What makes people fall in love with a new type of liquor? Our online focus groups revealed some key marketing insights into the customer lifecycle of cognac drinkers, relevant to liquor marketers looking to turn their product into a consumer’s spirit of choice. What makes someone try a new liquor, get in a habit of drinking it, and endorse their favorite drink to their family and friends? Read on for our key marketing learnings and descriptions of the six stages of the cognac drinker’s customer life cycle.
Key Learnings for Marketers:
We gained valuable insights into marketing liquor, particularly for spirit categories where word-of-mouth and product education are key. Cognac is clearly a category where personal endorsements are key for consumer adoption. Marketers should consider developing brand messaging that integrates personal accounts of discovering and enjoying the liquor. These testimonials should reflect the experience of having a close friend or family member introduce you to the drink or recommend the best ways to enjoy it.
The marketing message should also speak to the key times for a “cognac moment” – presenting the drink as a way to relax with the people closest to you at the end of a long day.
Liquor marketers could also leverage the information-seeking consumer behavior revealed in cognac drinkers by developing marketing content that educates and empowers them to develop their connoisseurship. This could include everything from educational content on what makes a good cognac, recipes incorporating the liquor, and information about upcoming tasting events.
By being the Sherpa that guides cognac drinkers through their customer lifecycle, a cognac brand can be that trusted source that takes consumers from initiates to advocates.
6 Stages of the Cognac Customer Lifecycle:
1. The Initiation:
Across consumer segments, our video chat respondents expressed that it was not “love at first sip” with cognac. The liquor was an acquired taste, one that required a personal influencer to initiate them into what felt like an “exclusive club”. Across our online panel, it was always a close friend or family member who introduced them to the liquor, usually at some point during or right after college. Some respondents talked about getting into cognac like it was a matter of destiny:
“It was just something was saying, this is gonna be your drink of choice. You just have to keep coming back until you start to acquire a taste for it. It was something was raking me in. I don’t know how to explain it. It was a funny thing. I went to several different affairs after that, and I was always offered cognac, so I was like okay, maybe this is a message for me, I don’t know, but I said maybe this is my calling.”
2. Growing Into It:
It’s fitting that college students and graduates would feel drawn to cognac. Our virtual focus group respondents associated the drink with maturity and responsibility, which college students notoriously struggle with and strive for.
“I think as my drinking habits developed, I couldn’t keep drinking the same, Coors Light, Miller Light; I think it was mostly after I graduated college. I was 22, 23.”
The desire mid-college and post-college to leave certain “immature” habits behind could explain the attraction to cognac during this time. It’s a high-quality liquor that has it’s place less in a wild night of binge drinking, more in a quiet night at home with a loved one.
3. Choosing Your Moments
Our online focus group respondents found that cognac fits best with more personal, intimate times. For some this meant a calming moment with their spouse once the kids were asleep, for others a sense of serenity while hanging out with their friends with “no intention to get wasted, just to have a good time”.
The drink is usually consumed not during but after a meal, being perceived not as a complement to a dining experience but as an experience in itself. It’s usually consumed at the end of the day, after work and family responsibilities subside, to end the night on a high note.
“After a nice dinner, long day, just sip a nice brandy, it just, I don’t know, it’s a good way to end the day.”
“… when I sit on the patio in the backyard and enjoy a glass. I like when the moonlight, when the sun has set. See the moonlight from my backyard.”
4. Finding Gatekeepers
Once cognac drinkers have grown to appreciate the value of the drink in these key life moments, they increasingly gain interest in learning more about the liquor. They seek out experts like liquor store clerks and bartenders in their attempt to develop their knowledge on the subject. They want to know things like what makes a good cognac, which are the highest quality brands, and how they can best prepare the drink.
As their knowledge of the category deepens and consumers establish a certain comfort level with cognac, they began to seek out new experiences involving the drink.
This “exploration” involves initiatives like attending cognac tasting events, looking up recipes that integrate the liquor, and trying more and more varieties and brands.
“I was just open to trying different cognacs and yeah, I just, I enjoyed it. I just tried different ones. Like when you try wine for the first time and you realize you like it so you try different kind of wine on the menu and you go to the Pinot’s and then you want to try the white wines, and Chardonnays and before you know it, you’re ordering it for dessert!”
The next stage for the cognac aficionado is to share his or her passion and initiate a newbie, in the same way he or she began his customer journey.
“As I became more accustomed to it, I’d see when I’d go out, I’d buy stuff for my friend, for him to taste it. ‘Cause I wanted him to get introduced. So I’ve done that a number of times.”
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