The Critical Role of Marketing

Imagine crafting the world's most exquisite spirit, a distilled masterpiece that embodies centuries of tradition and innovation…

Sounds glorious doesn't it? But what if, after all that effort, your bottle just sits there in the local liquor store gathering dust? Congratulations, you’ve just created a hidden gem in a crowded market and a really expensive hobby.

This is the sobering reality for distilleries and alcoholic beverages that dismiss the power of brand and marketing.

Why Is Digital Marketing Important?


For those still living under a rock… We live in the age of Google and social media!

So unless you have the world’s most glorious bottle, you’re competing on price, or you’re spending a ton on in-store LCBO marketing programs, you’ll need to leverage the internet to increase discoverability and sales.

When someone is looking to try a new rye whiskey or botanical gin, they’ll often Google it, look for reviews, or hit the socials. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ensures your distillery and product pops up when potential patrons are on the hunt or looking to confirm their purchasing decision. If you're not online, you're invisible to a vast audience.

Instagram for example, with its visual emphasis, is perfect for showcasing your brand. An effective influencer campaign can drive customers to buy cases of your product before they’ve even tasted it! Consistent videos of behind-the-scenes shenanigans, badass cocktail recipes, and fun founder content can build a ton of trust, transforming casual browsers into die-hard brand loyalists.

Data-Driven Decisions

Traditional marketing is often a shot in the dark. But digital marketing comes with an advantage: analytics. Track consumer behaviors, see which campaigns work, and refine your strategies in real-time.

The Game-Changing Trio: E-commerce, Lead Generation, and Email Marketing

Distilleries have always been in the business of fine distinctions. But while they excel at crafting subtle flavor profiles, not all have embraced the nuanced power of direct digital channels. E-commerce, lead generation, and email marketing are reshaping the distillery landscape, empowering these businesses to have an unfiltered connection with their audience and increase profitability.

Essential Digital Marketing Tactics for Distilleries:

Social Media

People don't just enjoy spirits; they revel in the experiences that surround them. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook aren't just about posting pictures of your whiskey bottle for the hundredth time; they're about connecting with customers, building up social proof, and working on your “know, like, & trust” factors.

I encourage you to give people an inside look into your world and find ways to weave yourself into the stories of others. While you’re at it – why not start some controversial debates? Bourbon or Scotch – what's truly the king of whisk(e)y?

My advice on reducing social media stress: To reduce the overwhelm, just pick one platform as your primary channel. Select 1-2 subordinate channels where you’ll break up, reformat, and redistribute the content you created for your primary channel on those subordinate channels.

Don't overthink it. Just get started.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

We're talking about ensuring your distillery tops the search results when someone types in 'best gin near me' or 'distilleries in Toronto'. This isn't about gaming the system, but about having the basics covered so that Google knows you’re out there working hard making great spirits for people who are in or traveling to that area.

A note on Google Ads:

I often find the cost per acquisition (CPA) for wine and spirits via Google Ads to be wayyyy too pricey. Investing in ads without a strategy is like pouring your finest spirit down the drain. Cleaning up your organic SEO is great, but I would invest in other areas before investing in Google Ads or CPC. BUT if you absolutely must run Google Ads, I would consult with a professional media buyer.

Email Marketing

While some may view email as ‘old-school,’ it remains a potent tool. Having an solid email list is a massive asset to your business. Distilleries can inform their patrons about new releases, offer exclusive experiences, or promote events. Personalized, targeted, and direct — the trifecta for effective communication.

“Email marketing is up to 40 times more effective than social media, according to a study done by McKinsey & Company. The same study also shows that the buying process happens 3 times faster than in social media.” - Digital Agency Network

Just like crafting superior spirits, getting it into peoples’ glass is an art and a science. One that intertwines traditional marketing with digital dynamism. Distilleries, in dismissing these strategies, aren't just leaving money on the table; they're sidelining their legacies, their stories, and their potential. So, here's a toast to the fusion of tradition and technology — may it lead distilleries to their deserved spotlight. 🥃

Crafting a Customized Marketing Strategy for Your Distillery: Here’s what I would do

Align Brand, Sales, and Marketing Efforts

Ensure your branding, messaging, and tone remain consistent across channels. Whether it's the rebellious nature of a moonshiner or the elegance of a seasoned distiller, let your brand's voice be heard. 

Create an Unrivaled Brand Experience

Because of the internet, your brand is no longer what you say it is... It is the sum of all the moments (online and offline) that someone has with you and the emotions those interactions generate.

Take what you uniquely stand for (Brand) and apply that to every interaction point someone has with your brand to create signature experiences rather than generic ones. As the digital space becomes more and more crowded, your brand identity and customer experience will only become more crucial.

Come up with the "One Thing"

Come up with one “thing” that you can authentically get behind, that others are passionate about, and that no one else is doing. Use that one thing to build a base of loyal customers and watch your word of mouth skyrocket!

Challenges Distilleries Face in Digital Marketing

Playing It Too Safe

Many distilleries' digital marketing campaigns are, well... boring. Yes, we respect tradition, but this is the digital age. A picture of a barrel and a glass isn’t enough anymore.

Ignoring the Story

Each spirit has a tale. Ignoring the history, the master blender's choices, or the unique touch that makes your spirit stand out is a digital crime. It's not just about the drink; it's about the hands that crafted it, the barrels that housed it, and the years that refined it.

Not having a target audience/customer

It’s shocking how many marketing efforts lump all spirit lovers together. Not everyone who loves a whiskey will appreciate a gin in the same way. Segment your audience. Personalize. For heaven's sake, don’t just blast the same ad to a college student and a seasoned connoisseur. 

Overlooking the Brand Experience

Drinking spirits isn’t just about the taste; it's a layered experience. Yet, many digital marketing efforts fall flat in translating this experience into the digital realm.

Navigating the digital landscape for distilleries presents its unique challenges, from stringent advertising regulations to the intricacies of translating the tactile experience of sipping smooth whiskey into a digital context. Yet, much like the art of distilling, which involves refining the spirit through each stage, digital marketing is a journey of continuous refinement and connection with your audience. Embrace this journey with strategy, creativity, and authentic engagement, and you'll craft digital marketing as captivating as your spirits. 

Cheers to mastering the art of impeccable digital strategies!

- Allan

PS. I suggest you also check out my thoughts on digital marketing for wineries. The info there will apply to distilleries too! Check it out HERE