Belvedere Vodka Mixes Digital Strategy Into Its Marketing
Shaken or stirred: Marketers for the spirits brand find the right digital recipe for its latest campaign.
The wine and spirits market is a crowded one.
But marketers for Belvedere Vodka say that they wanted to rise above the competition as the drink of choice. A simple aim, perhaps, but the team at Belvedere quickly discovered its goal wasn't so easy to carry out.
They say digital marketing, however, would soon change that.
“Essentially, we've had to play a lot of catch up in the alcohol category,” says Bianca Gardner, global digital director at Belvedere. “We can't sell directly to our consumers. So, increasingly, digital has become the core of our marketing strategy, versus an add-on.”
Gardner says that in addition to selling to retailers—not directly to consumers—brand awareness outside of the United States has proven to be a challenge. “We want to change that mind-set globally, because it's not just about the U.S., who already gets it,” Gardner says. “We want to bring those other 100 markets along this journey with us.”
“The reality is that in the various spirits categories, especially in vodka, it's an incredibly competitive environment,” says Jeff Suhy, president of digital agency Modus Operandi (ModOp). “There are some well-heeled companies that are already going after their pieces of the market. If you want to really compete, you don't want to just spend a lot of money. You've just got to be smarter.” Agile marketing, not just expensive campaigns, became the goal for Belvedere and strategists at ModOp. Marketers set out to create a campaign that appealed to a digital audience, would be centered on consumers, was easy to share and participate in, and would set the brand apart from the vast competition. The answer, they say, was World Martini Day. For the second consecutive year, Belvedere Vodka encouraged consumers to share their personal photos on June 19—images that featured their fun activities, videos, and martini recipes by using the hashtag #WorldMartiniDay.
Belvedere curated all of that user-generated content and featured much of it in a gorgeous collective on the brand's site. Marketers also recruited several influential food bloggers, such as famed foodie photographer Julie Lee, and each influencer shared her personal Belvedere creation with their devout audiences on social media and digital blogs. Alongside this digital campaign, which lasted through June 30, Belvedere announced the winner of The Challenge—the brand's international contest for bartenders to create the best martini or cocktail with Belvedere Vodka. Plus, the brand shared several interactive how-to videos to help novices learn how to make a slamming martini.
“There's a lot of noise in user-generated channels,” ModOp's Suhy warns. “Along with the noise can come things that aren't helpful to the brand. So, there just needs to be an element of curation and something that inspires people to contribute something beautiful to the brand's message. Something that's fun, valuable, and on brand.”
Belvedere's Gardner says that although more than 20 other vodka brands jumped on World Martini Day, Belvedere dominated the conversation.
Marketers at Belvedere say they saw a 400% increase in social engagements, a 500% increase in WorldMartiniDay.com impressions, and participation from competitors jump from fewer than 10 last year to about 25 this June, including Elit, Grey Goose, and Stoli.
“It's about inspiring fun, creative campaigns that really tap into authentic audiences and advocates,” Gardner says. “At Belvedere we have a big focus in fashion, in food, in mixology. So, in addition to our traditional [campaigns] with search and video, all of these digital elements tie things together. That's when we saw real success.”