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Keeping Drinks Brands Fresh in the Age of Covid-19

Opinion and Insight 88 Add to collection
Junior strategist at Impero, Savannah Dawsey-Hewitt, discusses how drinks brands can stay afloat post-pandemic
Keeping Drinks Brands Fresh in the Age of Covid-19

The prospect of a pandemic has been a well known systemic risk for years, but no one could have predicted the exact timing or nature of what we’re seeing currently. That’s often the way with trends – the big shifts are well known, but we struggle to forecast much beyond that. Will these new behaviours become obsolete in a post Covid-19 world, or will we still be bumping elbows in 2022?

At first glance, things aren’t looking too hot for the drinks industry right now. Giants like Suntory, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Diageo are feeling the hit with drops in sales, especially with increasing government guidance around avoiding public events and gatherings. It’s clear that drinks brands need to think about how best to face-off against ‘roni and add real value in a morphing consumer landscape.

So, to help, we’ve had a poke around and pooled some of the most relevant consumer trends and looked at what drinks brands are doing to stay on top of them.


Keeping it clean.

Right now everyone is reaching for the hand sanitiser. Though scrupulous hand cleaning is likely to pass, now’s the time to adapt and respond to this desire to stay safe. Brands that can be there now when people need it will win loyalty and be remembered when it’s back to business as usual.

...acting on it, food for thought.

A lot of drinks brands are going down the obvious route: alcohol + hands = sanitiser. Brewdog is using its distillery to create Punk Sanitiser (a post-modern classic don’t you know), and Verdant Spirits is doing the same in response to care groups running low on supplies. On a local level, a Leith-based gin distillery, Leith Gin, has suspended all spirit production, opting instead to make free hand sanitiser for local housing blocks, nurseries and police stations: “It’s very labour intensive but nobody’s buying gin so we may as well do something with ourselves”.

On a grander scale, Finland’s state-owned alcohol producer, Altia, has promised to produce large quantities of technical/denatured ethanol, around the clock at its Koskenkorva vodka facility, with Absolut offering the same for Sweden.

Virtual experience economy.

It’s not just a humanitarian and economic catastrophe we’re facing, we could be entering a full-blown party-recession. But that doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom. Enter the virtual experience economy: we’re talking Netflix Party, virtual choirs, Friday drinks hosted by Zoom, virtual happy hours – hey! the Japanese even have a term, 'on-nomi', for drinking online with friends. This is it, the rise of immersive new technologies that allow people to get that crucial social fill. And it doesn’t have to be small scale either; over 10 million people tuned in for Marshmello’s Fortnite gig last year (and that was before Coronavirus).

...acting on it, food for thought.

In February, Absolut Nights, an events brand associated with Absolut Vodka, launched a one-off live-stream event through Douyin (the Chinese equivalent of TikTok), featuring local DJs. Further – nightclubs across China are attempting to keep bored locals entertained by holding ‘cloud raves’ online. More introspectively, brands could see it as an opportunity to create a community amongst fans such as creating virtual spaces for consumers to get that bar or pub experience, through VR experiences, VIP areas, and invite-only parties with exclusive experiences from acts and DJs.

A lesson in learning.

One of the nicer snippets to have come out of the compulsive Covid-19 chat is people sharing what they’re going to do with all their newfound spare time; what they’re going to ‘get good at’. Whether it’s drawing a daily isolation portrait, or dusting off the Concertina for some nightly practice – people are yearning to use the time at home productively, which means they’ll embrace the platforms and brands that help them do that.

...acting on it, food for thought.

Obviously skill-focused organisations are a natural fit for this trend. But that’s not to say it’s not suited to drinks brands. Think about your audience and what skills they’d be interested in learning. Think about your brand purpose and the partnerships you’ve fostered along the way – could you call on any favours for your fans or employees? How about a virtual cocktail making class with your brand ambassadors, drinking rituals with influencers and content creators.


The point is, amid the grimness, there will be some positives to the next few months. At the very least, not being able to sweat over the small stuff gives us time for some self-reflection – large scale change is hard, but big shocks mean old rules can be broken and make way for new ways of doing things. Rather than checking out, this is exactly when the drinks industry should be checking in.


- Savannah Dawsey-Hewitt

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Genres: People

Impero, Mon, 04 May 2020 09:11:30 GMT