On the surface, alcohol might seem to be the easiest product to market since its audience develops an acquired taste, and customers’ purchasing ability is restricted mostly by age. However, as an overview of the history of alcohol marketing shows, the process of promoting the product has been fraught with numerous challenges throughout the history of the industry’s development. Because of the increasingly high importance of creating a strong competitive advantage, alcohol producing companies have been experiencing the necessity to diversify their products and segment their target population, thus, proving that alcohol marketing requires an elaborate approach typically involving segmentation based on customers’ income, cultural and ethnic background, and specific preferences.
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It could be argued that the cases provide deep insight into the nature of marketing strategies development. Indeed, with a detailed description of cultural, financial, and economic factors that defined the choice of an appropriate marketing tool, the articles shed light on the changes that the wine industry had to implement to attract customers from different social and financial backgrounds.
Furthermore, opportunities for altering people’s perspective on alcohol and particular types thereof are explored extensively. The wine industry has experienced a significant change over the years of its evolution, with wine producing companies understanding the importance of customer segmentation, development of a coherent brand image and branding strategy, and the use of the available communication tools for connecting with potential buyers.
To give full credit to innovativeness of the approaches used by alcohol companies at different points in history, one must take into account the unique characteristics of the era in which the said groundbreaking ideas and concepts were deployed. For instance, the propensity toward deploying media as the means of marketing alcohol in the Belle Époque environment, which can be characterized by a massive rise in the importance of social media and its use in the marketing industry, was perfectly understandable and rather logical.1
In fact, the very concept of trying to build a communication framework that allows keeping in touch with potential buyers and, thus, identify changes in their attitudes and demands successfully can be viewed as a giant step in the right direction or alcohol beverage companies at the identified time slot. With the emergence of new opportunities for collecting feedback and improving the quality of wine, organizations operating in the Belle Époque era were capable of improving their service to a significant extent, at the same time building customer loyalty and contributing to a steep rise in the rates of brand name recognition.
Although politics and alcohol production might seem irrelevant, Howard’s research proves that the choices made on a political level may affect marketing strategies adopted by alcohol producing companies to a considerable degree. In 1940, the law titled Loi contre l’alcoolisme banned the production and sale of any alcohol drink that involved the use of any other raw material than grapes.2 The prohibition of any form of overt alcohol marketing forced companies to create an elaborate system of promotion that required designing indirect marketing strategies.
Howard makes it clear that, even once significant restrictions are imposed on marketing alcoholic beverages, companies, nevertheless, can handle the challenge and design intricate approaches toward advancing their product without directly naming them or making their message overt. In fact, the research makes it abundantly clear that, with heavy restrictions imposed on wine producing companies in France, French companies started exploring the approaches used in other countries to market wine and similar products:
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- the ferocity of Vichy’s assault upon alcohol advertising and the regime’s identification of such publicity with interwar France does not square with views that the period’s advertising had been retarded, underdeveloped, or at least evolving slowly through the adoption of American techniques.3
In other words, the legal restrictions led to the reinforcement of multicultural dialogue and cooperation between companies on a global level. Although state regulations limited the ability of French companies to market wine and similar alcoholic beverages to their target demographics, organizations managed to not only survive but thrive using innovative marketing tools. The case under analysis shows that, even with major impediments in the way, alcoholic beverage producing companies can address their target audiences successfully.
However, apart from using all possible sources to reach potential customers, a company also needs to build a competitive and compelling brand image that will attract people. The identified task requires a detailed analysis of the target demographics and the design of a unique brand image with the qualities that customers will attribute to themselves when they purchase the product. As the research conducted by Ludington shows, the idea of promoting certain products as luxurious allows appealing to the segments of the target population. By representing a particular product as the attribute of wealth and financial success, a company producing alcohol beverages is likely to advance significantly in the realm of the global economy, as well as in local markets where it may take a specific niche.
The phenomenon observed in the study can be deemed as “emulation-driven consumption.”4 On a surface, the principle of emulation-driven consumption is used as the driving force behind any company’s success in a certain market. Indeed, creating a brand image that could become immediately relatable to the target audience is the very essence of marketing. However, Ludington particularly, points to the necessity to connect the brand image with the desired concept of self as customers see it. In other words, to sell the alcohol beverage that was not very popular with a comparatively upscale crowd, the producers of port wine marketed it as authentic and rate, therefore, appealing to people’s willingness to enjoy luxury.
Furthermore, the case is a very peculiar example of how the same product can be marketed in different ways to different demographics. While port wine was represented as part and parcel of a luxurious lifestyle to people of middle and high income, the same drink was marketed to the representatives of the lower class as a patriotic product. 5The fact that the two definitions were perfectly compatible, making it possible to create a single brand image that could incorporate both ideas, shows that a product can be promoted to an extraordinarily diverse population once an appropriate image thereof is built.
However, starting from scratch and delineating a framework that allows selling a product or a service to a diverse population is not as challenging as convincing people that are initially against the suggested goods to purchase them and view them as a necessary part of their lives. In his research, Simpson explores the problem of reluctant drinkers, pointing to the fact that the success of wine industry and the further advancement of a company in the global market hinges on the ability to maintain the correlation between price and quality consistent.6
Furthermore, the quality standards themselves must be identified and upheld successfully. For instance, the case indicates that, even with changes to the product quality ranging from negative to positive, customers are likely to dismiss the product since they need consistency.
The article, therefore, reflects the significance of establishing pricing standards in an industry as the means of retaining customers and creating premises for building loyalty among target demographics. In addition, Simpson insists that meeting the needs, demands, and interests of the public that consumes cheap products, wine being the key example, is just as important as catering to the demands of a rich population: “Therefore although shippers supplied cheap wines at stable prices, the quality often varied considerably, making the need for consumer information crucial, not just for the expensive ‘fine’ wines, but also for cheap wines.”7
While the specified idea cannot be technically regarded as the revelation that reinvented the entire wine industry, it did make organizations focus on the needs of not only wealthy clients but also average buyers. Seeing that the latter type makes a significant part of the global community, it is reasonable to target both types of clientele to roughly the same degree, thus, encouraging people of all income levels to purchase the product.
Similarly to Guy, Whalen also touches upon the hardships associated with selling wine and similar products in a war-stricken country. Exploring the problems of marketing alcohol beverages in inter-war Burgundy, the author of the study shows that people are unlikely to forgive a company a rapid drop in quality levels even if mitigating consequences such as war and the following economic crisis define the process of producing wine.
However, the study also teaches an important lesson about setting the priorities straight at the time of a crisis and creating the environment in which a firm can retain its loyal customers. Particularly, the idea of “quality over quantity”8 as the foundational principle for all operations occurring in the setting of Burgundy wine-making organizations can be viewed as the groundbreaking idea that allowed the trademark maintain its position in the French market. The unwillingness of the companies by which the industry was represented to admit the presence of the problem aggravated the situation to a considerable degree.
The study also outlines the significance of the socio-spatial environment in which beverages are produced. The emotional responses that customers produce when recognizing a particular brand that they associate with a certain area and, therefore, immediately linking to a particular culture are crucial to the successful marketing process. Consequently, creating an elaborate brand history that is connected directly to the area where it is produced is essential to the further development of a specific idea associated with the brand.
The fact that the wine industry of the specified era was capable of introducing basic principles of customer segmentation in their business environment should also be regarded as very impressive. By focusing on the functions that alcohol played in people’s lives at the time, beverage producing firms were able to determine marketing steps that had to be made to attract the attention of potential buyers. As Whalen explains, the “religious, honorific, alimentary, medical and tonic”9 use of wine was widely recognized at the time and deployed successfully to segment target demographics and market wine to them by using a specific technique or a combination thereof to produce the required effect.
It could be argued that the use of historically contingent information is fraught with numerous difficulties since it may reinforce certain prejudices and misconceptions. As a result, the process of communicating with target customers may become convoluted and rather difficult. Therefore, an in-depth study of the area, its legacy, unique properties, etc., must be viewed as a necessity. The research, thus, indicates that the promotion of wine and other alcoholic products needs to be coherent and compatible with the history of the place from which it originates.
As a result, a very strong and powerful brand image that appeals to any customer on a very personal level can be designed. Thus, the article showcases a perfect approach toward wine branding. The rise in customer loyalty levels can be viewed as its immediate effect.
Though seemingly simple and straightforward in its objectives and products, the wine industry requires a significant marketing effort to retain its profits and attract new audiences by introducing an elaborate customer segmentation strategies and exploring new opportunities in communication with key demographics. The overview of the existing evidence provided above shows that the tools used by alcohol producing companies have varied extensively and involved redesigning a brand image from a plain one to a luxury one, creating a compelling brand legend, etc. Therefore, the marketing techniques used by the firms producing alcoholic beverages have grown to become communication-oriented and implying the development of an elaborate brand image, which is supposed to appeal to a very specific demographic.
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Guy, Kolleen M. “’Oiling the Wheels of Social Life’: Myths and Marketing in Champagne during the Belle Epoque.” French Historical Studies 22, No. 2 (1999): 211-239.
Howard, Sarah. “The Advertising Industry and Alcohol in Interwar France.” The Historical Journal 51, no. 2 (2008): 421-455.
Ludington, Charles. “’Claret Is the Liquor for Boys; Port for Men’: How Port Became the ‘Englishman’s Wine,’ 1750s to 1800.” Journal of British Studies 48, no. 2 (2009): 364-390.
Simpson, James. “Selling to Reluctant Drinkers: The British Wine Market, 1860-1914.” Economic History Review 57, no. 1 (2004): 80–108.
Whalen, Philip. “Insofar as the Ruby Wine Seduces Them’: Cultural Strategies for Selling Wine in InterWar Burgundy.” Contemporary European History 81, no. 1 (2009): 67-98.
- Kolleen M. Guy, “’Oiling the Wheels of Social Life’: Myths and Marketing in Champagne during the Belle Epoque,” French Historical Studies 22, No. 2 (1999): 213.
- Sarah Howard, “The Advertising Industry and Alcohol in Interwar France,” The Historical Journal 51, no. 2 (2008): 421.
- Sarah Howard, “The Advertising Industry and Alcohol in Interwar France,” The Historical Journal 51, no. 2 (2008): 422.
- Charles Ludington, “’Claret Is the Liquor for Boys; Port for Men’: How Port Became the ‘Englishman’s Wine,’ 1750s to 1800,” Journal of British Studies 48, no. 2 (2009): 366.
- Charles Ludington, “’Claret Is the Liquor for Boys; Port for Men’: How Port Became the ‘Englishman’s Wine,’ 1750s to 1800,” Journal of British Studies 48, no. 2 (2009): 368.
- James Simpson, “Selling to Reluctant Drinkers: The British Wine Market, 1860-1914,” Economic History Review 57, no. 1 (2004): 87.
- James Simpson, “Selling to Reluctant Drinkers: The British Wine Market, 1860-1914,” Economic History Review 57, no. 1 (2004): 88.
- Philip Whalen, “Insofar as the Ruby Wine Seduces Them’: Cultural Strategies for Selling Wine in InterWar Burgundy,” Contemporary European History 81, no. 1 (2009): 70.
- Philip Whalen, “Insofar as the Ruby Wine Seduces Them’: Cultural Strategies for Selling Wine in InterWar Burgundy,” Contemporary European History 81, no. 1 (2009): 72.