How beverage brands can keep consumers engaged during COVID-19

It’s been 6+ weeks since we’ve been able to visit a bar or restaurant in most cities. Once these establishments closed, their alcohol sales came to a screeching halt. But that doesn’t mean Americans have stopped drinking. In the absence of ordering a drink while out for dinner or happy hour, we’ve stocked our liquor cabinets at home. In fact, a recent Nielsen CGA survey shows that, of consumers ages 21-34, 35% are drinking more than they did pre-Covid-19, and 33% of those between 35 and 54 are drinking more than usual as well.

Retail sales of alcohol jumped 22% for the week ending March 29 compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen. This spike has continued through April as well. And it’s not just brick-and-mortar retail sales. Online ordering and delivery of alcohol has jumped quite a bit in recent weeks as well. Instacart reports a 75% increase in orders containing alcohol. With retail, online, delivery and takeout, there’s no shortage of ways to stock your liquor cabinet right now.

For the brands that have the bulk of their business in retail sales, this is great news. However, for brands that rely on bars and restaurants for a large portion of their sales, this has been devastating. While a number of states are temporarily allowing the sale of alcohol/liquor with takeout, it’s not enough to sustain the brands that rely on those bars and restaurants to be open and serving. Craft breweries have been hit especially hard. A Brewers Association survey showed that more than 70% of craft brewers report sales being down more than 50%. In fact, more than 50% of the breweries polled believed they would close within three months if guidelines remained in effect.

As we ride out what we all hope to be the final stage of this pandemic, how do we as marketers stay connected to the consumer to maintain brand loyalty and ensure they come back to visit us when restrictions are lifted? With social media consumption at an all-time high, it has become a place for brands to increase engagement and brand loyalty more than ever. But not without some changes.

Consumers are looking for brands to provide meaningful content that is helpful to them in some way right now. However, as we mentioned in a previous blog post, The New Normal in Content, this is not the time to deviate from your content pillars. We just need to think about how they apply in today’s environment.

  • Entertain: Alcohol brands are known for encouraging socialization. We can still do that. #virtualhappyhour has become a common way of connecting with friends and family. Look for ways that you can insert your brand into those conversations.
  • Cocktail Recipes: Help your fans find new ways to enjoy your product. Inventive cocktail recipes, twists on classic cocktails or maybe a non-cocktail recipe they hadn’t considered before. Lemon Vodka Cake, anyone?
  • Support & Celebrate: While much is unknown, there is still much to be grateful for. We can support and celebrate the frontline workers, the truck drivers, the teachers, the parents who have become teachers, and so many more. Look for ways to support your fans and invite them to celebrate with you.

So let’s raise a glass to everyone keeping the liquor store shelves stocked and raise an extra glass to those who are anxious to start serving us drinks face to face again soon.

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