanic Vodka), for its non-alc spirit it has chosen a different approach. In a matte forest green bottle, Riverine notably proclaims it’s distilled in British Columbia, not the brand’s LA home, with its blend of forest-sourced botanicals said to encapsulate the lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest’s temperate rainforest.
Functional non-alc brand Three Spirit takes a more direct approach. Again, matte, fully-coloured bottles give nothing away visually about the liquid. Defying any comparison with existing liquid types, its first opportunity to convey to consumers what it is, and what it is for, is through its product names. The Nightcap, Livener, and Social Elixir all tell consumers how they’ll make them feel or when to drink them, giving the brand an opportunity to afterwards more deeply explain the complex, functional botanicals used.
Expressing moods or moments, or grounding products in a landscape provides a more immediate and accessible invite to consumers to explore a brand, or to know how and when they should consume it. Though some of the earliest brands to take this approach are doing so in a subtle way, brands such as Foghouse point to a future where products more overtly throw off established packaging cues, to make a play for consumers to whom such things mean nothing.
The benefits of such visually appealing packaging is obvious when it comes to rewards that can be reaped by ‘looking good for the ‘Gram’. But there is a wider conversation to be had about what, to new consumers about to enter the spirits or non-alc spirits market, is important. Is it the details of the liquid production, or is it simply how it relates to, and can be part of or enhance their life?
As functional products continue to emerge, especially in the non-alc category, the challenge to simplify complex information, and simultaneously immediately communicate it, will only grow stronger. Expect more brands to go straight for the jugular, stripping out more complex liquid descriptors, and instead target relatable moods and moments.
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