Gearing up for Summer
By Joanna Cosgrove
Even though summer is technically months away, factions of beverage manufacturers have already begun preparing for the summer beverage selling season with ramped up production and clever marketing ideas that are sure to have parched consumers reaching for their ice-cold refreshments.
While the summer marketing plans of many beverage manufacturers are kept closely guarded, two companies let Beverage Industry in on what they have up their sleeves to court this year’s thirsty consumers.
One beverage synonymous with summer fun is Corona, distributed in parts of the country by Barton Beers Inc., Chicago. “The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend represents an important selling time and has traditionally shown to be an increased selling time vs. the other days of the year, and it’s traditionally shown to be an important time of year based on past sales performance,” notes Barton’s Bill Ligas, spokesperson at Barton.
“Manufacturers gear up for that time of year, especially our brands — Corona and Modelo — because we increase our rounds of promotion, and increase our focus on our brands, plus there’s an increased demand by wholesalers and consumers as well.”
This year, Ligas says Barton is ready with a number of fun-filled promotions such as “Get away to Corona Bay,” a key promotion featuring Corona and Corona Light, as well as a sponsorship for the upcoming Jimmy Buffet concert tour that spans early summer to late summer.
“We have a comprehensive program of point-of-sale merchandising, promotion and advertising. We do extensive TV, print, radio and outside advertising, the whole nine yards. It all comes together to focus on the summer selling season,” says Ligas. “Corona carries an image of fun, sun, beach and summer. Part of it is a state of mind, and with Corona, summer can be anytime, but summer is the key time for Corona.”
Like carbonated beverages and beer, distilled spirits also enjoy a sales boost in the summer. Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Bardstown, Ky., begins to gear up for the summer selling season, using dedicated resources to capture the increased sales that go with this period.
“Just like many industries, distilled spirits cycle through the summer the way sweaters do in the winter and shorts in the summer,” says Josh Hafer, Heaven Hill’s corporate communications manager. “In our case, it happens to be white goods in the summer and brown goods in the winter.”
The popularity of distilled spirits is a direct result of consumer demand for lighter, more mixable spirits during the warmer months. “As a result, we position our marketing and production to capture this upturn in consumer demand,” Hafer says. “In many cases, the summer selling season provides incremental profit opportunity above and beyond year-round sales. These brands capture the seasonal uptrend that results from increased leisure time and better weather.”
While many companies ramp up production to handle increased summer demand, Hafer says Heaven Hill doesn’t handle the summer demand any differently than winter demand. “Millions of bottles run through our lines virtually every day,” he says. “The only difference is the product going into them.”
Heaven Hill plans for the upcoming summer selling season began nearly 16 months ago. “In many cases, the development of plans requires an enormous effort to research, assemble and deliver marketing campaigns that suit the target demographic,” Hafer says. “The timeframe enables traditional summer materials to be produced and delivered to retail through the distilled spirits three-tier system.”
Summer is also a key time for beverage brands to play up summer activities and invite consumers to purchase using summer-oriented themes and activities. Sweepstakes, summer entertaining ideas and product placement are just a few of the tactics used to place the product in front of consumers. During this time, delivery of marketing messages can take on distinctly different tones.
“Whaler’s Rum, for instance, utilizes warm Hawaiian themes and fruity cocktails that encourage luaus and parties,” Hafer says. “On the other hand, Burnett’s Gin and Vodka marketing suggests consumers should ’Sip Summer Away’ and ’Sit Back! Relax!’ with a warm, comfortable spirit.”
Heaven Hill uses the summer months for other non-seasonal products, as well, in an effort to speak to the interest of core consumers. The company’s Evan Williams Bourbon creates usage by offering sweepstakes to core demographics for activities not available during the brown goods sales period. The most recent sweepstakes involved fishing — a decidedly difficult activity during the frozen months.
“Based on our research, Evan Williams consumers are anglers,” Hafer says. “This summer activity is a great opportunity to grab our consumers with a great sweepstakes offer.”
Christian Brothers Brandy utilizes a similar strategy by targeting leisure time with the “CB Picture Perfect Moment” sweepstakes. The contest, which features an on-pack disposable camera, encourages consumers to take their best summer pictures and submit them to Christian Brothers. The best picture submitted is awarded a seven-day photo cruise. “This non-seasonal program is another example of successful non-seasonal products reaching out to core consumers,” Hafer says.