Is Snapchat the Next Buzzy Platform for Alcohol Brands?

Alcohol brands, including Jim Beam, have dipped their toes into Snapchat, but should they really flock to the ephemeral social media platform?

Snapchat has started to build serious buzz among brands over the past several months. Many different brands, from Gatorade to Starbucks to Taco Bell, have launched Snapchat campaigns. But despite its growing popularity, the platform may not be right for all brands. Alcohol brands, including Jim Beam, have dipped their toes into the platform. But should alcohol brands really flock to the ephemeral social media platform?

Of course, the platform isn’t right for every brand, and alcohol brands in particular face some tricky challenges on Snapchat. With more than 60 percent of Snapchat’s users under the age of 21, it’s not the most obvious choice. Still, the appeal of capturing the attention of legal-drinking-age millennials on the hot platform is very real for many marketers—especially beer and spirits brands, which have a natural affinity to the fun and playful nature of Snapchat.

Because the general audience on Snapchat does not meet Federal Trade Commission requirements for alcohol advertisers, only brands willing to spend big money on custom work-arounds can advertise on the platform. Jim Beam tested out Snapchat last year, introducing its new apple bourbon using the platform’s Live Stories. Jim Beam’s campaign was smart and savvy and used Snapchat effectively as a channel to reach millennials.

Historically, social media used by alcohol brands has been challenging to navigate, as marketing and advertising for the liquor industry is highly regulated. Some platforms, such as Pinterest and Tumblr, have banned liquor advertisers all together. Other channels are friendly to liquor and beer brands, including Facebook and YouTube, which both have excellent capabilities that allow legal-drinking-age audiences to be targeted on a country-by-country basis.

So should alcohol brands consider Snapchat? Here are three things to weigh as you make your decision:

Are you serving to the over-21 crowd?

First and foremost, brands needs to ensure that their ads won’t be seen by the under-21 crowd. In order for Snapchat to ensure that only people who are of the legal drinking age are being served with alcohol ads, people are required to enter their birthday when they download the application. In fact, this is one of the few pieces of information that users are required to provide, as Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has described data-driven ads as “creepy.” Still, like all platforms, Snapchat carries risk for alcohol brands because there is always the potential for people to lie about their age.

Testing the waters

Alcohol brands may want to initially test Snapchat as a one-off tactic first. An event-focused effort or as an additional social channel to support a larger program are both ways to test out Snapchat without going all-in. When done effectively, Snapchat is a less cluttered space for brands, so a well-done campaign has a real chance to shine on the platform.

One thing that might hold you back from testing the waters on Snapchat at this stage is the high price point. There are only a handful of advertising opportunities for brands, and all come at a premium, with entry prices of more than $60,000.

Additionally, fitting in with Snapchat’s ad style will likely also require more production resources, which can be tough to justify given the limited analytics available to marketers.

Here today, gone tomorrow cuts both ways

The ephemeral nature of Snapchat is one of its great appeals. That is a strength and weakness of the platform. A Snapchat campaign gone wrong has little reach beyond the platform, and even on the platform itself, the limited duration of snaps mean they don’t linger. On the flip side, great content also vanishes, leaving brands little to show for their efforts. This means marketers need to consider how the temporal nature of the channel fits into their overall strategy.

When evaluating the risk of using any social channel, the brand’s personality, target audience, budget and marketing objectives are all important factors to take into account. The audience behaviors on a channel and channel norms are also important to consider. Snapchat might be best for brands looking to reach the elusive millennial target–as long as they don’t mind high cost and a bit of experimentation.

MichaelAaron Flicker is the president of advertising and strategic marketing agency XenoPsi.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.