Has everyone heard quite enough about Dry Jan and non-alcohol drinks yet? In the same way that after Christmas and New Year most of us can’t hear the word gin or Prosecco for a little while without wincing, the same might well be said for “alcohol-free” and “mocktail” come the end of January. Dry January now seems to be the runway for brands to see if they can win you over to their low- and non-alcoholic booze all year round.
This year, there was a huge amount of activity from frankly, almost all major brands. Here are four in particular from across the world that managed to rise above the noise - or rather, the quiet sober calm - with some stand out work, and what brands can learn from these.
Hide from it or champion it, either way, Seedlip is now owned at least in a “significant majority” by Diageo - and with that come big campaigns. The first being ‘Drink to the Future’ a creative run that spread across rail, London underground, buses, billboards and digital throughout Jan in the UK. Beautiful creative, putting the bottle front and center.
In the US, the brand launched ‘The Seedlip Social: A Drink for Every Drinker’ - a lovely online ad campaign, plus custom content and podcasts - and a partnership with Eater which used maps of New York and LA to show where drinkers could find bars serving Seedlip.
Seedlip was one of the first notable brands in this space, and it hasn’t slowed down with innovation. As well as launching its Aecorn aperitifs, its campaigns - and particularly the US activity to help drinkers find new venues - are not just growing the brand, but growing and supporting the whole alcohol free space - to the brands benefit, of course.
This is the big takeaway from Seedlip’s activity: there is still huge potential for category growth, and that work supporting venues and generally spreading the word about alcohol free options in general, alongside your brand message, can be hugely positive.
Heineken's launched a $50m marketing push for its alcohol free 0.0 beer. So it’s no surprise that it’s been doing some good stuff. The launch of its Dry January campaign in the US saw it giving away alcohol-free ‘advent calendars’ with 31 bottles of its 0.0 brew. The promotion was so successful that the calendars quickly ran out - but as a way to get talked about, this was a great piece of PR.
This activity fits neatly into the brewer’s ‘Now you can’ campaign, which has seen it running humorous ads around drinking 0.0 on occasions when you might not normally get away with having a beer.
Heineken’s work on 0.0 (as with BrewDog below) is all about, again, expanding the market for alcohol free options. From promoting drinking the brand every single day in the month to suggesting you might have a 0.0 beer while driving or in a board meeting; Heineken is working to promote the idea of not drinking as much as its own brand. That said, this work really builds the core brand too and very much links Heineken - either alcoholic or alcohol free - with the idea of having a nice time.
BrewDog not only pledged to offer free refills on its alcohol-free beers in all its bars (its ‘Drink all you can’ campaign) but also launched a pop-up dedicated to the alcohol free category.
The bar, called (in true BrewDog style) BrewDog AF, opened in London’s Old Street on Monday 6 January, as the first of the company’s bars to be purely devoted to drinks without alcohol. The bar - which is still running - has 15 taps of draft alcohol-free craft beer. The brand also launched two new alcohol free brands in January.
We’ve actually visited BrewDog AF as it’s around the corner from our office, and found it a great, inclusive place - somewhere between bar and coffee shop - with a really pleasant vibe. The clientele was a mix of post-work drinkers and coffee shop surfing remote workers.
BrewDog’s Dry Jan activities, unlike both Seedlip and Heineken, are more aimed at bolstering the BrewDog brand than anything else. The punk inclusivity of BrewDog’s positioning is well served by creating this welcoming space. As with Heineken, it’s a great way to get people on board with your brand and to associate it, covertly, with having a great time. According to the brand’s Instagram feed this week, ‘change is brewing’ at BrewDog AF, so it might not just be a flash in the pan.
Miller64's humorous ‘Dry-ish January’ campaign which ran in the US acknowledged that an unavoidable part of Dry January for many involves falling off the wagon. The campaign ran on TV at the end of December and on social media through January, and traded on the fact that sometimes, you might want to cut back on alcohol, but not cut it out.
The ads used a call to action for people to text in to get cashback on purchase, so as well as being a great awareness campaign, the spot did valuable heavy lifting in terms of data collection, with a likely view to future customer insight.
Again, this is a campaign that bolstered the main Miller brand, while promoting a lower alcohol option. Its understanding and tongue in cheek tone is hugely appealing. It keeps just the right side of an ‘anti Dry January’ positioning, something we can see brands moving towards in the future (though definitely something we’d advise against).
But for now, Miller’s supportive and fun ad broadens the discussion away from solely abstinence and towards a healthy attitude to drinking less.
As well as the bigger brands, there are a host of brands that turned out some lovely creative work, largely on social platforms - with Instagram a big focus. The channel is particularly great for smaller brands looking to build their profile, and where budget might be a concern. It’s also a great place to establish a creative identity.
Alcohol free spirits brand STRYYK (@stryyk) has been running great content for a long time on Instagram, but upped its game for January, and it also ran a promotion for free premium mixers if you bought its products in January.
The Wagon Pop Up alcohol free bar (@thewagonpopup) used Instagram as one of its main platforms for promotion during its month long residency in Spitalfields in London. The bar ran a number of events and masterclasses over the month, supported by a strong, well designed Instagram presence.
New alcohol free spirit brand Bax Botanics (@baxbotanics - and a client of ours) spent the month highlighting their brand, ingredients and recipes and establishing itself on the platform.
However big your brand, marketing alternatives to alcohol is still in its infancy - and it’s a hugely creative space. Campaigns can grow brands; grow the overall low/no space, promote their ‘sober’ brands, shore up alcoholic core brands, or even (as with Miller) go for a more moderate approach.
The market is wide open for creative approaches of all kinds, making for arguably, one of the most inventive areas in the whole of drinks marketing right now.
A major takeaway, though, is that brands should not just treat January as a moment in the calendar year to market their non-alcoholic products. Actually get involved. Take part in it. Talk about it. Create content about it.
Rather than just taking a marketing-led approach, it’s a great chance to really understand your customers’ challenges and get some first-hand consumer insight. After all, this market could be as big as booze by the end of the decade.
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