The Distinctive Serve – A Brand Growth Multiplier
The Distinctive Serve – A Brand Growth Multiplier
The alcohol category is a fiercely competitive space, with so many large brands competing in each subcategory, not to mention the up-and-coming smaller players competing for the hearts, minds and throats of bartenders, consumers & shoppers alike.
While alcohol brands have pulled different levers over the years to be top of mind for the bar call, one lever which has proven to work time and time again is the distinctive serve. Often much easier said than done (and sometimes down to blind luck or organic trends), leveraging a distinctive serve can be a powerful weapon for growth.
Here we break down some of the brands who have used this well, and the (potential) formula for getting it right.
Visually Unique: Does it stand out on a tray of drinks? Can you tell what someone is drinking from the serve?
Ownable: Is it something that the brand can really own or just a generic serve any brand could activate against? Is there a high potential for competitor misattribution?
Contextual Salience: Is the serve salient & relevant for a certain focused occasion(s), especially in its early life stage?
Consistent Hero: Has the brand activated it consistently & ruthlessly over time? Does the brand activate & feature it prominently across touchpoints? Is it the hero within comms?
Guinness – A Pint Of The Black Stuff
An iconic serve in several countries, no more so than in the pubs of Dublin. Guinness has been able to dominate the stout sub-category, and in doing so stand out amongst the wider beer category. Visually striking, aided by the two-part pour ritual, the Guinness stout “serve” is what all alcohol brands can only dream of.
Visually Unique: Very much so, black and white vs. a sea of flat, brown beers, ales and lagers
Ownable: With limited competition, they have fought off any pretenders to the stout throne
Contextual Salience: To a degree (cold winter nights, Irish pubs etc.) however their broader growth now comes from Guinness being salient for multiple category entry points.
Consistent Hero: Yes, the brand have always focused on a pint of the black stuff and play with it regularly as part of their creative.
Corona & Lime
One of the most valuable beer brands in the world, in no small part driven by its simple but standout serve, a slice of lime. Lots of urban legends lay claim to the reason (disinfection, it removes rust from the rim etc.) but whatever the truth, it has helped Corona become a distinctive brand; not to mention very salient whenever the sun shines.
Visually Unique: Yes, the slight addition of the lime makes it standout on a bar
Consistent Hero: Yes
While the Aperol Spritz has been around for decades now (perhaps even longer), it is only in recent years that it has reached a zeitgeist level of following. This really kicked into gear in the early 2000s when the brand was acquired by Campari who, through advertising & marketing activities helped the serve to become a massively salient aperitif.
Visually unique: Wonderfully so
Contextual Salience: One of the best examples of category entry points in action, with the Aperol Spritz being very salient for the aperitif moment
Consistent Hero: Yes, a key focus in most comms & messaging
Stella Artois & The Foamy Head Beer
Whilst beer aficionados may rightfully argue that Stella in no way owns the foamy head beer (especially those from Czech who insist all beer must be nearly half a foamy head!), Stella Artois has activated this serve very smartly through the use of the ritual pour, the knife, & chalice glass.
Visually Unique: Somewhat, however the strength lies in the activation of the serve i.e. the 9 step pour, chalice glass & the knife
Ownable: A very difficult one to own
Contextual Salience: No stand out CEP’s aside from the broader beer occasion
Consistent Hero: Yes, and has been the focus on numerous advertising campaigns
Although its’ popularity has waned in recent years in tandem with the decline in nightclub culture, the Jägerbomb remains a salient serve for those wanting to kick their night into gear.
While Jagermeister struggles to activate this serve in light of advertising regulations, this serve has been a huge volume driver. For this and other reasons, they have moved on to promoting the ice cold serve via advertising, POS & bar tools (e.g. ice machine). This in itself is a smart strategy in creating an ownable & distinctive serve, and an alternative to the Jägerbomb.
Visually Unique: Yes, the whole set-up & “shot drop” make it so
Contextual Salience: Yes, was/is a key bar call for moments of high energy
Consistent Hero: N/A, difficult to activate due to advertising regulations
Blue Moon & Orange
Blue Moon is a wonderful example of a brand that has committed to standing out within a cluttered category through the orange slice. While not on the same levels of awareness as Corona & lime, they have created a distinctive serve which is activated well across channels, and most importantly at the bar & with bartenders globally.
Every beer garden should have an orange tree.— Blue Moon Brewing Co (@BlueMoonBrewCo) September 21, 2022
📸: @_jungkong pic.twitter.com/7iIjw0goq6
Visually Unique: Yes
Ownable: To a degree in light of the brewing process & backstory
Contextual Salience: Nothing standout
Consistent Hero: Very much so, the brand seems positively unwavering in its commitment to the serve.
Jameson, Ginger & Lime
Jameson is a brand which has seen rapid growth over the past 10-15 years, now competing with Jack & Jim as one of the most accessible mainstream whisk(e)y’s around. Similar to “Jack & Coke”, Jameson’s determination to own a mainstream (but generic) serve through “Jameson, Ginger & Lime”, highlights the importance they place on having a contextually salient distinctive serve.
Visually Unique: To a degree
Ownable: A difficult one to own, however brand size and distribution have helped
Contextual Salience: Yes. A key part of the strategy was creating a serve that their target market would move onto after having had their fill of beer.
Consistent Hero: Yes, very relentless in activating during the informative years
Hendrick’s Gin & Cucumber
The bottle that launched a thousand gins, Hendrick’s Gin has been at the forefront of the gin renaissance, especially in the premium segment. Another example of a brand who took a relatively generic serve and added a point of difference in the cucumber, that helped people take notice when one landed on the table. The synergistic effect of having the cucumber as a distinctive asset, that can live outside the G&T, helps the brand embed both assets with compounding coming into play.
What do Leonardo Da Vinci, Harpo Marx and Master Distiller Ms Lesley Gracie share? They are all left-handed. Today we celebrate the brilliance of the left-handed on #LeftHandersDay.— HENDRICK’S GIN (@HendricksGin) August 13, 2022
📷: Lateef Okunnu pic.twitter.com/E3FdeA618B
Visually Unique: Yes, an unusual garnish which makes people sit up
Ownable: Yes, in light of the distillation process with the gin infused with cucumber.
Contextual Salience: Certainly for those G&T moments
Consistent Hero: Yes, the brand have been quite focused on the cucumber G&T across touchpoints & within communications
Magners/Bulmers & Ice
Magners, or Bulmers as the brand is known in Ireland (not to be confused with the rival cider brand also called Bulmers), have over the years become synonymous with the cider-over-ice serve. A simple but powerful serve, it has been key to the growth of the brand.
Visually Unique: Yes
Ownable: Difficult, but first-mover advantage helped
Contextual Salience: Yes, especially with hot weather & summer occasions
Consistent Hero: Yes, it was a key focus in their comms over the years
Kahlua & Espresso Martini
While many brands sell good volume via cocktails, most struggle to really own one. It is often the supporting spirit or liquor which becomes the mainstay of the recipe. One such example is Espresso Martini & Kahlua, with the brand becoming the de facto coffee liqueur of choice for professional and amateur mixologists alike.
Visually Unique: Yes, stands out even amongst other cocktails
Ownable: Yes, a key ingredient with limited competition
Contextual Salience: Very much so. The after-dinner pick-me-up is another great example of category entry points in action, and the Espresso Martini does well here
Consistent Hero: Absolutely
Negroni & Campari
Similar to the Espresso Martini & Kahlua, Campari is a bedfellow of the Negroni. Also similar to the Espresso Martini, the Negroni has seen explosive growth in recent years and is now rated as the worlds best selling cocktail having taken over from the Old Fashioned.
Visually Unique: Yes to a degree
Ownable: Yes, as one of the key ingredients
Contextual Salience: To a degree, across occasions
Consistent Hero: Yes
Baileys & Ice
Another brand from the Diageo stable, the company & marketing team are often touted as some of the most advanced & effective marketers in the business, so it’s no surprise they aim to create distinctive brands whenever they can. Bailey’s is one such brand, whose rise in the early years was partly driven by the Bailey’s over-ice serve. While the brand has moved away from focusing on this serve for strategic reasons in order to appeal to a broader set of occasions, the serve remains popular & distinctive.
Visually Unique: Yes
Ownable: Yes, the forerunners in the category
Contextual Salience: Yes. One of the reasons for the move away from the Baileys & ice only focus was to broaden the occasions where they can play.
Consistent Hero: In their early years yes
Jack & Coke
Last but not least, Jack & Coke. A massive massive volume driver and so often an entry route for younger cohorts to not only Jack Daniels but to the wider whisk(e)y category. While relatively generic & interchangeable with other whisk(e)y’s, the whisk(e)y & coke serve has remained synonymous with Jack Daniels on the back of brand size, focus, distribution and time. As seen from their recent RTD innovation with Coca-Cola it remains an important lever for the brand.
Visually Unique: Questionable, but familiarity and longevity help
Ownable: Only due to above reasons
Contextual Salience: As a mature (aging) serve, it’s popularity is driven by its versatility, with a focus on high energy occasions
Consistent Hero: Yes, and remains so
If you’re an alcohol brand looking to understand the strength of your distinctive serve or you want to figure out the white space, our distinctive asset research can help. Alternatively, if you’re looking to track the performance of your brand assets over time and cost-efficiently, get in touch with us regarding our Distinctive Brand Asset Syndicated Tracker for the beer and spirits categories, running in multiple markets.
Have any questions on Distinctive Brand Asset Research or Tracking? Drop me a message via LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org