When I tell people what I do, more often than not they’ll say; ‘You work in the drinks industry? Well you must meet my cousin/brother/girlfriend/dog walker/vicar – they’ve just created their own gin brand. They use tomatoes/upcycled carpet/autumn leaves in their distillation process!’

Slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift. In the UK alone there has been a distillery boom. The increasing popularity of gin is causing this rise in the number of distilleries being opened.
In 2017, a total of 49 new distilleries opened and a further 31 in 2018.
I think it’s fair to say, we’re living in a ‘gin-naissance’

To add to that, gin brands from abroad are wanting their share of our massive UK gin lake, causing a very congested scene. 

Some would say that a new gin brand entering the UK market, would be mad to, down to the shear weight of competition. I will argue that good brands will always succeed in an expanding market. 

Learning Lessons

Let’s take a look at examples of other congested categories in different parts of the hospitality industry, to see that this is true. 

Pizza, there are hundreds of restaurants with huge loyal followings and vast marketing budgets.

Think Pizza Express, Dominos and Pizza Hut. Then we have Franco Manca and Pizza Pilgrims, who have shown that there is still room to enter and succeed in a very congested market.

This ultimately comes down to:

  • Solid products
  • Good branding and back story
  • Innovative marketing 
  • A great price point. 

They attract people in with a familiar product, a unique selling point, have a sound enough offer and back story to win repeat business and dedicated followers. 

My point is, good brands will succeed no matter how competitive a market is, because they have thought through every aspect of their offer and executed it correctly.  

Back to the story

Let’s get back to what we’re really here for, booze. Gin specifically, to build a successful brand you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be successful, in fact if you go off piste with your concept it’s often hard for people to get their heads around. 

Good liquid, great branding and a reasonable price point are all basic building blocks to creating a cut through product.  

Good liquid should be a given, but surprisingly a lot of gins on the market don’t even make it this far.

Branding can be subjective, however a strong back story will pull the whole brand together. 

Target market

When building a successful gin brand, your target market or if you will, your gin drinkers, are who you should be aiming to please. You will have to win over several different sets of people: 

  • Regular drinkers – whether that be the at home drinker or the in bar drinker
  • Bar staff – they will be the one’s recommending good brands to customers
  • Buyers – supermarkets, online and wholesalers. 

Obviously the most important set to win over is the consumer – your regular drinker. However, you need to have a product that is right for the others too, otherwise there will be limited distribution.

The brand has got to appeal to the gatekeepers who are bombarded with new brands every day. 

If you’ve been selling gin around London over the past year or so, you will be used to the glazed look appearing on faces when you say the words: ‘I’ve got this new gin I’d like to talk to you about’. Having a gin which grabs their attention is essential. 

How is your brand going to stand out from the crowd? 

Without connecting with the modern consumer at an emotional level you won’t get regular consumers and dedicated followers. How can you do this?

Tell a Story

Products that are produced locally have been in a real boom in the past decade, led by the ‘craft beer’ revolution.

Who hasn’t seen a new craft beer pop up every time you visit a bar? 

Everyone loves to say they have a distillery or a brewery in their postcode or town There are dozens of examples of local producers around the country. 

Being a local producer is a very obvious way of connecting with people locally, however breaking out of that market can prove difficult, if that’s what you’ve based your brand story on.  

A gin with a big message and reason to buy it is One Gin. They give money to helping provide clean water in developing countries. 

Your marketing message doesn’t have to be a worthy cause to attract loyal customers. It could be a backstory that resonates with people and gives them a happy feeling when they’re drinking your product. 

Get the Branding Right

A great example of how all the elements can come together well, is Manly Spirits from Sydney: stunning liquid and branding paint a picture of that idyllic Australian oceanside living, a great escape for us Brits suffering in the ‘Spring’ climate. 

Simply looking at the bottle or smelling the gin transports you to the long pristine beaches of Manly.

They use this selling point in their social media and marketing by playing on that oceanside lifestyle. This appeal is attractive to a wide range of people – not just Home and Away viewers. 

Where does all of this leave the person looking to get into the gin market? 

Potentially create a brand message and a reason to buy the gin before you start developing the liquid and its branding. 

A gin brand I really like is Kuro.

They don’t have their own distillery and it’s not distilled in Japan – which is where their inspiration came from. Gin isn’t even traditional in Japan.

However, they have got a great story about the inspiration for the brand with quality liquid and branding that’s distinctive. 

You take one look at the bottle and one sip of the gin and you get it – it really is that simple. 

Whilst it might be simple, often things that look simple and straightforward are hard to execute. Having knowledge of the industry and what works will give a brand owner a big advantage, but that shouldn’t put off newcomers to the industry. 

Originally written By Phil Harding and posted on LinkedIn on April 17th 2019

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