3 Steps to Create a Future for Craft Spirits with Digital Marketing

The future needs to be created

For craft spirits brands, the future is in flux.

Laws and regulations — especially around direct-to-consumer shipping — are evolving rapidly and with promise. At the same time, digital technology and drinking preferences are changing.

More than half of millennials (who represent a majority of current customers in the market) prefer drinking at home, meaning they’re shopping for spirits that can be shipped to their door or picked up from their local retailer.

And they’re doing that shopping online.

The future is digital

We looked at craft spirits data from Barcart, an e-commerce platform.

The future for craft spirits is digital. Line graph showing exponential growth of craft spirits brands on Barcart. 928% growth in 2020.

When tasting rooms and bars closed in 2020, craft distillers needed a new place to connect with and sell to their customers.

They jumped onto platforms like Barcart, Drizly and Thirstie at an exponential rate. Barcart alone saw 928% growth from 2019 to 2020.

Halfway through 2021, the number of craft spirits brands on Barcart has more than doubled again.

Over the course of 2.5 years, the platform went from 5 craft spirits brands to 155.

But at that rate of acceleration, there was no time for strategy. Craft distillers didn’t have the luxury of developing a plan that neatly oriented digital as part of their broader business plan.

Without a strategy, brands with a website or e-commerce presence have created a billboard in the middle of nowhere.

Craft distillers need a map to get people from Point A to Point You.

*Cue digital marketing.*

How to create a sustainable future with digital marketing

Start building your digital marketing map with these elements:

1. Audience

Create a profile of your optimal buyer. Start with demographics, like age, gender and ethnicity or whether they own a home, have children and graduated from college. This is your outline.

Fill it in with purchasing patterns. What products do they buy? Why do they buy together? How much do they usually spend?

From that base, add details like taste and flavor preferences. Do they like spice, oak and vanilla or floral, fruity and bitter? Craft brands can then see where their products align to more precisely segment their target.

2. Message

Personalize brand messaging to the persona(s) that were sketched. Factor in industry trends and broader learnings about your customer demographic to paint a full picture.

For example, if the target customer is a millennial living in a city, build messaging around a rooftop cocktail hour with friends. Now, they can envision themselves enjoying the brand in a specific setting.

Go even further by messaging to the end result of the product: It’s not bourbon in a bottle, it’s the heart of an Old Fashioned.

Appeal to their interests, and they may show interest in the brand.

3. Delivery

With a message crafted and a target persona outlined, think about the delivery.

Generally, this can take three routes:

  1. Active. Reach people currently shopping or searching for a product. Maybe they’re searching “best bourbon for Manhattan cocktail” or “local craft gin” — they’re close to the point of purchasing. If they see an ad from a brand that’s relevant and helpful, they are likely to click on it. From there, they may make a purchase or find a way to buy the product in person.
  2. Passive. Capture good targets while they’re doing something else. They may be reading an article, checking the weather or scrolling through Instagram. The message will help build awareness and affinity for the brand. They may click to learn more, but are further from ready to purchase. When they are in the market to buy, the brand will be top-of-mind.
  3. Direct. Communicate with people who have volunteered to hear from a brand. These shoppers signed up for an email newsletter, SMS texts or push notifications. Send them promotions, content and other communications to keep them engaged and drive repeat conversions.

The future is in your hands

These three elements — audience, message and delivery — establish the foundational outline for your marketing strategy. Revisit each regularly to make adjustments and optimize.

That strategy will future-proof your business. Not by making you impenetrable to market changes (nothing can do that), but by introducing flexibility and confidence. With that, you can build success for today, tomorrow and five years from now.


This blog post originated as a presentation from 3×3 Marketing and Creative Director Katelyn Edelson. It was shared at Bar Convent Brooklyn during a panel on future-proofing the craft spirits market.