Happy New Year… Here Come Another 17,000 Competitors

When my kids were younger, we used to play a search game called “Where’s Waldo?”. Waldo was this silly-looking guy with blue pants, a striped red and white shirt and a matching beret. He would be placed on a crowded page with many other characters and we would spend time searching for him. Think word search but with faces.

For spending time with your kids, it was a fun game. As a distillery, the last thing you want is for potential customers to have to spend time searching for your product. As of this writing, there are 2,235 distilleries in the US and the growth rate has been 8.6% per annum since 2018. (https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/distilleries-united-states/).

There are 17,000+ new SKUs hitting the shelves every year; so, unless your brand stands out with more moxie than a guy with blue pants, a striped shirt and matching beret, it’s going to be hard to find you.

So, what are you doing to ensure that your distillery gets drunk? What is the brand of your distillery? Different shaped 750mls? It’s a start but everyone is doing it, so once again you no longer stand out. Nice fancy label with custom colors? See the previous comment. Showing off your awards? Award ribbons have become ubiquitous in today’s culture. My kids used to get ribbons and trophies just for participating! Show up and we’ll give you an award. That doesn’t work in business.

Awards are more about recognition within your industry. The problem with all of these ideas is that they are merely product enhancements and acknowledgments and do not address the core issues behind creating a brand.

Is your brand so special, so ensconced in your target audience’s being, that they would willingly get a tattoo of your logo on their body? That probably sounds crazy, but Liquid Death is such a brand.

Liquid Death sells water, in a 500ml “tallboy” can. Woah! Water, now that’s a new concept! But wait, in a can?! That’s crazy! No, it’s not and it’s also not why, in 2021, they were valued at over half a billion dollars with product revenue of around forty-five million. That’s right, the value of the company is at a multiple of ten plus and—as of this blog—the company is barely five years old!

You’ve got to ask yourself “Why?”. Because its founder, Mike Cessario, knew how to create a culture of fans, who connected with a brand and correlating lifestyle so authentically that they were willing to get a tattoo of the Liquid Death logo on their bodies! 

On February 12, 2021 a Twitter post read “The first water brand in human history to reach Hand Tattoo Status”. And when you create such a committed group of consumers, the value of your company is exponential to the revenue of your product.

The distillery industry is showing signs of strong growth in the next five years. According to Mordor Intelligence, “The Craft Spirits Market is projected to register a CAGR of 23.11% over the next five years”. (https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/craft-spirits-market).

While this is very promising for the industry, it should also be concerning to any distillery that has not appropriately differentiated itself. The market share of those distilleries will be diluted and no one likes a diluted distillery product!

Is it easy to create such a large “Liquid Death” valuation Nope. Does it take a fearless commitment to stand out in a crowded marketplace? Yep. Do most distilleries have the courage to do so? Probably not, but the real question is, “Does yours?”

Nick Ambrosino

Chief Integration Officer

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