Daily Insights

Defend or Be Defeated

By: Brett Finkelstein | Aug 21, 2019

Threats loom ahead for spirits brands, especially for those that fail to play defense on brand terms.

Gin, vodka and whiskey brands face the greatest competition and are the most susceptible to having competitors bid on their brand owned terms. 5% of the text ads on branded gin terms—and 4% of ads for both vodka and whiskey branded terms—are competitor brand ads. Some brands even go outside of their own product category to target out-of-category drinkers and expand market share. Two Gifted brands look outside their own categories for reach, with Absolut bidding on gin terms and Malibu Rum bidding on vodka terms according to Gartner L2’s report on the topic. Absolut bids on ten other trackedbrands’ owned terms, across product categories. Brands must understand that the window of opportunity is closing as leaders fill the existing white space in search by seizing opportunities like this to gain market share. Stepping up defense of brand owned terms is imperative, but brands should also consider ways to play offense in a dog-eat-dog world.

A lack of paid competition has opened up the landscape for brands to take over competitors’ terms with relative ease. This option may be especially appealing for small brands looking to capture and convert users on market leaders’ terms. For instance, Larceny Bourbon’s paid search strategy prioritizes bidding on other brand terms over its own. The strategy pays off, with two-thirds of the brand’s incoming site traffic coming from Maker’s Mark’s branded terms, compared to the narrow 3% of traffic coming from its own branded terms.

Brands need to wake up to the state of search in the spirits industry. Competition is heating up, and it’s set to follow the trajectory of other digitally adept sectors like fashion and beer, where conquesting is commonplace. Spirits brands can look toward these other sectors to peek into the future and understand the rising importance of brand defense on search