June 28, 2019
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For spirit brand owners looking to improve the competitive position of their products in the marketplace, winning “Spirit of the Year” at the USA Spirits Ratings can provide a number of significant benefits. Winning this prestigious award is a way to increase overall brand recognition, showcase the commercial viability of a product and boost top-line revenue. In short, winning “Spirit of the Year” at the USA Spirits Ratings can help to drive the business success of a product over both the short-term and long-term future.
The most obvious advantage of being named “Spirit of the Year” at the USA Spirits Ratings competition is being able to improve the brand recognition and consumer perception of your product. This can be especially important for smaller brand owners, who may be having difficulty getting wide-scale industry exposure.
Since the USA Spirits Ratings competition is truly an international event, featuring spirits from around the world, being able to highlight this award in promotional materials and as part of new marketing initiatives can pay big dividends. For example, consider the opportunities to market this award on your main website, which is one of the first places that consumers go to learn more about your products. The “Spirit of the Year” award is a prestigious distinction and something that you can use to boost your overall brand perception. What spirits drinker, for example, would not want to learn more about an award-winning spirit that has just been named “Spirit of the Year”?
And, even more importantly, you can enhance the appearance of every bottle sold in a retail location by adding information about the award directly on your label. Thus, at the point of sale when the consumer is considering several different purchase options, you will have the ability to influence the consumer. Sophisticated spirits drinkers will recognize that “Spirit of the Year” from the USA Spirits Ratings is an important distinction and one that should be used as part of the overall purchase decision.
Another important benefit of winning “Spirit of the Year” at the USA Spirits Ratings is being able to showcase the commercial viability of your product. In short, winning “Spirit of the Year” is a year to demonstrate to distributors, wholesalers and retailers that your product is worthy of being carried as part of their overall portfolio or inventory. Unlike other high-quality products that might languish on retail shelves for months at a time, the “Spirit of the Year” is a proven winner that generates immediate sales.
That’s because the USA Spirits Ratings competition uses three different judging criteria – Quality, Value and Packaging – to determine which spirit should be named “Spirit of the Year.” Quality, of course, refers to taste and the overall flavour and aroma profile of the spirit. This is the traditional benchmark used to evaluate spirits and the one judging criterion that counts for the greatest value in the overall score.
However, the USA Spirits Ratings competition uses two more criteria – Value and Packaging – that help to distinguish which spirits should win a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal in the competition. Value is directly correlated with the commercial viability of a product. The reason is clear: if consumers perceive that your product offers them significant value, they will be more inclined to purchase that product in a retail store or to order it from a restaurant menu. And, it is important to point out here that Value does not just mean that a particular product should be priced at the lowest level possible. Instead, Value is a much more subjective factor. For example, distillers who only use superior, locally sourced ingredients could provide value by pricing their products much closer to those that do not use these higher-cost ingredients. If given a choice, the typical consumer might choose a $30 bottle over a $25 bottle, provided that they are well aware of the extra value being provided by the distiller.
And then there is the criterion of Packaging, which is also directly correlated to the commercial viability of a product. At the USA Spirits Ratings competition, the highest scores for Packaging go to those products that are able to come up with unique, creative or innovative packaging and design that helps to tell a cohesive brand story. In today’s marketplace, consumers view spirits as branded goods, just like any other item you might find in a supermarket or other retail channel. Thus, they are very much looking for brands that resonate with them, or with their overall customer demographic. Spirit brands that are able to do this effectively are also those that will perform better from a sales and revenue perspective.
And that brings us to the third and most important reason to win “Spirit of the Year”- this award offers a unique opportunity to increase revenue and boost sales. As noted above, winning this prestigious award is a great way to boost overall brand perception and to demonstrate commercial viability to members of the spirits trade. And the combination of those two factors is what can lead to increased revenue and sales.
For example, if consumers regularly walk into a retail store and inquire about a particular product, beverage managers for that store will have a real incentive to ask their distributors for their product. And, similarly, if distributors know that a certain product is likely to do well with consumers, they will be much more likely to add that product to their overall portfolio. Best of all, these effects can often amplify each other, leading to industry buzz and excitement. This is the power of word-of-mouth promotion when both buyers and sellers are talking about a product.
At the 2018 USA Spirits Ratings, the overall winner and “Spirit of the Year” was Coppercraft Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This product received a total of 95 points in the competition, as a result of top marks for Quality, Value and Packaging.
And this is exactly the type of product that USA Spirits Ratings is looking to recognize next year – a high-quality product that comes with a unique value proposition for consumers and that also attracts a unique consumer demographic group. In this case, it was a premium bourbon whiskey that resonates well with young millennial consumers looking for a high-quality spirit from an artisanal, craft distillery.
So what product will be named “Spirit of the Year” in 2019? If 2018 is any indication, there will be a crowded field of aspirants, all of them hoping to impress judges with their unique mix of Quality, Value and Packaging.