How to Ensure Your Brand Gets the Promotion It Needs Behind the Bar


How to Ensure Your Brand Gets the Promotion It Needs Behind the Bar

Whether you’re launching a new spirit or expanding the reach of an established brand in your portfolio, your core priorities for on-premise sales should echo the first lesson of real estate: Location, location, location.

Any bottle behind the bar will mostly just gather dust if customers never see it. But more than attracting people considering their next drink, you need bartenders and managers to support how your brand is positioned. With the right decision-makers on your side, you can ensure your brand sees the greatest benefit from your marketing efforts.

From securing the right shelf space behind the bar to landing on the menu in a house cocktail, your sales depend on visibility. And as beverage brands flood the market, you need to seize every opportunity to set what you’re offering apart from the field.

3 Keys to Ensuring Your Beverage Brand Stands Out Behind the Bar and on the Menu

The hospitality industry is built on relationships. The closer a connection you can develop with buyers, the more often your brand will be seen and ultimately served. But even the strongest relationship with distributors and venues isn’t enough to secure the placement you need in an overcrowded market. 

You have to offer the right mix of information and experience in your marketing to ensure what you have to offer stands out for buyers. Once a bartender or manager sees the element in your beverage that makes it special, they’ll see the way it will be valued by their customers too.

Ultimately, getting the most from your brand marketing at any bar or restaurant depends on a variety of factors. And by sticking to these three core principles, you can ensure your brand appears in the right place at the right time.

1. Deliver Inspiring Education on Your Buyer’s Terms

Education is everything when it comes to securing placement for your beverage brand. Scheduling time with buyers allows you to meet bartenders and owners face-to-face while also expressing programming options to ensure your drink is served at its best. Along with establishing stronger connections through a face-to-face meeting, education allows you to demonstrate what sets your brand apart.

Brand marketing happens across multiple fronts, but there’s no substitute for the real thing — also known as a “liquid to lips” strategy. Along with simply offering a taste of what makes your drink special neat, on the rocks, or with the right mixer, education expresses your brand’s versatility.

For example, the Old Fashioned remains one of the most popular fixtures at cocktail bars. But how can your buyer differentiate their version of the classic from another bar down the street? Whether you’re offering a simple syrup, bitters, or a small-batch bourbon, you should highlight how your brand will fit into and enhance a bar’s offerings. Plus, by showcasing your beverage’s flavors, you may also capture a bartender’s imagination and inspire a new custom cocktail — a win for everyone involved.

Pro Tip: Empathize with Buyers and Their Schedule

When touring a new market, it’s natural to want to book as many demos as possible with on-premise prospects. But you have to be understanding of your audience and their schedules. Just as you don’t want to schedule a meeting at 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, nobody running a bar or restaurant does either.

You’ll find a much more receptive audience for your brand by scheduling a meeting on a Monday in the early afternoon instead of when people are preparing to serve customers. And if you’re unsure about someone’s availability, reach out and ask for a good time to talk. It’s a simple, small step, but taking time to acknowledge a buyer’s busy schedule is a courtesy many in our industry often forget to extend.

2. Offer Bartenders and Decision-Makers a Unique Experience through Your Brand

Encouraging a bartender to recommend your brand can be a difference-maker. But one meeting with a buyer simply isn’t enough to secure the right placement. You have to deliver an experience that elevates you above the competition.

To stand apart, you have to offer a more in-depth experience than the rest of the field. Remember that multiple suppliers and distributor partners are constantly pitching to the most in-demand locations where you want your brand to stand out. Everyone wants to be the spirit of choice for a house margarita or other signature cocktail. 

For instance, along with providing an opportunity to taste your product, you have to focus on the details of what sets your brand apart. If your bourbon uses a filtration system that shapes its flavor profile, your demo has to emphasize that detail. The more tools you provide buyers to understand your beverage’s complexity or versatility, the more likely you are to secure the menu placement that will be a difference-maker for your brand.

Even your brand’s swag presents an opportunity to deliver something memorable and unique. Everyone gives out t-shirts and coasters—what can your brand offer that will be different or useful behind the bar? If you don’t have the answer, you should certainly ask your buyer.

3. Gather and Respond to Buyer Feedback

Just as you should be attentive to and respectful of your buyer’s schedule, you also have to remember communication is a two way street. Not everyone wants to listen to buyer feedback, especially in a challenging sales climate when your strategy is set. But when it comes to understanding what actually connects with customers, on premise buyers are a crucial resource.

If you’re struggling to gain traction on menus or shelf spaces in a specific market, you should ask what a buyer thinks and be open to their response. Bartenders have opinions — and they’re not shy about sharing them.

By soliciting feedback from your brand’s audience, you’re also demonstrating that you value the opinions of your buyers. You don’t know where the next idea for business will come from. Bullett Rye was born because bartenders continued to ask the brand for a rye whiskey.

Whether you find out how to improve your offerings next week or next year, you have a better understanding of how you can help their business. If these kinds of insights will help you cultivate what’s next for your brand, we should talk.