Boxing Smarter

Each and every year the general public groans when the Minister of Finance increases “sin taxes”, and yes this goes up each and every year. Those that smoke and drink alcohol cringe at having to spend a few cents more on a pack of smokes or their favourite bottle of wine.

Looming on the horizon is an even bigger wakeup call to the alcohol industry. In 2011 Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Health, began a campaign, along with other countries, to promote healthy lifestyles and part of this is to increase restrictions on the access to alcohol.

There have been several articles written over the last year as to what this means for the country and for alcohol producers. Essentially the alcohol advertising regulations mean that sales, distribution, marketing and consumption will be under tighter control.

What is clear is the massive toll this will have on the advertising and marketing industries. Alcohol producers will no longer be able to use sports sponsorships, television ads or billboards to advertise their products. Chris Moerdyk has estimated that this may result in a loss of above-the-line advertising revenue for mass media worth R1.8billion.

Does this mean the end for alcohol producers or just a shift in direction?  What it means is the relevant industries will need to learn how to box smarter. And so will their agencies. This presents an opportunity to expand into other areas which are far less regulated such as social media. This could see advertising and marketing agencies relying more on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to get their messages across.

This also creates a massive opportunity for the Public Relations industry. More and more alcohol producers will have to look at more creative ways of getting their brand messages out to the correct target market and PR is one such method.

Some alcoholic drink producers have already started doing just this. Our client Brutal Fruit is one such example. In order to create an engaged audience they have created a lifestyle blog that targets their particular audience. Brutal Fruit do not use the blog as a product push but rather to push lifestyle content that is applicable to the audience that they are trying to attract.

The blog has been so successful that the readers are not referred to as “consumers” but rather a “sisterhood”; like-minded individuals who engage with the brand as a community.

This is just one example of how a blog can be used in a creative way to not simply talk to consumers but to engage with a community, one that will remain loyal to the brand. There are other creative ways of getting messages across online and these include Facebook ads, promoted Tweets, banner placements on relevant online sites that reach your audience and going mobile, such as Mixit. Once again these need to speak back to the overall strategy of the brand and have to target the correct audience. This avenue does allow you to be more specific especially when stacked up against the use of a billboard.

Even though history suggests that PR is, at times, the last thing that corporates (and other agencies) think about, it will have to start moving up the food chain. With typical advertising avenues blocked by stiff regulations and controls it will take some creative thinking for alcohol producers to still gain market share and to have a clear voice in a rather cluttered space.

And that is where knowledge of the industry and passion for the subject comes in, and no I don’t mean being able to consume copious amounts of alcohol. I mean relishing in the challenge of changing perceptions and driving applicable content about a subject that one is passionate about.

Alcohol advertisements do have a reputation for portraying their products as symbols of success, achievement and status. I am sure that there are debates raging that this should not be the case. The point is alcohol brands are out there to sell their products and in the past they have had to get more creative in their ads in order to stand out.

Although the likelihood of every alcohol producer beating down the doors of the nearest PR agency is slim, the key to success will be finding the right avenues for each brand. Each brand has a very specific target market and message (at least they should) and therefore the stories will be need to be told in new and vibrant ways.

While these regulations could potentially be a huge problem for the advertising and marketing industries it could also be a massive opportunity to start thinking creatively, and in doing so, learning to box smarter.