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How to Make Your Spirit Brand Stand Out in Vacation Markets

BTN explores how craft distilleries can build brand recognition and increase customer retention through popular travel destinations.

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When you think of the back of a typical beach bar in a tropical paradise, how does it look? Do the bottles stand out as distinctive brands? or do they blend together for an effect that says: we have all the alcohol you could want on vacation, and the specifics of what you’ll be drinking doesn’t matter much? Great for the party, terrible for the brand.

In the sleepy Abaco out-islands of the Bahamas there is a brand that has appeared with strength, and as if in an instant: Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine. This distillery’s products can be found throughout the islands, and their popularity with the tourist crowd continues to grow. What makes this arrival so remarkable is that it highlights how few brands are actually show-cased in bars, hotels and liquor stores throughout the region.

Ole Smoky offers a variety of flavored Tennessee whiskeys, and moonshine-soaked accoutrements in immediately recognizable mason jars, emblazoned with distinctive and stylized labels. On the counters of almost every bar or resto in the Abacos you’ll find their effective faux-wood display stands, tantalizing both patrons and bartenders alike.

The question is: how do you make new travel destination markets a hotbed for your craft spirits?

Which Way to the Beach?

One reason remote tropical destinations are so ripe for the introduction of new and exciting brand offerings, is that most reps tend to narrow their focus on the major tourism centers. They typically shoot for large chain hotels, resorts and major urban centers or regional capitals.

While these locations may offer the potential for larger scale distribution, new products will have to compete with dozens of highly established brands for visibility and prominence on the shelf. Bartenders will be awash in choice, and are more likely to simply grab the spirit mainstays that can be found barside around the world.

Take the time to explore smaller communities and hunt down those establishments with limited marketing displays, where many agents won't be able to push their 'larger-than-life' branding. Make the lack of corporate branding your biggest asset and develop your retail strategy to reflect the local environment.

When preparing for a regional tour tailor your offering to the ambiance of the region and do some background research to have a sense of the clientele. One of the reasons Ole Smoky has been so successful in the Abacos is that the last ten years have seen a major increase in the number of tourists from the Southern United States. The sounds of reggae have in large part been replaced by country music, and the Tennessee Moonshine is a little taste of home.

In smaller beach towns the various hotels, bars and restaurants will likely range widely in their character; to make the best use of your time, and land as many accounts as possible, your product offering should be versatile. While you want your brand to pop, the visual display should be as comfortable in a beachside bar as it is in an upscale resort.

Give Them What They Need

A great display that is both visually appealing and functional will not only showcase your products, it will ingratiate you to the establishment and to the bartenders. The more seamlessly your display serves to enhance the regular operation of the establishment, the more likely it will be that it remains a centerpiece of the bar.

In the case of the Ole Smokey offering, the stand doubles as a container for lemons, limes, napkins, straws, and of course, the moonshine-soaked cherries that have all but replaced the standard maraschino cherries.

By providing not only an opportunity for effective product placement, but a practical solution to the organization of the bar, your display will enhance and privilege your products over the various stand-alone bottles lining the back wall of the bar.

Tourists as Brand Ambassadors

While tropical tourist destinations may lack the consistency of patronage enjoyed by major cities in other parts of the world, there is a major advantage to the transitory nature of the tourism market. While an establishment in Chicago or Houston may provide your product a steady flow of return consumers, the bars, restaurants and hotels in tourist destinations draw in a continually renewed roster of potential brand ambassadors, who are, after all, on vacation.

They want to make their travel experience stick, and with your products showcased front and center at every watering hole they visit you can be sure they’ll be taking that memory home with them.

In this light, the beach bar becomes much more than a place to simply sell your wine, beer or spirits ... it becomes a hub through which the brand recognition you’ve established will travel around the world, before coming home to roost. 

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