Cheers To Inclusion
At the beginning of this year, AdAge announced that "sobering times were ahead for many alcohol brands" and as trends in supply and demand ebb and flow, it can be difficult to account for the most effective and successful ways to target your core audience. But what if so many brands have been missing the mark by targeting the wrong audience in the first place?
Statistics do indicate that male audiences are a key demographic to alcohol brands but what about women? One of our latest podcast interview guests would argue that marketers have missed the mark entirely by neglecting to appeal to female demographics. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines alcohol brands' gender bias and female targeted marketing from the experience of Pomp & Whimsy's Dr. Nicola Nice.
A Little More On Dr. Nicola Nice
Dr. Nicola Nice is a trained sociologist in the field of consumer insights and brand strategy where she has consulted for some of the top liquor companies in the world, including Diageo, Bacardi, and Campari. In 2017, her vast experience led her to launching Pomp & Whimsy, a crafted gin designed by women for women in reaction to what she saw as a gender bias in the spirits industry. Pomp & Whimsy has been featured in the likes of Vogue, Forbes and the Robb Report and was recently named a top 100 spirit of 2018 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: Can you share with our listeners a little bit about your background, where you came from, what got you to where you are today? And we'll go from there.
Answer: Yeah, absolutely. So as you mentioned in your great introduction, I'm actually a sociologist by training. I've spent the last 20 years in the field of market research, consumer insights and brand strategy. And the last 12 of those running my own agency, Think Conservatory based out of New York. And I specialize over the years in the female consumer advocating for women's needs and interests within very large global, highly matrix organizations. And the industries that I attended to work mostly in were personal care, fashion, and more recently a lot of work in the liquor space. So it was really during these large pieces of work that I would do for these clients and these in the different industries that I've mentioned that I would start to get a handle on the different brand landscapes and the way that consumers are represented by brands in different landscapes.
I was able, in working in different categories to be able to compare, for example, how you market skincare to men versus how you market hard liquor to women. And to use some of those references in case studies across the different industries to show how there was this gross inequities, especially in the liquor space in the way that brands are marketed and targeted towards different audiences. And specifically that women are very much left out of this conversation and treated, what I see as a secondary audience and rarely a primary audience or at the heart of the brand's DNA.
Question: And this led you to creating a brand to respond to this entire gendering issue?
Answer: That's right. So I recognized that women were not being talked to in a way that I felt as a woman and as a consumer was either aspirational from a brand point of view, but even from a product point of view, speaking to my needs and the way that I and other women drink and who we drink with and when and why and so on. And at some point as often happens to the consultant as I sure you hear all the time, you reach a point where you become frustrated, let's say at selling all of your ideas to other people and watching them sometimes take them on, sometimes not, sometimes misrepresent them. And you get to a point where you start to think, "You know what, I really should just be doing this myself."
And this was really one of those kind of Eureka moments that happened for me back in 2015 when I realized that as a woman I felt frustrated that I wasn't being spoken to in a way by the liquor industry that made me feel special and successful. And I realized that I shared this view with other women. And at the same time as an entrepreneur, I saw this as a huge opportunity. So that was really what ultimately led to the launch of Pomp & Whimsy in 2017.
Question: So how did you approach this brand, the creation of it and the marketing of it to position it so differently? What were the steps that you went through that others could learn from when they're thinking about how to change that brand positioning?
Answer: The first thing that I wanted to do is really just understand women and women's needs and what women were looking for when it comes to hard liquor. I'm going to be talking specifically about spirits here. Being a researcher, obviously this was where I started. I started by going out across the country and bringing together groups of women who I identified would most likely be in my target audience and talk to them in a qualitative setting about how they drink, when they drink, who they drink with, what their needs are, what their connections to brands are. And then use that as a way to uncover potential unmet areas, unmet need and potential areas of opportunity.
The same process that I would go through with a client who was looking to develop a new brand or reposition an existing brand. So that was the first step in the process. And in that, I uncovered three particular need states or occasions that I felt were special, let's say to women and the way that we drink. The first one of those is what we would describe as me moment. This is traditionally in the spirit space marketed as a brown spirits, rocks kind of moment. And the insight that was driving this particular area was coming from stories that women would tell me about how when they come home from work or when they've had a busy day, a rough day, a successful day, they've had wins in their day, they don't have something that they get to sit down, savor and celebrate in a way that they felt, say their husbands do.
So this is a classic moment where a man would be able to crack open his bottle of 25 year old single malt, put it in a crystal rocks glass and feel important, successful, celebrated and so on. And women would tell me in those moments if I am not a whiskey drinker, which is not to say that all women are not, we know that 30% of whiskey drinkers are female. So plenty of women are adopting whiskey in those situations. But for every one of those, there were two of those who were saying, "What do I have in that situation? What is there for me right now?" And the answer to that is primarily wine or champagne. And what they were telling me very clearly was that they were looking for a spirit that they could sip on, swirl in a rocks glass, make them feel special and important.
And there was nothing that seemed to really be filling that gap for them. At the moment. Then there were two other occasions just to talk through those briefly, but I think the ones that probably as women you will recognize here. So one would be a slightly more celebratory moment perhaps a date night or a girls book club or a bachelorette where we dial things up a little bit. And we do aim to up the energy levels and look for spirits and drinks that are a little more celebratory let's say. And this is typically a champagne moment or a cocktail moment. And then the third moment is our more hosted event. So one of the big things that is important about women that's often overlooked is that we are the chief entertainers of the home. And as the chief entertainers of the home, we are the ones who make the guest lists, make the meal plans, and make the cocktail list as well and decide what's going to be the right thing to drink in this occasion, with this moment, with these people.
And so in these situations, I think having a spirit that is very easy and versatile to put into a simple batch cocktail that would be crowd pleasing to a large audience was the third factor that we took into account. So that's where we started with need states.
Question: How did you choose to approach that besides say, "Hey, we're the gin for women"? What actually did you do in order to convey the messaging that this is a female driven brand strategy? Well, I'm sure you welcome men to drink it as well, you do have it as that base. And how was that positioning really established and shared across the market?
Answer: So this is really interesting. As we started to develop the brand identity, developing the formula was quite easy actually. We knew that we wanted a gin base, we knew it needed to be a gin product. And part of this was going back into history, looking at the history of gin. Gin is not called mother's ruin for nothing. There was a period in time when a lot of women were drinking a lot of gin in larger volumes. We knew that there was perhaps a disconnect between what gin sounds like as a concept, the infusion of botanicals and fruits and florals into a neutral spirit base. And the reality of tasting gin, which often can taste quite piney and bitter, like Christmas trees as people have described to me before. We knew that in creating the gin we needed an expression of Jen that would be more appealing to a female palate.
And so in exploring this, we also did a lot of research into the neurobiology of women's palates and how we taste to understand not in a blanket way what all women want to taste, but really in a reactionary way to this idea that what we like is pink and fruity and syrupy and sweet, which is actually not the case at all. Women have a tendency to have more sophisticated palates than men, just simply as a function of the fact that we have a higher concentration of taste buds. So 35% of women are what scientists describe as super tasters versus just 15% of men. And what this really means for us as an audience is that in general we are likely to respond to a lot more complex, sophisticated flavor profiles and less so to very big hit you over the head flavors, which is what often we get in the liquor space, whether it is with very heavy cups or whether it is with very smoky mezcal or over proof whiskeys and so on.
So putting the formula together with the brand is, to answer your question, where we arrived at launch. And what was interesting about how since we've been in market and how we've positioned ourselves as a brand is that in the beginning we were a little bit nervous about how far to go with the sort of by women for women message. Actually when we first launched, it was really more just the idea that we wanted women to be able to recognize that we were for them, but we weren't necessarily coming out strongly or saying we're for women. And it was interesting because where that came from is from the very masculine paradigm of the industry, which says that brands that are focused on women in the liquor space do not succeed.
That women find them condescending and men don't like to buy them and bartenders don't like to pour them. And so there's a lot of stigma associated with being a brand for women in this space. And naturally, we were hesitant about how strong we should go out with that message thinking that perhaps the odds were stacked against us. And it wasn't until we started getting out into the market. And really the only way to launch a liquor brand in the beginning is to get boots on the ground and start sampling and getting people tasting and being in events on a very local grassroots kind of level that women would gravitate towards us as intended. But once they started to learn more about us and our brand story, they were the ones who were demanding for us to take a firmer stance on being about women.
With the idea being that most of the brands that are already in the space are quite clearly male focused as we discussed at the beginning. I mean, at best may be gender neutral. But if you go into a bar or a liquor store and you look at the back bar, just as an objective observer, take a look at the array of brands that are in front of you and ask yourself, "Which of these do you think have been created with me, my needs in mind as a woman?" And you'd be hard pressed to pick one out. You might say, "I like the packaging of that," but to actually sort of say, this one really gets me," they're very few and far between. And so to have a brand that is expressly showing women that we get them was something that we would kind of taken aback at how quickly people started to gravitate around that and support that.
And as a result started to look to us to make a slightly stronger statement about being for women. And I think a lot of this comes from for me at least from this sort of view that I'm not interested in getting involved in normative discussions about gender when it comes to any category actually. I think as women we're tired of being told what to drink and when to drink. We're tired of being told if you want to be taken seriously, you'll drink whiskey with the boys. If not, you'll drink pink and fruity drinks. I don't really want to get into those conversations about what women should be drinking. I want to go straight to them and ask them what they're looking for. And so that's what we did, and that's what we're doing.
Question: Is there anything that you wanted to share in addition to our listeners today?
Answer: Well, I mentioned this group, we call it the Women's Cocktail Collective. I would love to give a plug to this organization because we've come together specifically for women's history month to help bars, restaurants, hotels put women made cocktails on their menus so that a proportion of those proceeds can go back into organizations that are helping support women in our industry and women in society in general. I would love for your listeners to actively go out and seek some women made spirits and liqueurs and try them for themselves. And if they see this program to support it knowing that it will help fantastic organizations.
I can name them. One is a group called Outsmart New York City, which is an organization that is trying to prohibit, prevent, and eradicate sexual violence in the hospitality industry because it is a big problem. Wherever there is liquor involved, there's usually sex and ultimately violence as well, unfortunately. It's the dark side of the industry. But the other organization that we're supporting through this initiative is Women's National History Museum going back to this idea of women being written out of history in this area as in other areas. We want to ensure that for the future, our place is secured.
To learn more about effectively targeting and marketing to your audience, you can listen to the full interview in our podcast.
Here's To The Future
Want to learn more about the ways that alcohol brands can make waves through entertainment marketing and product placement? Check out these other blog posts we've written!
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- A Mad Men Case Study On Liquor Product Placement
- 3 Game Of Thrones Brand Partnerships With Alcohol Brands
- Product Placement Trade Out Opportunities in Hollywood TV and Film
- How Three Brands Partnered With Film And TV To Produce New Co-Branded Product Lines
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