By Patrick Roman Gut, SVP, Head of Advertiser / Agency Sales, NCSolutions
I recently had the opportunity to virtually sit down with Pernod Ricard’s Andrew Brimer in a fireside chat to talk 2021 predictions with Brand Innovators Live. With his team’s focus on building relationships with on-premise operators and hospitality groups, Andrew has felt the weight of 2020 hard. But his team has been working diligently to meet consumers where they are and to plan for what’s to come in 2021. Below are three trends that struck me from our discussion.
1. Consumers are appreciative of spirits and are game for at-home cocktails
While retail has always made up a significant portion of alcohol sales volume, Andrew’s team realized shortly into the pandemic that they had to shift their on-premise activation strategies (which entail face-to-face experiences) to digital-forward, at-home cocktail education and virtual tastings (and more Instagram Lives than he cares for) for the time being. One silver lining of the pandemic for spirits brands is that since being deprived of the conviviality of bars and in-person hospitality, consumers have done a lot of education in 2020 on preparation of cocktails, which has expanded their appreciation for spirits.
We’ve seen this trend in our own data: liquor sales in grocery and drugstores have increased 19% year-over-year since the pandemic began, and they’ve stayed consistently elevated since March.
One positive impact of the shift to off-premise is that consumers will be more open and knowledgeable in trying alcohol brands at retailers and purchasing ingredients for at-home cocktails. Brands will have an opportunity to build loyalty in this channel by converting new buyers into repeat purchasers to move them up the loyalty ladder.
2. On-premise is not going away
Though at-home consumption has increased, Andrew described on-premise as remaining pivotal to the industry; in 2021 his team is focused on continuing to foster on-premise relationships, being a leader in advocacy space, and doing what they can for the bar community so when the doors are open, they’re ready to go. Pernod Ricard considers mixology education through their BarSmartsprogram to be a priority and feel strongly about taking care of those who have served them.
When I asked Andrew how his teams will view success in 2021, he described success as “when we can be out on premise when it’s safe and enjoy convivial moments together.” One effect of the on-premise hiatus has been renewed consumer appreciation for the special role that sharing a meal or drink at restaurants and bars plays in people’s lives. The bar and restaurant community has a proven track record of rebounding and bringing people together. “People crave being around each other and our brands and industry are one of those touchpoints,” according to Andrew.
Another interesting point that Andrew made was that encouraging trial of new products and brands is much more difficult without the on-premise channel; consumers are less apt to try an entire bottle of something new than they are to try a new cocktail on the menu—making revival of the on-premise channel that much more pivotal.
3. Some new trends are here to stay
Consumers will have different expectations from the on-premise channel after 2020. One of the trends that Andrew thinks is here to say is outdoor dining; many American cities took a page from Europe with expansion of outdoor dining, and many cities have plans to continue outdoor dining year round—which can be a game changer for restaurant and bar revenue opportunities. Other surprising trends from the pandemic? QR codes and to-go cocktails, which Andrew “never thought would be as big”. This reduction in paper consumption and revenue boosts from take-away cocktails could have staying power.
In addition to preparing for sticky trends, Andrew’s final advice to brands was to stay agile and prepare for those trends that are yet to be determined: “I’ve never used that word as much as I have this year,” he joked. To say 2020 was full of surprises is an understatement. Pernod Ricard’s team has learned to roll with the punches and continually adapt their activations to the moment, finding new ways to engage consumers at home, and following what’s appropriate for health guidelines.
To catch our full discussion, check out the recording below.
The pandemic is still new to all of us, and no playbook exists for advertising during these times. That’s why we decided to create one. Get answers to five questions for effective advertising in 2021.