Ever wondered how beverage brands enter the German market successfully? It is always helpful to look into the expansion strategies of competing or similar companies as you can learn and gain inspiration for your own expansion strategy.
We took a look at the strategies of 3 beverage brands, Vitamin Well, Our/Vodka (Berlin) and Carpe Diem Kombucha (from Sweden and Austria), to see how their approaches differ and discovered 3 main common denominators that serve as indicators for a successful roll out in Germany.
Despite the very different go-to-market approaches on which we elaborate today, the three striking common denominators are:
1. Focus on experiences to raise brand awareness
All three brands are either hosting or sponsoring events. This might be a quite expensive and intricate way to promote your brand but it proves to be effective. Just make sure the events suit your brand and to be creative in designing the events. People want to experience something special and worthwhile, so creativity is key.
2. Berlin as a starting point
All three brands initiated marketing activities in Berlin. No wonder because in Berlin you have a high density of key opinion leaders. Once you are able to catch their attention you can be sure they will carry your message into their realm of influence. In this regard, it is important to understand their needs, expectations and desires and don’t assume it’s all about maintaining exclusivity and a good pay. Berlin is known to be “poor but sexy”, so instead, make sure you care enough about them to provide real value. This holds especially true if you enter from abroad because local culture really is a thing!
3. Be personal
Last but not least, we found it striking that all brands emphasize on creating a personal atmosphere. It’s the nature of events to get in touch with other people, have good conversations around common interests and learn about new trends. The happening automatically translates into a positive brand experience and that is the goal.
So let’s take a closer look at the 3 brands and how they approach expansion in Germany.
Vitamin Well is a Swedish company that sells beverages enriched with vitamins and minerals. They launched in 2008, after the founders realized they were missing a better alternative to existing products. Meanwhile, Vitamin Well has introduced a few more beverage lines and expanded into more than 30 countries worldwide.
Vitamin Well partnered up with a German premium distributor of beverages called Drinks & More. This is an easy and convenient way to get a new consumer brand into a new market. In this case, Drinks & More not only handles the distribution into on- and off trade channels but also helps to localize and execute marketing and sales strategies.
Drinks & More just about covers the basics but does that so effectively. In Germany, Vitamin Well has built social media awareness through Instagram and Facebook, showing us that these channels needed to be conducted in German language to be appealing. Branding-wise, they focus on conveying a cool and healthy lifestyle through photos of people exercising and being active outside.
Regarding offline marketing, Vitamin Well teams up with brand ambassadors of the sports scene to organize sponsored events. These events, for example “Glow Yoga” or “Vitamin Well Training at evo”, took place 2 or 3 times a months, all of them in Berlin.
Sponsored events are, by the way, a very popular means to get in touch with influencers. That is also the reason, why these events mostly take place in Berlin. Berlin is a melting pot of key opinion leaders across industries and they love to mingle on cool and hip events to catch up with the latest trends. Other successful brands such as Carpe Diem Kombucha or Our/Vodka (from Sweden too) have also founded event formats that suit their brand.
Carpe Diem Kombucha
Carpe Diem Kombucha once belonged to Red Bull until Red Bull sold its licence to German juice producer Rauch after the Kombucha business turned out to be highly unprofitable.
Despite being unprofitable in the beginning, the time after the take over of Rauch in 2014 provide some interesting insights due to different relaunch activities.
First of all, what is notable is Carpe Diem’s efforts to drive engagement through hosting own events and sponsoring activities. In 2016 they have toured through Berlin and Hamburg with a small oldtimer bus for promotion. Since the beginning of 2018 they are hosting an by-invitation-only Breakfast Club where influencers meet in hip locations and gather around different health-related mini-workshops. This format exists for one year now and more breakfast club events are planned. It seems the outcome is rated positively.
Apart from hosting and sponsoring events, Carpe Diem introduced glass bottles in 2017. While Carpe Diem is mainly bottled in plastic bottles and to be found in supermarkets as well as deli chains such as dean&david, they realized in Berlin you have to be careful.
End of 2018 we conducted a field study and visited more than 200 of the most hip and trendy café and delis (outlets) in Berlin. It revealed that more than two out of three outlets didn’t offer drinks bottled in plastic. Probably due to the increasing public awareness of plastic waste. This shows that if you want to appeal to the owners of hip places and people in Berlin, glass bottles are a must. And indeed, Carpe Diem’s breakfast club events only offer glass bottled Kombucha.
Our/Vodka’s story is unconventional. In 2011 six Swedish entrepreneurs started to develop a new premium vodka brand in Stockholm. The idea was to create a global brand with local roots and hand crafted production. With the support of Pernod Ricard, they then invented a new distillery.
In 2013 the founders went to Berlin to find local entrepreneurs who would lead the production facilities and set up a team for distribution and marketing. That was when they launched their first local brand “Our/Berlin”. Ever since they are expanding into more cities Our/Vodka, fulfilling their vision of a global brand.
Interestingly, the Berlin team started distribution activities in fashion stores instead of going directly into the HoReCa (Hotel-Restaurant-Café) channels. That was due to their professional background and network before they managed Our/Vodka. Today, they mainly supply bars and restaurants or lifestyle boutiques such as the Voo Store in Kreuzberg and the big department store KaDeWe in Schöneberg.
Adding to that, Our/Berlin also sponsors launch events (i.e. in fashion boutiques) where Berlin’s people gather to enjoy live DJ sets while browsing the new collection. There is even a rising phenomenon of “Frink Events” in Berlin – a “free drink event”, especially in summer.
Although Our/Vodka claims to not have a specific target group, they do take care of their image. They don’t strive to be mainstream brand and rather keep it small and personal. This is also being reflected in their distribution strategy. They distribute themselves (no distribution partner) and all their employees are somehow involved in sales. And instead of investing in advertisement, they rely on word of mouth and collaborations with clients.