Don’t dry up: communicating as a no or low alcohol brand

The irony that marketing in the no-low alcohol sector is over saturated in January is one not lost on us. Regardless of whether your January was Dry, Damp or a Downpour (or indeed if you think Dry January is a cynical marketing ploy dreamed up by brands …), it’s unlikely you missed the deluge of no-low brands flooding marketing channels and our consciousness throughout the sober sombreness of the first month of the year.

But how do brands operating in this space, be it artisanal businesses operating in very particular niches, to the bigger players trying to secure a seat at the sober bar, remain relevant post the ‘Dry Jan’ spotlight on drinking habits and health?

As we come out of January and, hopefully, into a normality we haven’t had in any significant or consistent way for over 18 months; how do no-low alcohol brands continue to grow their share of voice, mind and wallet as our world, societal and cultural norms shifts once again?

It’s worth starting by stating that the no-low space is healthily buoyant and growing. Pre COVID, alcohol-free beer was the fastest-growing drinks trend in the summer of 2019 and overall sales were up by 58% when compared to 2018. According to Nielsen, sales of alcohol-free drinks were up by over a third in 2019 vs. 2018. This shift is also seen in brands’ ambitions, for example AB InBev has stated that low and no-alcohol products will make up 20% of its drinks portfolio by 2025.

As to consumer habits, there are contradictory studies; from those stating we are drinking more due to the pressures of lockdowns, to those saying we are drinking less due to a shift from the post work pint culture, to a youth culture where 1 in 3 under 25’s are tee-total to a mid-life drinking epidemic. However whatever study findings you subscribe to, what is clear is that drinking habits are evolving and changing.

So, when it comes to no-low alcohol comms, what’s required to keep the mainstream momentum up against this backdrop of differing habits and a world ready to step back into a more fully social life. How do we inspire a change in habit that is a long-term shift not a 31 day ‘challenge’?


Market to the everyday not just dry dates:

The decision not to drink, or to switch up to an alcohol-free variant is no longer limited to days or months of the year. Yes, these days should still be part of the marketing make up but with 53% of people saying that no-low alcohol will become part of their drinking habits, when these brands speak to people needs to reflect that.


Mark moments not days:

Historically ‘fitting in’ has been a barrier for people changing their drinking habits. Happily, the world is moving on from this outdated premise, but tapping into the more emotional touchpoints normally associated with traditional drinking will allow no-low brands to infiltrate the wider consciousness. That celebration with friends, the end of week wind-down, the post-match pub analysis, no-low brands need to permeate these moments as much as moments associated with health and wellbeing. Have the confidence to flip the cliches, as drinking behaviour changes alcohol free and light drinks have as much right to own the all-night parties and club nights as traditional alcohol brands.


Taste Your Difference:

Flavour in the alcohol space has always been an integral part of its appeal and with consumers more discerning than ever the sector has responded. Avant-garde flavour profiles and lifestyle led taste choices (organic, gluten-free and vegan just some of the ways the alcohol market has expanded) means flavour needs to be as central to the no-low sector’s messaging as the health benefits.


A healthier choice, tailored for all:

The health benefits of a no-low alcohol choice are clear and well documented. As the market looks to expand, brands within it need to ensure that what they offer works for different audiences. Shoring up the younger audience who already have a vested interest in the space, as well as broadening their appeal to older audiences for whom the no-low sector of today is light years away from the tasteless, limited choice of alcohol-free brands of the past.

Ultimately, what consumers are looking for is choice. And this is what the no-low space offers. Choice without compromise with the flex to suit their lifestyle. It’s a healthier choice absolutely but offers so much more than that, and it’s the ‘more than’ than needs to be the sector’s focus as it looks to build on it’s momentum as the world opens once again.