Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last couple of years you are most likely to have come across (and probably enjoyed) an Aperol Spritz, something that was relatively unknown until 2013 when it quickly became the drink du jour and the tipple of the summer. Anyone who was anyone was ordering them, but this was a relatively new phenomenon – even the bar staff in Soho House were unlikely to have known what it was only the year before.
So how did a relatively unknown brand become the must have of liquor cabinets across the UK? Aperol has actually been around for decades, originally created in 1919 as an Italian aperitif in Padua Northern Italy. Popularity across Italy only really took off after WW2 when the ‘spritz’ was introduced and Aperol released its first advertising campaign based on the back of the cocktail. Popularity was slow and steady across Italy in the following years with Aperol Spritz being an aperitif staple across Northern Italy, and then the spirit was acquired by Gruppo Campari in the early noughties which saw a spike in advertising and marketing to increase popularity not only in Italy but other parts of Europe, mainly Germany. 2012 however saw sales in Aperol and consequently shares in its owner plummet after a pricing dispute with one of the biggest German retailers meant they removed it from shelves, and Italy’s economic slump really affected sales.
It was this that really put the pressure on Gruppo Campari to try and win back customers and push it out to new territories such as Spain and Britain. This is where a heavy on-trade marketing strategy came into play to introduce the cocktail to a new market.
Where Gruppo Campari has had an advantage is being able to push Aperol into bars that already stock its stronger cousin, Campari. And with the introduction of a new creative idea showing how easy the Aperol Spritz is to make, they started pushing this delicious new slice of Venetian life into our drinking holes and homes. The ‘3,2,1 Play’ campaign not only demonstrates the right way to make the cocktail, but shows how easy and fun this drink is to enjoy. And with a relatively light alcohol content at 11% it’s an easy drinker and one that can be consumed in larger quantities – or it just means you can start earlier and last longer during the extended summer days.
This is a clever educational marketing ploy as it crosses over from on trade staff who may not have been aware of how to make the drink, to the end consumer who can easily make it at home, and these ads were plastered on billboards across the country. It’s even more interesting as the more traditional mixologist in Venice will inform you that they actually make it with 4 parts Aperol and with an olive. But that wouldn’t have been such a great campaign or as easy to get bar staff on board…
What’s really interesting about Aperol’s domination as the summer drink is that it is only popular as a one solution drink – The Spritz. In Venice it’s such a staple that you can just ask for ‘A Spritz’ and bar staff know you want an Aperol Spritz. However Aperol in its original form seems relatively redundant without the prosecco and soda. I’m surprised not to see bundle deals in supermarkets as surely no one would buy the spirit on its own? So is this a possible solution for other spirit brands for the future? To create and brand a cocktail as well as Aperol has is surely a great angle for brand awareness and ensuring that you have the go to spirit of choice for that drink. If a specific vodka brand had fully aligned with Red Bull before vodka-Red Bull became stratospherically popular then they would now be part of the Red Bull ‘perfect pour’ and included within Red Bull’s on-trade marketing campaigns across the world.
But what this does show is that investing a large amount of cash into trade marketing does actually pay off, and the importance of education throughout the channel. Yes the bars needed to actually stock Aperol in the first place, but if bar staff hadn’t been aware of how to make The Spritz then this would have all fallen down anyway. The importance of getting trade marketing and communication right is more relevant than ever for brands who really want to turn their fortunes around, and that’s where Gruppo Campari have excelled in creating a campaign that crosses over from consumer to trade seamlessly which isn’t always as easy as it seems. Coming up with the top line creative idea is the easy bit, how you translate it across the channels is what will make or break your business objectives and is why brands should ensure that they have an agency partner with the right channel experience and know-how to cut through restrictions and competitors. Only then will they have the ability to create the next go-to tipple and increase their fortunes.