Reum: Successfully Marketing Liquor through Facebook

A sign with the 'like' symbol stands in front of the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
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A sign with the 'like' symbol stands in front of the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

With Facebook’s just completed IPO and its familiar icon on the homepages and business cards of companies and brands worldwide, it’s pedantic to say the social network site has changed the way we as marketers connect to consumers.

While Facebook , and more broadly social networking, isn’t a foolproof marketing component for brands, it’s evolved into a necessary one. The newness and uncharted potential is what really makes Facebook exciting, because you’ll often learn more from your mistakes than you will from your triumphs.

Marketing the VeeV Spirits brand through Facebook is a bit precarious – you have to honor certain protocols within the liquor industry, you cannot engage minors and of course, you cannot egregiously promote drinking and must incorporate messages about moderation, safety and health. Adherence to these standards aside, VeeV has successfully managed to build an engaged audience of almost 60,000 Facebook fans , a real community of gourmands, social activists and tastemakers who spread the word about the brand and inform many facets of our marketing and product development.

Consumer engagement – more than a ‘like’ or ‘re-Tweet.’ At VeeV, we strive for engagement: consumers influence cocktail recipes, inform campaign directions, and help us fundraise for good causes. Facebook fans do everything faster than other fans: they browse quickly, engage with content quickly and enter contests quickly – if something isn’t quick and easy they probably aren’t interested.

Because of Facebook, VeeV’s Market Managers have been able to track which cocktails are more popular in different parts of the country, and with what demographic segment they’re more popular. Our fans have posted cocktail ideas that we’ve tested (and sadly, sometimes rejected) and incorporated into our menu of recipes we offer to restaurants and bars nationwide. Our Apothecary Bar (recyclable mason jars in which we serve custom, herb-infused cocktails at countless events nationwide) found early support and eventual cult status via Facebook, with fans posting photos of the mason jars they kept from a party, now filled with their own cocktail (or occasionally even flowers) at home.

Facebook has actually shown us which of our grassroots marketing programs are connecting the most with consumers, and where those connections are being made (literally through geo-targeting). Facebook feedback has even helped us ‘gut check’ the development of a new product extension, which we’re launching later this summer.

Facebook has created real-time marketing. Prior to the advent of Facebook, marketing had to be more conservative by its very nature: a print or TV ad runs/airs numerous times without being able to change the message. Now, our social media team can post something as small as a new recipe or as big as a sweepstakes contest and get virtually instant feedback from our community. Thus, in the consumer products space, I would say Facebook has allowed us as marketers to become more daring and certainly more proactive in our approach.

Facebook’s “targeting” has arguably mitigated some of the aforementioned risk: previously it was a “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” approach, whereas now we can literally suggest a refreshing VeeV Superfruit Lemonade cocktail to our top 100 evangelists on the West Coast on a Friday afternoon just as they leave work and the closest retailers to them (via a zip code locator) to purchase a bottle. That’s pretty amazing. Even when advertising via banners and such on Facebook, I can now target people that already “like” us or go after new potential customers that I know like distilled spirits (or even more specific things like vodka).

With Facebook, everyone is in marketing and everyone in the company is a “marketer.”

In my opinion, this may just be the most profound thing about Facebook for a consumer product, especially one like mine that people enjoy in their free time.

We are now all curators of content and we control everything from our image to our company’s image on Facebook. For example, when we get a new press hit or get into a new marquee account chain, we require that all our sales people “share” it on their wall immediately. This creates the 1+1=3 viral effect and creates hundreds of thousands more impressions than we could ever reach with our ~60,000 fans alone and even translate into the “offline” world.

For example, when we found out we were going into the 800 unit chain Ruby Tuesday, our marketing team came up with the idea to have me drive around the country in a Toyota Prius for 10 straight days and visit 100 Ruby Tuesdays whilst driving over 2500 miles. Although grueling (my neck wasn’t the same for a few months), it was well worth it: Ruby Tuesday attracted thousands of millennial fans that they were previously having trouble touching, we had a strong group of people who followed by my tour on Facebook and would meet me at a given location for a drink, and even staff at the stores were energized when they knew I would be visiting their store that day. Giving people (fans or employees) the “tools” ‘to share a message (especially if it’s one they are passionate about) is an extremely powerful thing.

A real social network builds company culture. Facebook is a networking tool that lives with employees when they’re at work and when they’re off work. Our Brand Manager monitors and mines our Facebook account for new insights, trends and consumer satisfaction. Our sales team monitors it as part of business development, to help track where consumers are looking for VeeV, and what restaurant and retail doors might be a fit for the brand. It helps everyone do their job better and more precisely, even if we take some things we read on Facebook with a grain of salt.

Facebook is so pervasive these days we require everyone in the company to be “friends” with every other employee (since people work in different geographies and haven’t all met face to face).

As a millennial myself, I consider Facebook to be one of the biggest innovations of my life thus far and think it will continue to be moving forward so long as it continues to deliver on its promise of improving marketing practices, culture and hopefully ultimately people’s overall quality of interactions.

Courtney Reum is the founder of VeeV, the world’s first spirit infused with the Brazilian super?fruit, açaí and the preeminent eco?friendly spirit brand. A former Investment Banker at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street, Reum has become one of the youngest eco?entrepreneurs in the spirits industry since founding VeeV at the age of 27. Reum developed his consumer product and beverage expertise at Goldman in New York City and Sydney, Australia, where he worked with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Under Armor, and Glaceau's Vitamin Water. At Goldman Sachs, he was involved with the Pernod Ricard / Allied Domecq merger in the spring of 2005, which served as the catalyst for a simple question: in a consolidated and cluttered industry could he create a product that would offer consumers a better way to drink?

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