The days of building alcohol brands at restaurants, bars, and venues are over.

It’s time to disrupt and innovate the promotion and marketing model of spirits, wine, and beer. Sampling and tasting methods of marketing are broken and hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on what brands perceive to be tried and true models.

In Blue Ocean Strategy parlance, there is a need for a new value proposition. One of the ways a new value proposition is developed is via the ERRC Grid in Blue Ocean Strategy.

One goes through and exercise, generally with use of the As-Is Strategy Canvas to determine the current strategic key factors of competition. This helps define the current state of play.  It provides data and insight leading to the hard decisions around what may be eliminated, reduced, raised, and created. Hence, ERRC. The culmination of the ERRC exercise is a new value proposition. Ideally, one that creates blue oceans of uncontested market space.

In the image below, one can see the power of the process. In the Four Actions Framework, the practitioner is lead to ask key questions around what should be eliminated, raised, reduced, and created.


I contend it is well past time for these processes to be used to address the broken spirits, wine, and beer sampling and activation models.

This has never been more the case then now. Billions of dollars in marketing money are at play with the recovery of the global economy completely undetermined. The ways brands previously built their business, sales, and brand equity was through on-premise promotion.

Sampling and tasting as a marketing method are okay in and of themselves. They just aren’t good enough anymore. The competition is too strong and the market for spirits, wine, and beer are under more competition than ever. Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis and its lockdowns have changed the way street teams, promo girls, and samplings at venues will be done in the future. New thinking is required.

My take on what should be don’t in the marketing of samplings, tastings, and activations are made clear in the image below.

A new ERRC for spirits and wine

Elimination should include street teams, point of sale merch and other schemes sold by agencies are useless spends. If the giveaways are not attached to measurable digital metrics the dollars may as well be burned at the distillery.

Reduction of out-of-home advertising, in-store tastings without real strategic planning, and poorly targeted advertising should be a priority.

Raising of priorities around highly targeted advertising and converting all samplings and tastings into actionable micro-moments with associated measurements. If you’re not advertising as a bourbon brand to the individuals that have visited the bourbon aisle of your retailers two to three times in the last six months, you’re dropping the ball.

Finally, the creation of true brand ambassador success metrics that have to do with integrated depletion goals as well as truly individualized post-sampling or post-tasting marketing after every event. This all has to be tied to retail. My colleagues and I have this figured out. I’m certainly not sharing the solution in this post.

There are Blue Ocean strategies at the ready that would work for your brand. I have little doubt. In the spirits, wine, beer business, your brand is fortunately still viable. If you’re a small craft distillery, there are ways for you to grow sales based on a per-performance basis. If you’d like to discuss Blue Ocean tools during a free one hour visit, book it here.

Sherman G. Mohr is an Insead Blue Ocean Strategy Institute Certified Blue Ocean Strategist. He serves as co-founder of marketing, tech, and healthcare firms.