I often get asked by new clients: "Luke, how do I get people to try/buy/like my product?"
The beverage world is a jungle. There are so many products new and old that are competing for space in the consumer's glass. My biggest tip for this question stems from how people order drinks these days.
How People Order Drinks In a Bar
If you pay attention the next time you belly up at your favorite cocktail bar, you will hear a few variations of these questions throughout the night:
- "What's good here?"
- "What is your favorite drink/spirit/whatever?"
- "What drink sells the best?"
- "What do most people order?"
- "Is there anything you are into right now?"
- "Are you experimenting with anything new or interesting?"
How the bartender responds at this point is crucial to your product.
What the Bartender Says Goes
When someone asks "Is there anything you are into right now?" or "What is your favorite drink/spirit/whatever?" you want the bartender to mention your product. Say you are the owner of Imaginary Gin Distillers. You make a tasty London Dry that has been on the market for a year. Sales have not been great and you haven't been able to get much shelf space at the off-premise liquor stores. The product tastes great and shines in tastings with cocktail bar owners and beverage directors because it fits into the craft cocktail/mixology vibe but the consumers don't know the product so they keep passing it over on the back bar.
You want this to happen:
Bartender- "Hey, welcome! Can I get you something to drink?"
Guest- "Yeah, I normally drink shaken gin drinks. Is there anything you are experimenting with or working on right now?"
Bartender- "Actually, yes! There is this gin that I really dig that nobody seems to know about. Someone from the distillery actually popped by the bar for a few drinks the other day and answered a bunch of questions I had about distilling. Want to give that a go? It's great in a White Lady and I have been drinking it in a Tom Collins after work."
No guest will say no to that recommendation. A nudge from the bartender about a product that he likes and actually uses?! Sold.
People Want to be the Bartender
Bartenders are cool. They are the aristocrat of the middle class. People trust them almost immediately for some reason. Part of it has to do with the whole set up. You are usually sitting while the bartender stands over you. They are actually serving you and basically doing your bidding but for some reason they are the ones in control of the interaction. I think that a solo drinker hits a point about halfway through that second drink and they think, "I hate my job...I hate this city...maybe I should move and become a bartender like this guy? He seems to have it all together."
Brands are Focusing on the Wrong People
The big brands are constantly targeting the people that sit on the other side of the bar and not the bartender. If you target the bartender you end up getting both. Sell it to the bartender and then you have a bartender selling your product over and over to new potential buyers daily. A bartender is a real and relatable living person saying what they like as opposed to a has been football player, an airbrushed supermodel, or the drunken ghost of Frank Sinatra.
When I see those ads they don't connect with me. I know these people are being paid to say they like the brand. I also know I will never be a pro football player, I can't fit in that bikini, and I don't believe in ghosts. Even the most interesting man in the world has nothing on the well dressed hip bartender working the rail on a Friday night.
I think Tanqueray nailed it with this ad a few years ago. You want to be that bartender. You want to be around that bartender. You want what that bartender drinks after work. Sorry Imaginary Gin Distillers, but Tanq got you on this one.
How Do You Get a Bartender to Like your Brand?
You don't. Or at least you cant pay off or bribe them to like you. You have to appeal to what they like.
The bartender, as much as they love money, also loves information and being at the edge of their game. They are the people that want to beta test everything. Bartenders are sponges for facts and figures and they are used to being the one in the room that you go to for answers. No one likes a know-it-all...unless they are serving you a drink and then for some reason it is charming and interesting.
Giving a bartender all the information they need about your product (in person if possible) is a great way to get them to like it. They want to know all the ins and outs-- how the fermentation goes, what alcohol percentage in the mash you are aiming for before you distill, what you distill to, how long does it take, what kind of water you use to cut the product, do you only distill on sunny days, all the history of the product, why you decided to make this product, what music plays while the distillation process is going, etc. etc. Don't show up during a busy service to drop off your business card and a quick pitch. Set up a time. Stay for a drink or two. Be a real person not a salesperson. That is what a bartender is and what you want them to be to your potential buyers.
All these little bits of information are gold to a bartender and odds are they are only going to remember a few tidbits. It adds to the bartender's sale value when talking to the guest and then you've passed on information to the end consumer through the bartender who is cooler than you.
To Sum It Up
You want to sell bottles to the end consumer.
The bartender wants to sell drinks.
The drinker wants to have the drink the bartender says is cool.
They also want to sound like they know what they are talking about when they have friends over to drink the same bottle they picked up after the bartender recommended it.
The consumer doesn't understand all the jibber jabber that comes from the brand or it comes off as cheesy or oversimplified which is also a turn off. The bartender does understand all the distilling/fermentation/aging jargon and is the perfect translator for your consumer.
Appeal to the bartender and in turn they will sell your product.
Bar To Home
A simple translation from bar to home.