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When it comes to the drinks industry customers want involvement, not exclusivity

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Being perfect isn’t credible; being conversationalist is

When it comes to presenting your brand image, the 'look at us, we’re perfect' message no longer prevails. I’ve witnessed some luxury brands losing ground to younger, hungrier, more inclusive challenger brands, watching Fever-Tree outstrip the popularity of Moet, Martini and others at The Goodwood Festival of Speed.

In order to place my observations against hard data and find out where brands are lacking, AgencyUK buddied up with Iridium Insights, the marketing folk who specialise in the food and drink sector, and asked them to do some digging.

Putting luxury to the test

Consumer trust has plummeted. In a recent Ipsos Mori study, 42% of consumers claim to distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising. Hardly a beacon for our industry, these figures parallel the disheartening lack of confidence people now have in politicians, Europe and the financial sector.

In an ever-intensifying search by consumers to buy from brands that wear their hearts on their sleeves, shoppers have inadvertently started to reject the exclusivity offered by some luxury marks.

The quest for authenticity has brought about an impressive rise in craft beer, against an overall decline in the alcohol category. It has shown that smaller brands like Fever-Tree (with 2016 sales up 59%) can take formidable strides in an unexciting world like mixer soft drinks. The ivory towers of the Champagne houses are starting to crumble as they battle image issues, stiffer competition, Brexit and a 9% decline in 2016 sales. The fizz is going flat.

What are big brands getting wrong?

So what exactly is it that’s turning these colossal drinks brands into declining businesses?

The answer is involvement. The principle of exclusivity is shutting the door to the masses, and now they’re demanding an invitation.

Consumer spending is on the slide when it comes to products and on the rise when it comes to experiences. There has been a marked shift in spending behaviour since the 2008 economic crisis, with many retail bosses citing how we may have reached the peak.

Brand teams who are willing to engage with people in new, exciting and fun ways are demonstrating sincerity, providing transparency, creating memories and ultimately winning custom. Being perfect isn’t credible; being conversationalist is.

As consumers hunt for experiences that delight them, challenger brands now have a chance to fight the battles and win the war. We live in an opportune time where big money no longer guarantees market share. It’s exciting to be the challenger, and it’s our duty as marketeers to disrupt the status quo.

Saman Mansourpour is managing director of integrated agency AgencyUK.

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