DISCUS 2024 Recap: Generating Value and Growth in the Spirits Industry

Marc Paulenich, President

This week, I attended the DISCUS Annual Conference & WOTVS Global CONNECT! event to join in on the conversation with spirits industry leaders, decision-makers and supply chain partners. This was an incredible opportunity to dive into some of the mission-critical policies concerning the industry, connect with various industry executives and gain important insights from thought leaders in the spirits space. For me, one of the most interesting discussions of the event revolved around the importance of focusing on ways to generate value and growth as a brand in the spirits industry.  

As anyone in the industry knows, there have been tremendous changes taking place over the past few years. New products and competitors like cannabis-infused products, new legislation and regulation, and increased levels of responsibility stemming from diversity, sustainability and moderation initiatives – it can be a lot to navigate and easy to lose your path as a brand. 

That’s why, amid all this change, there is an increasing need to focus on the things that have always generated value and growth in the industry. So what does that look like?

Let’s take a closer look at some of those tried-and-true strategies. 

Crafting a Compelling Brand Identity and Storytelling 

“Whether it’s face, place or story, you need a backstory to the brand.” – Townsen Ziebold, Managing Director, Cowen 

In an industry as saturated as the spirits market, standing out requires more than just a quality product. Crafting a compelling brand identity and telling a captivating story are essential for connecting with consumers on a deeper level. Your brand identity should reflect not only the quality and craftsmanship of your spirits, but also the values and ethos behind your company. Whether it's through clever packaging design, engaging social media content or immersive brand experiences, effective storytelling creates a connection that resonates with consumers long after they've finished their drink. 

Building an On-Premises Brand Experience 

“The bit that often gets left behind is brand. Creating something that is memorable in a bar or a :30 interaction is the most important thing you can do.” – Dan Gasper, CEO & Founder, The Ardent Company 

While off-premises sales remain important, building a strong on-premises presence can be equally if not more crucial for brand success. From trendy cocktail bars to upscale restaurants, the on-premises channel offers a unique opportunity to showcase your brand in its best light. Collaborating with bartenders to create signature cocktails, hosting exclusive tasting events or sponsoring industry gatherings are just a few ways to elevate your brand and create memorable consumer experiences. By cultivating relationships with key stakeholders in the on-premises space, you can ensure your brand remains top of mind when consumers are looking for their next night out. 

Standing Out from the Competition 

“There are 12,000 different brands in the space. It’s increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation.” – Robert Furniss-Roe, CEO & Co-Founder, Samson & Surrey 

With thousands of spirits brands vying for consumer attention every day, differentiation is key to success. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, focus on carving out a niche that sets your brand apart. Whether it's through unique flavor profiles, sustainable sourcing practices or innovative production techniques, finding your point of differentiation can help you stand out in a crowded market. Emphasize what makes your brand special and communicate it clearly to consumers through branding, packaging and marketing efforts. By homing in on what makes you unique, you can attract a loyal following of consumers who share your values and preferences. 

Embracing Constant Innovation and Consumer Feedback 

“Spend as much time with your customer as possible. That little bit of time will tell you so much.” – Dan Gasper, CEO & Founder, The Ardent Company 

In today's fast-paced digital world, the only constant is change. To stay ahead of the curve, brands must always embrace constant innovation and experimentation in their marketing efforts. This means staying abreast of emerging trends, leveraging consumer feedback and data analytics to inform decision-making, and being willing to adapt and evolve as the market evolves. Whether it's launching limited-edition product variations, partnering with influencers or experimenting with new digital marketing channels, staying agile and responsive to consumer preferences is essential for long-term success in the spirits industry. 

While the industry may be facing unprecedented challenges and changes, there are still plenty of opportunities for spirits brands to thrive. By focusing on building a compelling brand identity, fostering on-premises brand experiences, carving out a unique position in the market, and embracing innovation and consumer feedback, brands can generate value and growth even in the most competitive of landscapes. Cheers to a bright future for the spirits industry! 

The spirits industry is evolving. Let's transform initiative into impact.