A low season doesn’t have to mean you can’t cash in on big opportunities.
It’s often possible to flip what seems to be a negative into a positive.
A good example is Dry January marketing for alcohol brands. A month dedicated to abstaining from alcohol may seem like a nightmare scenario, but it just takes some extra creative thinking to work around it.
The ultimate goal is finding out what’s really going to stick in the minds of your audience. In this case, nothing says Dry January like non-alcoholic beverages.
NielsenIQ data shows sales of non-alcoholic beverage trends surging across the U.S. From August 2021 to August 2022, non-alcoholic beverage sales increased by 20% to $395M.
With sober curiosity on the rise, brands had a chance to capitalize with a creative campaign.
No matter your brand, you can take a similar approach and act with urgency and accuracy to meet customer demand when social and cultural trends shift.
Let’s look at how alcohol brands pivoted with their Dry January campaigns and how traffic was impacted, as well as the lessons all marketers can learn from this.
What Is Dry January?
Of all the latest cultural trends, what makes Dry January so important to consumers?
Dry January challenges you to cut out alcohol for the month. Alcohol Change UK introduced Dry January as a public health project in 2013. The goal is for people who are concerned about drinking too much or too frequently to slow down. It’s also for anyone who wants to start the year fresh and on a healthier note.
- Improved sleep quality
- Better mood and energy levels
- Increased physical activity
- Weight loss
- Healthier diet due to better discipline and lessened empty calorie intake
- Decreased cancer-related growth factors risk, reduced blood pressure, and improved insulin resistance
- Drop in liver fat and blood sugar
Experts say cultural trends like Dry January are an ideal introduction to a sober lifestyle.
While this is a monumental movement for customers, how can the alcohol industry fit in and reach its audience by creating a Dry January campaign?
What Our Data Shows About Dry January and the Alcohol Industry
Working uncommon marketing strategies into your overall plan is a clever way to help keep your brand relevant.
We collected data to show you how several big alcohol brands did just that during Dry January. Let’s take a closer look at what they did—and how their efforts impacted traffic.
Utilizing Semrush, we analyzed alcohol brands to determine if there was a drop in organic traffic performance. From there, we used Google Trends to see what the search interest was for the term “Dry January.”
Using Google Trends, we combed through trend history to see how popular web searches have historically been for the term “Dry January” in the United States.
Let’s begin by looking at January 2023, which had the highest search interest for this keyword in the last five years:
The concept has been steadily gaining popularity over the years. Notice that it’s been especially popular in 2023, reaching level 100 (double the previous year’s interest).
When compared against the search term “New Year’s Resolutions,” we see the same spikes of interest over the last five years.
Dry January is in blue. “New Year’s Resolutions” is in red. However, the popularity of searches for “New Year’s Resolutions” in 2023 was not as high as in years past—but it was higher than January 2022. More individuals being sober curious coming into the New Year could be the cause of this.
Our big question is: Will alcohol brands see a drop in traffic, or were they able to be creative in their Dry January marketing efforts to encourage people to buy?
Let’s break down these five alcohol brands’ organic traffic and budget based on their United States performance.
1. Tito’s: Bringing in Star Power
In December 2022, Tito’s organic search traffic was almost 375K, and by January 2023 it had about an equal amount of traffic. They spent under $500 on paid traffic in December of 2022, and in January spent almost $10K.
Tito’s took the celebrity cameo approach for their commercial with Martha Stewart.
Since Stewart is known as a DIY guru, Tito’s took the time to playfully remind customers what else they can do with vodka other than letting it collect dust for the month. The landing page, merch, and stories they shared all were set in place to drive traffic to their site and increase conversions for a “DIY January”—a play on “Dry January.”
2. Heineken: Building Social Media Buzz
In December 2022, Heineken’s organic search traffic was a little over 120K. In January 2023, they maintained that constant in traffic. They spent just under 20K on paid traffic in December 2022, and in January spent the same amount.
Heineken kicked out two Dry January marketing campaigns designed to feed social media. Their #StartMyParty promo aimed for Heineken beer to be the center of everyone’s holiday party. This campaign also won the Dutch beer brand Cannes’ Marketer of the Year.
The other campaign tapped into cultural trends. The brand took a stand against hustle culture, encouraging people to disconnect from work and relax. The notion of drinking responsibly placed alongside #WorkResponsibly amplified hard-working entrepreneurs’ voices behind the campaign. The ads served as a reminder to the public to unplug and live life outside of the office.
3. Malibu: Playing With Seasonal Themes
In December 2022, Malibu’s organic search traffic was almost 190K, and in January 2023 saw about the same rate of traffic. Unlike the previous brands mentioned, they spent $0 on paid traffic in December 2022, but in January 2023 spent just under $5K to boost their efforts.
Malibu has called for an “Eternal Summer” with their new campaign that launched in April 2022.
Their drinks helped reach a “summer state of mind” rather than only enjoying these drinks in the summer to the new slogan of ‘Do what tastes good.’ They also presented two rebrands: one being ‘A Very Malibu Christmas’ with Christmas-themed merch and an exclusive pop-up event and the other being an ‘Instagrammable Christmas’ with a limited edition bottle. These tactics curbed Dry January to their favor.
4. Coors Light: Clever Use of Brand Activation
For December 2022, Coors Light’s organic search traffic was over 70K, and in January 2023 they maintained that flex of traffic. Like Malibu, they spent $0 on paid traffic in December 2022, but in January 2023, they upped their budget to nearly $80K.
Coors Light focused on brand awareness and activation with color-changing nail polish.
The unique ‘As Cold As the Rockies’ slogan plus the color-changing technology of the polish gives a non-alcohol-related option for those participating in Dry January. It’s refreshing and gets them into a Dry January marketing campaign that shows them as a leader in the industry in a fun and unexpected way.
5. Bacardi: More Clever Seasonal Marketing
In December 2022, Bacardi’s organic search traffic was over 320K, and saw a little over 325K in January 2023. They spent just under $20K on paid traffic in December 2022, but in January 2023 dropped their budget to about $5K.
Bacardi had similar marketing efforts with a ‘Winter Summerland’ campaign and other merch.
Their slogan was ‘Do What Moves You’ which is likely encouraged by the mix spun by the dj at the center of the commercial series. The vibe of cocktails was inspired by a constant Caribbean summer state of mind. It’s stylish and vibrant which keeps the tropical element engaging. This is cliché against the snowy holiday scenes, but worked to channel increased traffic and sales through January.
What We Learned From Our Data
60% of the brands we analyzed did see the expected drop in organic traffic as Dry January hit.
However, the 40% that managed to improve their sales into January had success unrelated to non-alcoholic sales.
Why is that?
Could it be because brands like Bacardi and Malibu did not have the highest-paid budgets, they saw more organic success?
Bacardi and Malibu were the only two brands analyzed that saw an increase for organic traffic in January 2023. The other brands analyzed saw predicted organic traffic drops as Dry January rolled around.
Bacardi was the second-highest performing brand organically, and Malibu—the third-highest performing alcohol brand—did not spend any money on paid traffic in December and increased its budget by January, according to Semrush.
Based on the data, it looks like their creative marketing campaigns helped them turn Dry January in their favor.
While this information makes sense, the part where neither brand offers non-alcoholic drinks on their site is what makes their Dry January campaigns profound.
It looks as if all it took was “branding redesigns” of pushing their products beyond just being for summer fun. Rather than try and focus on non-alcoholic use, they focused on appealing to core customers who would not be swayed by Dry January
Their Dry January marketing strategies helped them maintain holiday numbers into the new year.
With the two brands pushing brand awareness and brand activation Dry January campaigns, they potentially increased their organic success, and direct success.
People will see Bacardi and Malibu more often due to their more aggressive marketing strategies. This will likely make them more memorable when it comes to customer purchases.
Lessons for Non-Alcohol Brands
You don’t have to be an alcohol brand to understand how to execute campaigns in your low seasons.
It just takes keeping up with social and cultural trends. To see success, the most important thing to do is map out the creative your customers will want to see (Hint: Bonus points if no one in your industry has done anything like it).
It just takes figuring out the formula to a memorable marketing campaign.
Sometimes it’s a simple slogan or a catchy hashtag to go along with content that has viral potential.
So, tap into a heartfelt message, a punny scripted commercial, or just downright clever branding.
Just make sure it fits your brand identity and your audience.
A solid strategy will have a lasting impact.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cultural trends are ideas, beliefs, or activities common to a large number of people in a society. For example, the standard of not breaking pasta before you boil it is a cultural trend in Italy.
The key difference between social trends and cultural trends is that cultural trends emerge and shape the society’s future. Social trends represent a moment in time and can be very impactful but not necessarily have a lasting effect on society. If everyone is doing it at the time, it’s social. If something’s always been this way, it’s cultural.
First, look at what’s happening in your industry that supports the trend. If you have the time and money to invest, make sure your customers will be interested, since elevating your brand based on the trend will depend on this. Other than interest, ensure the trends you target will improve your customers’ quality of life.
Find the opportunity in what seems to be a limitation.
Just because you’re challenged by cultural trends, and don’t know where your brand fits within the space, doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.
Lean into cultural trends like Dry January that align with your brand and use them to your benefit. If a section of your audience may be available, maybe it makes sense to double-down on the one that will.
Or, perhaps there is a hidden appeal to your brand that you can lean on. In either case, you can perfectly capture the essence of a trend without compromising your brand.
Create a strategy that will get you powerful results and accept the challenge.
Name a creative marketing campaign you’ve executed or seen by your favorite brand. What would you say helped it stand out?
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