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Dry January marketing tactics

  • 8 min read

At the end of 2020 it was estimated that 23% of U.S. adults who drink were planning to participate in Dry January – a movement to reduce or eliminate alcohol intake for the month. This marks a noticeable increase from last January, when only 16% were expected to participate (Ballard, 2021). How have you chosen to address this growing trend in drinking behavior? Many craft beverage brands simply go dark during January, opting not to engage the topic for fear of backlash. In these last two weeks, we want to help you embrace the “month of moderation,” telling a relevant, engaging story in support of current and new customers.

Market Your Craft barrel logo for mobile discoverability emailHow does messaging during Dry January make your craft beverage brand more discoverable?

In short, brands that show genuine care about topics and causes important to their customers win. Take Dry January: if you can provide low- or zero-alcohol solutions, you immediately rise to the top of the competitive set. But there are other ways craft beverage brands can authentically participate in conversations around moderation. We’ll show you how.

origin of dry january

Alcohol Change UK Logo for Dry January post“Dry January” began as a campaign to raise money for alcohol abuse and treatment, challenging UK residents to take a break from booze following the 2012 holidays. Its originator, Alcohol Change UK, believes every person “deserves to live a full life free from alcohol harm.” Different from anti-alcohol, they work for alcohol change through improved knowledge, better policies and regulation, shifted cultural norms, improved drinking behaviors and greater support and treatment (Alcohol Change UK, 2020).

The movement has grown significantly since it started, with hundreds of thousands officially registered on the Alcohol Change UK website or through their Try Dry app, as well as millions more participating unofficially. Their efforts have spawned other organizations and similar campaigns worldwide, prompting conversations around when and why individuals drink.

who participates

It’s common to think that only people looking to detox pledge to make January dry. After all, holiday celebrations and family gatherings at the end of a [normal] year can lead to over-indulgence. But studies by Morning Consult, YouGov and Attest Surveys point to a much broader base of participants:

  • Woman refusing alcohol for Dry January postSober curious: people who are more conscious about the decision to drink alcohol. This group may not have to drink, but they often do and wish they didn’t.
  • Health conscious: individuals in-tune with their body’s performance, making choices to promote better habits, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve sleep.
  • Trying to drink less overall: conscious of the negative effects of alcohol, including drunkenness, lost productivity and expense.
  • In need of a reset: those who have reached a [self] imposed limit and want to clear their systems in order to start fresh.
  • Participating as a group: perhaps to give or receive support, these drinkers abstain for the feeling of being part of a bigger community.
  • Drinking too much during COVID-19: a study published in September, 2020, by the American Medical Association shows a 14% increase in consumption for men and a 41% increase for women during the early stages of the pandemic, compared to a 2019 baseline.

Many craft beverage drinkers have considered one or more of the above reasons for reducing or eliminating their intake. So, if your craft beverage brand was to focus messaging solely around a detox theme, the effort could be completely lost on a portion of the available audience. The takeaway: it’s critical to understand what your customers want from Dry January before positioning your brand as relevant to their needs.

10 messaging ideas

Mountain hiker photo for Dry January postAs a craft beverage marketer, your goal should always be to engage your customers’ hearts and minds in a meaningful way. This is especially true for conversations around sensitive topics. Think about Dry January much like you would a customer service inquiry: a thoughtful, empathetic response shows you care about a topic important to the sender.

First, let’s ground ourselves in the do’s and don’ts of communicating Dry January:

  • Acknowledge the New Year/January being a time for fresh starts
  • Use your own voice, not something formal, science-y or academic
  • Talk about a balanced lifestyle and entertainment options, hobbies
  • Continue normal engagement with customers, keeping an open mind about Dry January topics
  • Make it obvious what steps you’re taking to ensure a safe, socially-distanced environment for guests during January
  • Don’t joke about Dry January, sobriety, making New Year’s resolutions or quitting
  • Don’t over-communicate COVID-19 and its impact on your business
  • Take public conversations around choosing not to drink private, when possible
  • Don’t use “we support you” language
    Don’t adopt a position that hasn’t been previously discussed – you’ll appear fake or disingenuous
  • Don’t make any health claims unless your craft beverage is non-alcoholic

Now for 10 messaging ideas to help you and your team remain relevant during Dry January:

  1. Highlight low-calorie and -carb options: now is absolutely the right time to promote these better-for-you alternatives. Consider messaging around fresh starts; healthy and active lifestyles; and New Year’s resolutions. If mocktails, kombucha or other non-alcoholic drinks are served, be clear about the source (if not produced in-house) and window of availability.
  2. Create a lifestyle event: promote a [socially-distanced] activity at your tasting room that includes sampler-size drinks, like Paint and Sip Nights or special pricing on taster flights during an acoustic set from a local band. Need more ideas? Check out our industry events calendar for January.
  3. Move merchandise: showcase your branded hats, glassware, shirts and other items under the theme of “treating yourself right,” or similar. This is especially relevant for cycling jerseys, hiking and other athletic wear.
  4. Show customer photos: making New Year’s resolutions and healthier choices doesn’t mean you can’t socialize! Highlight customers enjoying themselves inside your tasting room (with permission), or host a photo contest to show your craft beverage in the real world.
  5. Celebrate local partners: show the local restaurants, food trucks, artists and other partners some love, highlighting the many entertainment options in or around your area.
  6. Meet the production team up-close: celebrate the people behind your craft beverage, with lighthearted bios, statements about the year ahead and what inspires their work.
  7. Get active: part of the reason Dry January has gained so much momentum is that most adults like to start the year with a feeling of accomplishment. Consider sponsoring a socially-distanced walk or ride that finishes at the tasting room. If exercise and athletics are important parts of your brand story, double-down on those messages during the month.
  8. Stay hydrated: when do you ever see craft producers promote drinking anything but their craft beverage? It’s recommended that men consume about 16 cups and women 12 cups of fluid each day (which includes water from all foods and beverages). Take the opportunity to show how staying hydrated accompanies drinking in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle.
  9. Be mindful: host a series of in-person or virtual classes to help manage stress levels, like yoga or meditation.
  10. Support the community: if the above ideas seem like a stretch for you, consider posts in support of the local community or a responsible drinking message rather than going dark during January.

It’s important to remember that Dry January is a type of New Year’s resolution – one that may be difficult for craft beverage drinkers to keep. Just six days into the new year, it was estimated that 25% of the participants in the UK had already given up on their pledge not to drink. Use your gut as a filter for your messaging during January. Ask yourself, “Would I appreciate that note/photo/video if I was trying to reduce or eliminate my drinking during January?” And if the answer is yes, chances are good your customers will value your effort.

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