“It would be so much fun handling social media for alcohol brands”, this is the most common statement I hear from people who learn that I work in the digital marketing space for the liquor sector. Yes, I will not lie it has been fun but it comes with its own limitations and boundaries. Just like one can’t get a drink unless they are 25 at a bar in India, a very similar theory applies when promoting alcohol brands on social media too.
Surrogacy has come around in a big way to support promotion of these brands but it has its own diluted drawback. You would not want to market something as prestigious as Roberto Cavalli Vodka as merely soda water. So the challenge lies in not damaging the brand image and at the same time managing to promote it to the right audience. Right from witty copies to engaging consumers by means of contests, a holistic strategy is what is required when handling work for this dynamic sector. You can surely openly post about them and answer queries about too but try advertising and you awaken the guideline gods.
On Facebook, the entry level challenge is that of age limit – one has to target consumers of 25 years and above. So anyone who is not of that age would be unable to spot the page on this platform (even if they conduct a search).
Words & Visuals
Advertising gets further tricky. One cannot use bottle shots and also alcohol terms like whisky, rum, vodka, etc cannot be present. Neither in the copy nor in the visual (image) used. So for Stoli Vodka, the digital advertising strategy used is “Are you having a Stoli time?” “Party the Original way!” and so on. This simple play of words is what enables Aspri Spirits to market their products successfully on Facebook. The bottle is the main protagonist for an alcohol brand and the advertising guideline acts as the antagonist. There are no such rules when posting messages on the timeline, but when it comes to advertising for gaining page likes or post views, we have a problem.
Other platforms like Twitter and Instagram offer much more freedom. Brands become easily traceable and at the same time the leeway in writing copies and adding images is much higher. They are more accommodating and accepting when compared to Facebook. At the same time, the latter is more visual than the former and thus the limitations.
The real challenge comes in when one has to run a campaign across multiple platforms. The messaging needs to be the same, the imagery needs to be identical and the copies have to be alike too. Finding a middle ground, which can be accepted by all platforms, is the only solution. So, when Stoli sponsored Lakme Fashion Week, the roadmap was made as flexible as possible with a plan B to almost everything. Right from pre-event announcements to post-event celebrations, the entire fervor was taken digital adhering to every guideline in the book.
For alcohol brands there is no other option but to go by the book because they live in the constant fear of being banned or blocked by the admins. An action that could render losing all the hard work conducted from so many years. How it would break my heart to lose 30,000 Facebook page subscribers of Aspri Spirits in the blink of an eye. Still when compared to advertising guidelines laid down for alcohol brands in print, television and other media vehicles, digital media is still far more relaxed. If they tightened the screws on this one, it would surely mean the end for most brands.