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How Male-Driven Alcohol Brands Are Pivoting to Target Women More Effectively

April 16, 2018

For decades, men have been at the forefront of alcohol advertisers’ minds.

That strategy is beginning to shift, not only with new alcoholic beverages being geared specifically towards women, but also with traditionally male-driven brands pivoting to target women more effectively.

Women Are Increasing Their Consumption and Drawing Attention

Women are becoming a much larger part of the consumer base across the board for alcoholic beverages. Today, they are responsible for 85 percent of alcohol purchases in the $12 to $15 range. They are also ordering more drinks at restaurants; in 2009, the number of alcoholic beverages ordered by women at restaurants rose nine percent, while men’s drink orders decreased by four percent in the same year.

Even when women aren’t directly consuming the alcohol, they are still making 65 to 70 percent of the purchasing decisions about alcohol consumed at home. The fact that women are the primary shoppers is no secret to advertisers in other product verticals; even ads for male-only products are often designed to subtly appeal to the women who will be purchasing them for their families. In increasing numbers, alcohol brands are realizing they need to speak to women more directly. It’s too much of a missed opportunity for them to continue passively engaging a major part of their consumer base.

How Are Male-Driven Alcohol Brands Responding?

Some of the legacy, male-driven dark spirits brands are making the most surprising leaps in terms of engaging women. This makes sense, given that women are expanding their hold on this particular market quickly. Today, 27.2 percent of scotch drinkers are female. In the 1990s, women made up only about 15 percent of whiskey drinkers; they now represent 37 percent of consumption in the US. Forty-five percent of Jim Beam drinkers are female.

What follows is a natural period of reevaluation for these companies. Many of these legacy brands have been catering mainly to men for a long time, so how can they address their changing consumer base without alienating the existing one? And with a history of drink-like-a-man culture, how can these brands secure their position with the women they have alienated? Here are some noteworthy campaigns the big brands have taken on:

  • Johnnie Walker has created “Jane Walker”, a female version of their classic Striding Man logo. She represents the brand’s “commitment to progress”, and she will be featured on a special edition of their Black Label blend. One dollar from every bottle sold will go to charities that support gender equality, including Monumental Women and She Should Run.
  • Pendleton Whiskey has its Pendleton Posse, a group of tough, whiskey-drinking gals who “are always ready to ride, jump on a stage, head behind the chutes or get [their] jeans dirty”. Similar language has often been used by marketers to highlight the masculinity of male drinkers; Pendleton is using it to appeal to strong women instead.
  • Beam Suntory, Inc., owner of Jim Beam, has made a few attempts to attract women across its product lines. They’ve dialed back on ESPN ad spending and expanded their advertising to more gender-neutral channels. Their spiced and honey tea bourbon varieties are an attempt to appeal to both men and women. For Sauza Tequila, which is also owned by Beam Suntory, Inc., the company hired Food Network star Marcela Valladolid to create cooking lessons that included winter margaritas and other cocktail ideas.
  • In 2017, Anheuser-Busch InBev decided to speak exclusively to women with their Lime-a-Rita campaign, “Make it a Margarita Moment”, which featured a series of commercials about women having a good time together. That’s a marked change for this brand, which has traditionally targeted young men at sporting events.
  • Even Jack Daniels is making an attempt to appeal to female drinkers, with their 2010 Spike the Cookies campaign that joked that women should put a little Jack in their Christmas cookies. Although this campaign wasn’t received as well as others, it still marks a shift in how the company is thinking about its consumer base.

The Takeaway

Throughout the spirits industry, gender-inclusive marketing trends are just beginning to take off. It will be exciting to see how women (and men) react to alcohol marketing aimed specifically at women. For individual brands and suppliers, technology can help monitor the market, analyze changes in consumer preferences, and evaluate the success of new initiatives.

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