The Buyer
Dan Hooper: how you market a brand no one has heard of

Dan Hooper: how you market a brand no one has heard of

How do you market something that no one has heard of? Good question and one that Dan Hooper, co-founder of the YesMore drinks marketing agency looks to answer as he sets out the steps any new brand needs to take if you are looking to not only launch a new product, but start a new category as well. Be it Seedlip, Jagermeister or Aperol Spritz, the drinks sector is full of brands that have created very successful niches of their own through great products, but arguably even better marketing and promotion.

Dan Hooper
21st May 2021by Dan Hooper
posted in Opinion,

There is much to learn from brands that have created a category for themselves and the products that follow, explains Dan Hooper of the YesMore agency.

How do you market something that no one has heard of? It might seem like a ridiculous question, but it’s one that’s very pertinent to the drinks industry right now.

The Portman Group has released research showing that just 7% of the UK has heard of the term ‘hard seltzer’. Meanwhile aperitifs, vermouths and bitters are launching and relaunching faster than ever. And then there are all the new non alcoholic drinks that can’t quite be called gin, vodka, beer – and their hybrid offspring.

And we haven’t even got onto CBD and the very catchy ‘adaptogenic’ drinks that are edging into the market (magic mushroom drink anyone?). Oh and of course: natural wine, orange wine, pet nat, hard seltzer smoothies…I’ll save that one for another time.

The YesMore agency has worked with Aperol Spritz on a number of campaigns to help promote it to its target consumers

YesMore has worked with Aperol Spritz for quite some time now – a brand that no one had really heard of just a few years ago – and one generally drunk in a very specific way. And now it’s everywhere.

The promise of these drinks is that despite low levels of awareness, their potential growth rates are huge. Hard seltzer is the clearest example of this. Its current market value is around £10.4m. It’s expected to grow sevenfold in the next two years – to £75m by 2023.

With so much innovation going on, consumers have got a lot to wrap their brains around. So; just how do you market something no one has heard of?

Brand positioning

Before educating people on what your product is, before they see their friends drinking it and before they taste it – you need to create something that is going to resonate with the right people. This comes down to having a strong product first and foremost, but branding – design, positioning and messaging will stand behind everything else you do, and reinforce who you are and what you’re about.

Different branding will obviously resonate with different markets. Think about how you can create branding to explain how the product is used, and most importantly for what occasions.


AllBirds is seen as one of the most successful digitally native brand as it launched with one message and one message only: it’s the lowest carbon footprint shoe you can buy.

Once your product looks great and you have a solid brand and positioning, it’s time to tell people what you’re about. Aperol Spritz does this by communicating just one clear serve. I’m not saying this is the only way to educate – Angostura Bitters is the exact opposite for example (a brand commonly known as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails). But keeping it simple with a new brand cuts down on those consumers who might be tempted to throw the whole thing in and just order a glass of prosecco.

When clarity over its serve is communicated across the brand’s entire marketing (the spritz serve, for example, is even on the bottle), it’s something that’s is ubiquitous. Frankly, it is the brand.

Social proof and trial

Jagermeister is a great example of a brand that came from nowhere to everywhere by creating great word of mouth through sampling and in bar sampling that became an event in themselves

AKA – where the brand and education come to life. ‘Social’ in this sense doesn’t necessarily mean social media – though that will probably come into it. It’s about all the ways in which you will show your brand and how it is consumed.

So: advertising, social media, events, influencer marketing, trade shows, partnerships with venues, bartender outreach, posters, in-store/venue activations and more. All of which get the messages out there, and get people drinking your product (and telling others about it). The better the branding, the clearer the educational element, the more cut through you’ll get.

This, for me, is where push comes to shove. Yes there might be a hard core base of fans in either Brooklyn or East London who love how face twistingly dry your new amaro is, but it needs to convince a wider demographic to ensure growth doesn’t stall.

Distribution and well trained and informed staff

Seedlip has become the pin up brand of the classic start up that no one even knew they needed which is now the go to non alcohol spirit brand in the UK

Of course, getting into the right venues is vital for any brand. But where you’re starting from a place of low awareness, it’s even more vital.

Only with great distribution will a product truly take off. No one will be asking for your product by name and leaving if it’s not sold there – at least, not in the beginning. New brands that have all of the above in place, plus listings in major venues and supermarkets ahead of their competitors will be the ones that pull ahead first in this race.

But be aware, your brand at this stage is really now in the hands of the bartender and the on-shelf and in-store positioning. Inquisitive drinkers will be on the lookout for something new – but others may need more persuading. Well informed and well trained bar staff, and where you can, retail staff too, are vital. These people are hugely powerful as advocates of your brand. Consider how you can train them in a different way to all the other new serves that are popping up.

Ultimately bringing new people to an entirely new drink is a tough trick to pull off. Having consumers not only trial your drink, but actually ditch their usual and become repeat customers is no mean feat. But pull it off and you’ll have free rein of your market – competitor free, at least for a small amount of time. But that head start could be the difference between leading the market and trailing the rest.