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Online on-brand

So many websites, so little time. When it comes to the net, we are all spoilt for choice, and this puts pressure on brands to ensure that their website is a big enough draw

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Studies by a think tank, L2, of 70 international brands make this abundantly clear: only a third of brand-related searches end up on the brand’s own channels and of those, barely half go through to the website – the rest end up on their social media pages, their corporate website or a microsite. This is hardly harnessing the power of the marketing miracle that the internet, at its best, can be.

So, how does a canny drinks brand wrest web traffic away from the retailers who sell the brands (21%), Wikipedia (12%), cocktail recipe portals (11%), blogs and forums (4%), or news sites (4%)? By having more to offer, and offering it in innovative and enticing ways. Surfers should be rewarded by clicking on a brand’s site – and if they are, then the brand is presented with a brilliant opportunity to get their products and their branding and marketing in front of an interested audience.

There are brands who are doing just that. Take the Bacardi website: click on that link and you are immediately immersed in an exciting story of disaster and derring-do, as generations of the Bacardí family surfed the waves of life in Cuba, from occupation to revolution. Earthquakes. Fires. Exile. Prohibition.

Sorry fate, you picked on the wrong family, announces the Heritage section: the full story follows, interspersed with quotes and great photographs, and featuring an impressive soundtrack. Or, for those looking to cut to the chase, there’s a Cocktail section to learn how to mix your own – vital for capturing the market who are looking for a practical solution to problem of DIY bartending.

There’s a Craft section that cleverly repackages the brand messages about passion, uniqueness and longevity (They Can Take Everything You Own But You’ll Still Have Everything You Know). And if that still isn’t enough, there’s a glamorous incentive to fire your loyalty, with the chance to win entry to a mysterious Halloween weekend party on a private island within the Bermuda Triangle…

As for those cocktail recipes, there’s more to be done: the number of people searching online for them each month tops four million – and any of those who put their research into practice will be out there in the supermarket, converting web clicks to cash.

This insight has led certain global players to launch multi-brand platform websites catering to those with a yen to express themselves via a cocktail glass. Bacardi has a clear, very visual section on its website under Cocktails, and the Bacardi Group has also launched Also, in partnership with Bacardi, Jamie Oliver has launched the online channel Drinks Tube and a website, clearly aiming to bring Oliver’s enthusiastic foodie DIY following into the Bacardi fold; Diageo has created

Go to the former looking to find the perfect recipe for a Mojito and you’ll be instructed to use Bacardi Superior Rum; click on the latter, and Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold will be your required purchase. And naturally, both platforms show the bottle to seal awareness and recognition…

This is a smart new development, matched by an eagerness to jump on new social media bandwagons as fast as they appear. While almost all brands are active on social media such as Facebook (99%), YouTube (99%), and Twitter (94%) and have been for a while, 82% have begun Instagramming, as opposed to just 46% in 2013. A platform like this, that is led by visuals, is a great opportunity to show off outstanding design – and imprint it on the consumer mind’s eye.

Some brands go further still, and create online clubs, with sign-up via the website – an excellent way of promoting a sense of community, particularly among younger adults: when everyone in your peer group is digitally active, it makes sense to look for like-minded people online, and companies who can associate their brand with the feeling of like-mindedness that comes from a good conversation over a nice drink in a bar, will win in the volume wars.

There are some very inventive – and incentivised – versions of these clubs. If you become A Guardian of The Glenlivet, you will be invited to participate in private tastings, limited-edition releases, and other exclusive events. Crown Royal have a Society of The Crown; a Glenfiddich aficionado can become A Glenfiddich Explorer – which sounds quite adventurous. Armchair travellers can join The Hendrick’s Curiositorium, which has the suitably opaque strapline: undeniably peculiar, utterly delicious…the delightfully odd awaits.

All these options are more compelling than simply receiving Absolut News.

Spirit bands are tuning their imaginations to the wavelength of the digital generation and creating a digital presence that helps build the brand and forge brand loyalty. Spirit drinkers today are using Google the way their parents used a bar guide or a book of cocktail recipes. Now it’s up to brands to bring them in, pour them a great drink and make them feel online at home.

23 February 2015