How this alcohol-free spirits brand rode the health and wellness wave

Lyre's talks through the digital marketing strategy that saw the brand gain customers during the COVID-19 crisis

When Carl Hartmann and Mark Livings set out to build Lyre’s Spirit Co, they were looking to create a product and brand that would provide a palatable and socially acceptable alternative to alcoholic spirit-based beverages.

Little did they know, the COVID-19 crisis was about to deliver a hoard of potential customers looking for a healthier lifestyle while in lockdown.

“There were two groups of people emerging through lockdown,” Hartmann tells CMO. “Group A tended to day-drink from 8.00am and may or not be currently employed, and group B, who said this was a health crisis, so they would ramp up their exercise and be mindful of their alcohol consumption and get quarantine fit.”

This second group provided an enormous surge of people come into the non-alcoholic spirits category.

“There are many reasons, and the category itself has seen compound growth,” Hartmann says. “We started to have some fun with that and made sure a lot of our social content and email marketing was aligned to common trends.”

That included ramping up production of recipes and instructional videos, as well as a recent initiative where anyone who buys the product gets a 15-minute Zoom masterclass with a Lyre’s brand ambassador.

“We are teaching people who have never made a cocktail before how to make a cocktail, and that is becoming enormously popular,” Hartmann says.

The company launched in late 2019 using a traditional FMCG approach of signing distribution partners around the world. But from the outset, Hartmann says he had conceived Lyre’s as an ecommerce brand. Hence it was not difficult to realign the company’s marketing to digital channels once restaurants and bars began closing.

“The first reaction was fear,” Hartmann continues. “But we pivoted extremely quickly, and we just cut all our offline marketing and just put it all into Internet, and fast-tracked the launches of our US and UK sites. And we have been going full throttle to launch our European site by the end of this month, then we have south east Asia and China sequenced after that.”

One early realisation was that although the non-alcoholic spirits category had a number of well-funded players, search data revealed customers were more likely to be searching for drink recipes rather than brands.

“We set out to ‘win’ the Internet,” Hartmann says. “With the Lyre’s range we can make the vast majority of the major cocktail SKUs. So we just wanted to be the product they discovered first.”

A key part of that digital strategy revolves around dotdigital’s omnichannel marketing suite. Lyre’s global vice-president for ecommerce, Ashleigh Murray, says Lyre’s is making use of dotdigital’s email, automation and form builder tools, and the suite was initially employed even before the company launched to recruit early customers via an online quiz.

“We started to collect an audience prior to launch utilising dotdigital so we had an audience to speak to when we did launch,” Murray says.

Murray says dotdigital has also enabled the easy automation of campaigns, including a current one based around Dry July, which sees an automated sequence of content pushed out to participants.

“It’s such an easy to use platform that the staff are able to pick it up quick once I give them access to the backend,” Murray says. “Having programs that are fully automated like that has been integral for us.”

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