Brands adapt social media strategies to maintain relevancy amidst COVID-19

Community and honesty are currently more important than lifestyle and image on social media


Brands have been seeking greater interactivity on social media for a number of years, and this has become even more pertinent over the course of the pandemic. People are looking for more meaningful content across all social media platforms that offer them an unprecedented level of personal engagement.

In this new environment, brands will need to radically rethink their key messages. For beverage alcohol, connection often revolved around the joy of socialising with friends and family. Brands are quickly trying to establish a new relevance in a global market that has become unrecognisable in the space of just a few weeks.

Mark Meek, CEO of IWSR, comments, “relevance is paramount during a crisis like this. Content needs to reflect the reality of the situation we are in, while also being purposeful in one of three ways: highlighting essential information, supporting the community, or offering entertainment and engagement while consumers are at home.”

In terms of entertainment, drinks brands have a number of tried and tested ways of interacting with consumers on social media. Twitter and Instagram Live tastings and cocktail masterclasses have proven popular in the past and can keep consumers entertained at home, while linking them to a wider network of drinks fans.

Brands can also help facilitate human interaction by getting involved in virtual happy hours or by launching virtual pubs that celebrate the on-premise atmosphere and experience. For example, Brewdog Online Bar hosts a virtual pub quiz for consumers, as well as live virtual tastings and live stream yoga classes under its no- alcohol brand, Brewdog AF. In keeping with its brand identity, Beavertown Beer launched Instagram Live Draw-Alongs that are hosted by its Creative Director.

Content that offers a sense of discovery is particularly desirable in today’s climate. Wineries, breweries and distilleries may have closed to the public, but high-quality virtual tours can both entertain and educate.

Brands can also benefit from showing how their products can be consumed at home. Cocktail recipes and methods accompanied by interesting visuals and videos are a core part of this effort. Some brands have taken this initiative further and could serve as an example to others: back in 2017, Patrón created a ‘bot-tender’ chatbot that offers personalised cocktail recommendations.

As an extension of this, Signature Brew’s Pub-In-A-Box allows consumers to bring the pub experience to their house. The Pub-In-A-Box can be bought online and includes signature beers, glassware, snacks, a beer mat, Spotify playlists and a music quiz. If consumers are eligible for local delivery, musicians who have had their tours cancelled deliver the pub-in-a-box to consumers as well.

“Many people are exploring home drinking and delivery services for the first time during lockdown and social distancing. Consumption habits formed now might stick around in the future, so brands have a real opportunity to appeal to new audiences and should try to make it easy for new consumers to go from engaging with social content to trying the actual product,” recommends Meek.

Out-of-work bartenders are also providing educational content (often with virtual charity tip jars), and a number of online seminars have launched as a result. The GB team at Diageo Reserve World Class has scheduled a series of brand ambassador social media takeovers across its World Class GB and Diageo Bar Academy platforms. Targeting both bartenders and consumers, these videos showcase cocktail recipes and skills for creating homemade syrups and cordials.

“Brands will need to take a more inventive approach to social media in the coming months, but should remember to keep honesty and community at the heart of their communication,” says Meek. “For now, social media will not serve as a means to promote an aspirational lifestyle, but a way to cope with the new normal we are all living.”


You may also be interested in reading:

Social drinking at a time of social distancing

Familiar brands and large-size formats drive US consumers’ alcohol purchasing decisions

How the US Beverage Alcohol Industry is Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis


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