Why a four-year-old whiskey brand is finally adding digital marketing to the mix

Duke and Dame, a regional whiskey brand based in Florida, has spent the last year beefing up its digital marketing efforts, testing social video ads, influencer marketing and digital audio, to get in front of more shoppers.

DUKE AND DAME LANDS ON A HYBRID APPROACH

  • Began experimenting with digital marketing channels during the pandemic
  • Testing social video, influencers and digital audio to reach more shoppers
  • Making its way back to in-person and experiential marketing roots
  • Goal: To bridge the gap between online and offline marketing channels

“When the pandemic hit, we really had to pivot our marketing approach for that environment,” said Amani Macaulay, Duke and Dame co-founder. “It really forced us to learn the digital space a little better.”

The four-year-old brand started experimenting with digital marketing channels during the pandemic which made its established in-person and experiential marketing strategies impossible. Even as many have returned to in-person activities, Macaulay said the spirits brand will continue to invest in a digital strategy, bridging the gap between online and offline.

“While the in-store, point of purchase stuff can introduce a customer walking into that one location to the product, you have the opportunity to reach so many more people when you leverage digital marketing,” he said.

This year, Duke and Dame is set to spend at least 40% of its budget on paid digital marketing, up from last year’s allocated 20%, he said, without providing exact figures. Duke and Dame spent more than $17,000 on marketing this year, according to Kantar though those figures don’t include social media spend as Kantar does not track those figures. It’s also unclear what Duke and Dame spent on marketing in the past as those figures were not available via Kantar and Macaulay declined to outline details.

As the regional brand grows and looks to get in front of a national audience, digital marketing efforts will take up an even bigger share of budget, per Macaulay, though he declined to elaborate. However as the ongoing pandemic has loosened stay-in-place restrictions, the brand has dabbled in in-person events, including participating at a whiskey festival in Detroit earlier this year.

So far, Duke and Dame have created display ads and ads in digital audio, digital out-of-home and social media across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. The spirits brand also hired influencers like Garvey Alexander, who has more than 3,600 Instagram followers, to promote its product as well as area DJs.

Now, more than ever, brands are using a digital marketing strategy as the most flexible and efficient way to get in front of shoppers, especially as a potential recession looms, according to industry experts.

Consumers are more digitally-connected every day, and as marketers, if we don’t match this behavior, we’ll be left behind.
Stephanie Ehui, group connections director, TBWA\Chiat\Day LA

“Consumers are more digitally-connected every day, and as marketers, if we don’t match this behavior, we’ll be left behind,” Stephanie Ehui, group connections director at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, told Digiday in an email.

Even as the digital marketing landscape continues to become increasingly expensive and crowded with advertisers, Ehui said there’s still space for smaller brands in emerging channels like new social platforms, digital audio, streaming and connected homes.

“By using digital marketing, brands can be more selective with each marketing dollar,” Ehui said via email. “Instead of buying media for the masses, you can use data to get more targeted.”

As a small, regional business with a limited ad budget, Duke and Dame’s co-founder said the brand will focus on in-person and online marketing, making the most of every dollar. 

“We’re still learning about what’s working in terms of the digital [strategy],” Macaulay said. “From an awareness perspective, that’s something that builds over time.”

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