By Kristie Wright
One of the main priorities for beverage alcohol companies is to be as visible as possible to their target audience. To gain visibility, you will need to have an effective marketing strategy that will not only lead to an increase in revenue but also keep stakeholders engaged. Visibility comes from having a strong brand identity—a signature look that identifies and distinguishes your brand from others in a consumer’s mind. One way of strengthening your brand identity is to make use of seasonal branding for your beverage alcohol brand.
What Is Seasonal Branding for Alcohol Businesses?
Seasonal branding is a simple concept but can be hard to implement. In a nutshell, seasonal branding refers to modifying an element of your beverage’s brand identity to reflect a season-appropriate theme.
Implementing seasonal branding for your beverage alcohol brand means incorporating themes of the relevant holiday/event into your original brand identity. In November and December, for example, many beverage companies take advantage of Christmas festivities and give their logos, packaging, and décor a merry makeover.
The complexity of this comes in with timing of production and sales. As you’re changing a specific element of your brand to reflect a certain time of the year, you need to ensure that your production and sales are aligned. This means that you need to have complete control over every part of your production process, as well as the sales and distribution strategy of your product.
Having leftover themed products after an event has passed makes them look outdated and highlights a lack of popularity or sales. Consumers are generally less inclined to purchase goods that look old or no longer have relevance unless they’re marked down considerably.
What counts as “seasonal”?
“Seasonal” can refer to a wide range of occasions and holidays. Holidays in October-December are typically profitable periods for the beverage alcohol and hospitality industries, making them perfect opportunities to explore temporary festive touches.
In the alcohol industry, attention is usually concentrated on holidays and events such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, St Patrick’s Day, and the Fourth of July. Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby, and Memorial Day are a few other examples of events that beverage companies can use to boost brand visibility too.
Branding refers to the design, logo, name, and any other distinctive feature that sets a product apart, makes it unique, and instantly recognizable. Alcohol branding can include the bottle or can and its shape (especially if it’s distinctive), the logo, packaging, design, and color scheme.
Successful Seasonal Branding
Many beverage alcohol companies run seasonal branding campaigns throughout the year. One example of successful seasonal branding that a beverage company has implemented is Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label Year of the Tiger, a limited-edition bottle that was released to celebrate the 2022 Chinese New Year. St Patrick’s Day is another popular seasonal branding opportunity, especially with beer brands. Guinness, Northwoods Brewing Company, and Left hand Brewing Company are just a few breweries that have released limited-edition beers that celebrate this day.
Other brands have capitalized on the widely popular Christmas season by releasing limited-edition beverages with festive winter-themed branding. For example, Todley’s festive Christmas gin liqueurs, Budweiser’s 2021 Limited Edition Holiday Cans, and Moet’s Christmas Cracker boxes all highlight how seasonal branding ties in with this special occasion.
The idea of seasonal branding is to increase sales around a specific time of year and to form a connection with consumers beyond the usual brand recognition. Successful seasonal branding drives an increase in sales as customers love special or limited-edition beverages or packaging because it feels more celebratory. Having a limited run of a product also tends to drive demand as it is seen as more exclusive, and this is exactly what seasonal branding achieves.
How To Implement Your Own Seasonal Branding Campaign
- Plan your seasonal strategy
Just like all things business, seasonal branding only succeeds when it has been planned meticulously. Some questions to ask before you even begin planning:
- What is your theme? Your season? Your holiday?
- Is it a good fit for your existing brand?
- Do your customers celebrate or observe the season/event?
In the alcohol and hospitality industry, it’s important to work in alignment with fellow professionals. Suppliers, distributors, and retailers don’t exist in isolation. Communication within the three-tier system is vital to successful seasonal branding.
- Evaluate your brand as it is
Another consideration is whether your original brand is robust enough to benefit from a temporary makeover. Seasonal branding can boost visibility, but if your brand isn’t already established, it’s easy to get lost in transitory décor and themed promotions.
- Plot your course — setting goals
Effective seasonal branding needs to be initiated well before the season or event itself. First and foremost, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of your current financial situation in order to set realistic goals based on your production, sales and marketing budget. Then you’ll need to develop a plan of action that fits your budget accordingly.
The “SMART” method is useful: setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely is fundamental to growth as a business.
At this point, you need to ask:
- How long will the seasonal branding campaign last?
- Is your company financially able to use seasonal branding successfully?
- How do you define success?
- What are the changes you’re going to make to your brand’s appearance?
- What are your plans going forward once the campaign has ended?
The details of the implementation of seasonal branding itself obviously require more thought and organization.
- Do your research — brainstorm
When it comes to the nitty-gritty of temporary changes to your branding, there are many things to consider. Your existing brand identity comprises several different elements: your logo, packaging, typography, store décor, and the tone of your existing marketing material.
Altering your brand’s appearance to reflect a specific theme requires a lot of brainstorming and discussion. Your brand managers need to conduct research into customers’ spending habits during particular time periods, as well as seasonal branding campaigns of other companies.
Aside from in-depth market research, designing new branding materials such as logos and packaging demands innovation, creativity and budget.
- Enhance your brand; don’t erase it
This is especially applicable to smaller businesses. Some small companies do not yet have a long-established customer base and may struggle to achieve brand recognition, ruling out more ambitious alterations to the brand. Pro tip: your logo should always be clearly visible.
- Take stock
The Christmas period is one of the most obvious holidays that prompt businesses to implement seasonal branding. The holiday-themed décor and designs often emerge long before December itself, which leaves plenty of time to assess the feasibility of a branding campaign.
Spending increases dramatically over the festive season, so keeping track of sales orders and depletion data throughout the seasonal branding campaign should give you an indication of whether you’re on the right track or not.
- Future planning
Some companies fall into the trap of executing excellent seasonal branding, only to make an initial impact that fizzles out once the event is over. Seasonal branding shouldn’t be the product, it should enhance the product. For example, making green beer for St Patrick’s Day may sell well on the day, but it won’t have long-term appeal, and a brand needs a solid core offering to fall back on. However, as long as solid plans are in place to carry the business forward once the season has passed, your seasonal branding efforts should be successful. Assessing current and future trends can help you decide what direction your branding takes next or whether reverting to your previous marketing strategies is your best course of action.
The Bottom Line on Seasonal Branding for Alcohol Brands
It takes careful planning and marketing to ensure that you enhance and elevate your brand without alienating any loyal fans by deviating too much from your core brand identity. You don’t want to create a product that looks (or tastes) completely different, you simply want to make it somewhat more exclusive or unique for a special occasion. If you change too much, your loyal fans either won’t recognize your product, or they may find that the taste differs too much and they look for another option instead. When done well, however, seasonal branding can create a memorable connection with consumers and drive sales during peak seasons for the alcohol industry.
What is seasonal branding?
A temporary modification to a brand’s identity, based around a season, holiday or event. E.g.: Christmas-themed decorations, adding festive touches to logos or stocking limited edition products.
What counts as a season?
Any event or occasion that people observe or celebrate, including religious and secular holidays (such as Mother’s or Father’s Day, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day).
What is “brand identity” and how much should you change?
Brand identity is the essence of your business: what it stands for and how that image is portrayed to consumers, including logo, color scheme, tone of marketing material etc. Seasonal branding should not “take over” your existing brand identity but complement it.
What are the most important steps towards successful seasonal branding?
Planning: deciding what event or holiday to use, gauging whether it fits with your brand’s image, calculating what you could spend on it versus potential profits it may bring in, and practicalities, such as designs and themed décor/promotions. Setting goals: what you count as “success” and what it takes to get there. Long-term planning: how to carry momentum forwards once the season has ended.
About the Author
Kristie Wright is an experienced freelance writer who covers topics on logistics, finance and management, mostly catering to small businesses and sole proprietors. When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, Kristie enjoys roasting her own coffee and is an avid tabletop gamer.