The Spirits Industry and the Bartenders: it's Time to Rethink and Reset

Advocacy is a key lever to boost awareness, preference and loyalty towards brands.  Especially if we refer to premium and super premium brands.  Obviously, Advocacy is very important to the spirits industry as well.  Nowadays it becomes even more important than ever before.  Because consumers are flooded by information and alternative choices and their needs are changing rapidly.

The role of bartenders in Advocacy matters is key.  The rise of the cocktails has boosted their role further, as “Perfect Serve” has become more complex and harder to achieve than before.  Their influence on the consumer choice at the moment of purchase within the bar has risen dramatically during the past decade. They are also very important in relation to “Drink Responsibly”, “Taste but Don’t Waste” and other major trends towards social responsibility and environmental matters.  And also their role in the innovation process is quite significant.

As a result, all big multinationals in spirits  have set a very specific and specialised Advocacy pillar inside their organisational structures.  And all of them develop special programs and hire special staff (brand ambassadors, advocacy marketeers, etc.) in order to take the benefit of Advocacy and win at the moment of purchase.  And the effective approach of the bartenders is a crucial part of all this work.

So, all look good.  Right? Maybe yes.  But I personally think not!  I believe that as things change and consumers become more conscious, sensitive, selective and demanding, the time has come for the Industry to raise the bar further beyond in this aspect too.  The Aim remains the same, but there are specific parts inside the whole approach which have to be revisited and rescheduled.


  •  The challenges ahead: a few examples

So, let’s start by making some creative and constructive challenge in current establishment and school of thought. Like for example, …

    1. Do you have a specific, harmonised and cohesive strategy towards bartenders? What exactly are the business benefits and the financial reward? Is it profitable or not? What is the Return on Investment?
    2. Bartenders can be seen as a potential extension of your organisational structure in order to expand your reach into the field.  And thus to be able through them to communicate and “sell” effectively the unique selling characteristics of your brands. Correct? Maybe yes.  But then, how do they fit into your own organisational culture? Do their Values, Attitudes and Behaviours fit well with your own philosophy? Do you know which ones fit and which ones don’t? And does it really matter? I think that to some extend yes, it matters..
    3. How sustainable is your approach and relation with bartenders in the long run? I assume that when you think about strategy, you think long run too, correct? Maybe yes.  But do they look at the things long run too, or are they short sited? And if they are not all of them the same, have you done the right choices? Have you done the right targeting? What are the specific criteria which you use in order to segment them correctly, to be able to make the right choices? …
    4. …and moreover, how will the revolution of big data, digital and AI affect this relationship? And in how much time? In 3 years, 5 years, or more? Is this important? Maybe yes.  Because new channels are already evolving fast together with new relevant means and tools to influence them accordingly.  These means are mainly technological.  And the occasion of consumption is changing too.  So, given all these, what will be the balance of this relation, between the Suppliers, the Consumers and the Bartenders in the medium and long run?  Probably it will change, I believe.

All the above are just a few “hot” questions and there are many others too.  Especially when we approach the interference of bartenders with a few other critical influencers and links inside the outlets (e.g. the owners, etc.) as well as with the rest of suppliers.  Then, the case becomes even more complicated and further questions arise.  But the investments that you make as a supplier in these relations are big.  Millions of dollars are spent each year on bartenders’ training programs, competitions, PR, loyalty programs and so on.  So they deserve a lot of attention and precision.  And in the end, it is also a matter of resource allocation.  So you have to optimise.


  •  The response

Of course the response has to be to answer all these questions. properly.  And surely there are answers.  But the key message here is that you have to become aware and accept these questions as positive challenges.  Because they do exist and they cost a lot.  And then, you have to dare to touch them.  Sometimes because of relationships, popular trends and bias, it is hard to do so.  And we take the answers for granted.  Especially when the whole industry approaches the issue with almost the same way.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Because things change.  And it is a great opportunity now to take the lead and differentiate. By building a new modern, fair, strong, cohesive, meaningful and sustainable relationship with these important partners – the bartenders.  A new relationship which will be realistic, conditional, reciprocal, trustful and loyal, socially responsible, environmentally friendly and thus value added.

As soon as you become aware and you decide to reset and reschedule, then you develop a thorough and analytical framework around the following matters:

  • How many are they?
  • Where are they?
  • How do we segment them? … (criteria etc.).
  • Who are the key influencers and how do we approach them? … (see Segmentation above and OGSM below).
  • What are the Objectives, the Goals, the Strategies and the Measures to set in order to make it work? … (this is a job to be done per major segment and definitely for the key influencers, like for example the internationally renowned, the national champions, etc.).
  • How do we evaluate the whole approach?


Key Takeaway

In a few years from today we will live in a new different world.  Things change rapidly.  The 4th industrial revolution is already here through the tremendous technological development.  Consumers are flooded by information and alternative choices and their needs are changing rapidly.  They become more aware and selective, but also they are more sensitive than ever before in relation to social and environmental matters.  The consumer journey is changing fast and so does the consumer occasion.

As everyone will look to improve effectiveness and efficiency, both, the Supply and the Demand side models will change.  And their internal links too.  Today, a critical and very influential link between the suppliers and consumers are the bartenders.  This relationship, Suppliers – Bartenders – Consumers will also be affected.  The time has come to rethink and reset.  For the good benefit of all.  A new realistic and value added relationship is needed.  And in order to make it happen, you need to dare and think out of the box.  The first to do it, will be the one to receive the greatest reward.


  • What other ideas or thoughts can you add? Please leave a reply.


Leave a Reply