• The Cabinet

The Cabinet drink to that: Seizing the in-moment

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

It is fair to say that we are truly In-Covid and the way things are changing almost daily this post may seem to have a limited life span. However, I’d like to share something with you that has long term consequences. If you bookmark this page and come back to reminisce on these musings in 2-5 years you will see, like mucky fingerprints, the aftereffects of decisions made during the Covid pandemic smeared all over the drinks market.

So where to start? Daily reports are telling us that the big players are ‘doubling down’ on their biggest brands, and any form of innovation has been reduced to extending into new, yet well-trodden product offers. Now the rationale is solid, and nobody will argue that playing it safe during uncertain times will stem the inevitable downside that comes with creating and nurturing fledgling brands – they require lots of hard graft and offer slow return. Along with a long-held belief that consumers demand reassurance and stability during tough times nobody is relishing genuine brand innovation, whether it be with new to world brands or existing smaller and more agile brands. In the eyes of the corporation, Big is Best.

Now if history has taught us anything, it’s that nothing stays the same for long, so a big brand focus will only survive a limited period. It is more likely that before the juggernauts can manoeuvre their big brand ships, consumers will be bored by the lack of choice and diversity and desperately looking to move on to smaller, more exciting, less standardised products on offer.

This is where the huge opportunity comes about, and for those smaller brands that have been able to survive through Covid and then flourish when things return to a level of normality, many will be able to name their price to the behemoths that come knocking on their door. For the rest, there is opportunity to build valuable businesses. With the many post Covid changes that are about to affect everything, there has never been a better time to be a challenger brand in drinks.

This raises the big question - what can the smaller drinks brands do to give them the best chance to survive the pandemic and to be in a strong position to leverage their brands over the coming months and years?

Here are the ten things that we are telling our clients, how we see them coming out of this mess, stronger and in a position to fly into the future.

1. Establish a downturn culture. It’s well known that businesses that start in downturns are more likely to succeed long term than those who start when the tide is high. This is for a multitude of reasons but if you can keep costs under control while investing in brand when others aren’t you will create a culture that will see you good for years to come.

2. Call it in. Lean on your agencies and partners to support you wherever you can. Hopefully you have accrued brownie points pre-Covid and if you haven’t, let this be a lesson and may the force be with you. NB. We have a presentation for anybody who wants to hear it about how to get a lot for a little from your agencies.

3. Double your contacts. Unique to this downturn, where people are not going out so much there are loads of opportunities to get in touch and to talk to people who might not, in the old world, have had the time for you or your business, but today with the new working practices and a general slowdown it may be possible to build some new and valuable contacts. As somebody I know who is in the ‘meeting business’ once told me, ‘from every dud, comes a stud’.

4. Embrace the digital world. It’s never too late to get to grips with the digital world. Now this point should probably be right at the top of this list but as it goes without saying it sits in at number 4. Although it may go without saying, most people in the drinks industry (like most industries that are not tech) just don’t know enough about how the digital world operates and how it can enhance and power their business in a way that has never been possible before. Wherever your brand is in its journey, embracing and truly understanding how the digital world works for you and your brand will put you miles in front of your competitors.

5. Partner with like-minded brands. How often do you think about all of those like-minded brands that are out there in different spaces from your own? Well, if you don’t you should. Working alongside and with other brands and businesses is one of the best and easiest ways to get your brand in front of new audiences. On top of this, these partnerships open up all sorts of new innovation plays that can be easily and quickly implemented.

6. Have the enemy in your sights. The likelihood is that you started your business because you thought you could do it better than the majority of big brands in the market and that you fancy yourself as a bit of a giant slayer. Well, now is the time to come out fighting. Go ahead, pick a fight with the biggest, laziest and more uninspiring brand or brands you can and see what you are made of. On the surface it may sound like a lazy approach to stand out in a crowded market, but it is a tried and tested journey that most of the brands you look up to have been on.

7. Do something completely unexpected. As much as we hate to admit it people very rarely think about you or your brand and by going about business as usual this seldom changes. If, like you should, this feels disappointing yet true then it is clear you aren’t doing enough to make people reappraise what they think they know or don’t and think about you in a new and exciting light. Now, doing something a little surprising doesn’t really cut it. If you really want to be considered in another light to everybody else out there, then something completely unexpected has to happen. Remember, surprise is half the battle.

8. Find new places to get your product into people hands. It is in everybody’s interest to get things rolling again as fast as possible and in this respect big brands are much more willing to ‘give things a go’ than they may have possibly been in the past. This combined with the fact that they also need to be connecting on a closer level with their consumers means that combining smaller local brands within their offer help them as much as it helps the challenger brand. Think about all the places that you would not expect to see your products in, who the big players are in these markets you probably have the start of a list of new places to reach new audiences in.

9. Innovate new products and services. Hopefully by now your business will have embraced some form of selling directly to your consumers and this is a brilliant opportunity to try out some new and exciting products or services that in the past might have proved a distraction or cost too far. In today’s market you should be taking a leaf out of the fashion business who for some time have been embracing the benefits of producing small and limited runs of product that once it has gone, it will never return, however successful it has been. This approach creates pent up demand from those unable to purchase the goods and increases their engagement for the next ‘drop’ and generates publicity in a way that traditional launches just don’t.

10. Keep spreading your story, one person at a time. Finally, and most importantly make sure that you and your team don’t lose your mojo, however tough things get and that everybody in the business has a clear idea of what the brand is about and what it needs to do to survive the coming months in a way that will place it perfectly for success when consumer spending comes back to where it was before the pandemic.

This list is not exhaustive, with many ways to look at the opportunities in front of us. What we can guarantee you is that the good times will return and those who have learnt and adapted over this period will come out stronger and more valuable as a result.