On-Premise: A Promotion Wasteland

I was entertaining some out-of-town guests last weekend and they wanted to hit some bars in “LoDo,” which is an entertainment district in Denver that attracts the 21-30 crowd.  LoDo isn’t really my thing, but it was interesting to see the flood of on-premise promotional activity from a variety of beer and spirits brands.

It reminded me of my days trying to create and execute on-premise promotions, which was always a difficult task.  The knee-jerk rection was to create a “canned” promotion that satisfied all of the marketing objectives (build awareness, create a brand experience, sample, etc.)

Canned on-premise promotions don’t work.  There are too many factors at play:

  • type of bar (club, tavern, bar & grill, sports bar, music club, etc.
  • owner/operator preferences
  • consumer demo
  • consumer moods and level of intoxication

The trap is that it makes total sense to try and build image and volume at key on-premise accounts where consumers are more susceptible to trying new brands via promotional activity and canned promotions are cheaper on a cost per impression basis.

The challenge is to create a program that is adaptable to different types of venues and marketing occasions while engaging consumers in a REAL way – which means TALKING to people.

Here are my Top 5 Canned On-Premise Adult Beverage Marketing Concepts That Never Work:

  1. Hot chicks passing out samples – gets product in the mouths of consumers, but typically fails to make a meaningful connection with consumers.
  2. The energetic promo team – brands that want to reach both males and females like the male/female promo cheerleaders.  This works for people who are already drunk, but this concept is almost a sure-fire failure at happy hour, restaurants or low-key taverns.
  3. Characters and mascots – brands who have a icon like to create an environment where consumers can interact with their brand mascot and get their picture taken with it.
  4. Trash and trinkets – Ahh yes…Consumers love free crap. Give-a-ways can get your foot in the door with the account and get you a little attention from the crowd.  But when you think about it, how often does a t-shirt, keychain or ballcap take a consumer from awareness to loyalist?  Not very.  In fact, I would guess that more harm is done when some consumers walk away empty handed.
  5. Generic carnival games – SPIN THE PRIZE WHEEL! Unless your brand is Carnival Cruise Lines or Animal Crackers, I doubt the participants are walking away with a memorable experience.
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