Strategy: The Do’s and Don'ts of Alcohol Brands on Social


TL;DR: The way alcohol brands should behave on social isn’t too different from the traditional media before it; but the nuances of digital laws and digital platforms make it important to emphasize responsible fun in your next social strategy.

Alcohol brands have always walked thin lines when it comes to advertising their products. On social media, where anyone in the world can see any brand creation at the touch of a button, it’s important to not only create great content, but also content that promotes responsible behaviors and steers away from underaged audiences. The following do’s and don’ts will help you brew up a win.

Do: Clearly Advocate Responsibility

Alcohol brands’ content revolving around aggressive binge drinking is not the move. All ages can find their way to an alcohol brand’s content, so it’s best to promote safe habits. A brand that does this well is Corona. Their images feature playful beach fun with subjects that can legally drink, which targets the appropriate audience. To further emphasize that, all of their images are watermarked with “For Legal Drinking Age” in an obvious yet non-intrusive manner.

Corona on Twitter

We all shine in the right light. #ThisIsLiving 📷: @morganmaassen

A brand that took a misstep was Bud Light. Although its intentions were light hearted, Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever sent out all of the wrong messages. In 2015, Bud Light labeled bottles, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever,” which tone deaf message did not sit well with the majority of the internet, spreading like wildfire on trending pages and prompting the use of counter messages such as #UpForConsent. Alcohol brands have a responsibility to make sure their product is being used responsibly; sending messages intentionally or not have the same negative sentiment.

Michael Hainsworth on Twitter

Hey, @BudLight: Who's the tone-deaf marketing whiz who came up with this? #upforwhatever #includingunemployment

Do: Follow the Law

Luckily, there aren’t too many cases of brands breaking the law on social. The Official TTB has a vast array of requirements. This isn’t most brands first time around the block, as many of the requirements are just translated down from traditional media laws. Social does have the unique ability to make sure content is directed at the right eyes, however. All brands have the ability to “age gate” their social accounts, similar to web pages. Each platform has a different way of doing it, but primarily only unlocking page for someone whose account shares that they’re of legal drinking age. It’s important to note that Instagram makes it optional to have an age gate, but best practices insist on going that extra mile.

Another step brands take is to clearly state in their bio that their content is made for 21+, with no sugarcoating involved. It’s simple and discourages underaged users from viewing your brand.

Don’t: Be Passive with User-Generated Content

It’s difficult to report all misbehaviors with your product, but when you have someone as major and influential as DJ Khaled promoting your drinks, you’ll need to have a watchful eye. Earlier this year, DJ Khaled was under fire from groups such as and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, for promoting alcohol brands on all of his platforms while knowing a huge portion of his audience is made up of underage users. To make matters worse, Khaled didn’t disclose the brands that tapped him in any of his posts.

Although not every celebrity will post 100+ Snaps about your spirits, it’s important to be proactive with the influencers you are working with and making sure they’re following the guidelines.

DJ Khaled


Do: Create Great Content

Now that you know all the rules, what are you going to post? The brands below have a found unique ways to make their social presence stand out.

Smirnoff: With a rainbow of flavors, it’s only fitting that Smirnoff’s socials pop wild with color. Smirnoff’s feeds will consistently hit you with bold hues and creative photography. Combined with providing drink recipes in their captions, followers are given a reason to come back.

Heineken US: In 2017, Heineken implemented an influencer strategy through a storytelling campaign. Celebrity influencers, including the likes of rapper Bun B and entrepreneur David Grutman, were featured throughout the year in a three-post series that documented their rise to success and showcased the town that got them there, over a refreshing Heineken beer, of course.

10 Barrel Brewing Co.: Bend, Oregon’s very own shines in the Instagram Stories department. Although outdoor photography is one of their huge strengths, its use of Stories to interact with followers give us a look at the people behind the brand. The brand consistently engages with its audience by highlighting events through takeovers and using the Q&A feature.

Johnnie Walker: Using Twitter’s Trending Topics is a great way for a brand to become part of the conversation, but Johnnie Walker finds success from having high quality content to pair with these popular hashtags. #Oscars, #WorldWhiskyDay, and #InternationalWomensDay are excellent examples of Johnnie Walker going the extra mile for limited time content.

Learn more about what some of your favorite food + bev brands are doing and read our blog of the best food brands on social.

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