Alcohol brands and Snapchat: is it right for brands?

Image as part of post on alcohol brands and Snapchat by social media agency Clarity Comms

Alcohol brands and Snapchat: is it right for brands?

It’s an exciting time for Snapchat and its parent company Snap. Last December the brand launched Spectacles, its first hardware. It opened its first non-US office in London in October and most recently, announced its impending IPO. Most importantly, new data showed that 77% of its UK audience is over 18, making it accessible to alcohol brands. Our post looks at whether alcohol brands and Snapchat is a marketing hit or miss.

Why the channel has been off limits

Snapchat’s popularity with younger consumers should have made it a natural fit for alcohol brands. However, the stumbling block has always been the high proportion of under 18s using the app. Why is this important? The Code of Advertising Practise places a range of rules on alcohol advertising. The stipulates that:

“Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age.”

CAP Code, Rule 18.15

In 2014 just over two years after launching 48% of the audience were aged 13 – 17. Clearly this made it off limits for alcohol brands. Despite this many food and fashion brands took advantage of Stories and the ability to advertise via the app.

By May 2016 over 75% of its US users were over 18. This was followed by confirmation in October 2016 that 77% of UK users were adults. So should alcohol brands be adding Snapchat to their social media marketing mix?

The potential risks with Snapchat

Alcohol brands need to tread carefully despite the good news about the audience. With 23% of the audience aged 13 – 17 it’s still very close to the threshold.

The big risk for some brands is that in using Snapchat they could be in breach of another rule:

“Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.”

CAP Code, Rule 18.14

There’s no way to know whether use of Snpachat per se, will fall foul of this rule. The code states that alcohol brands must follow the spirit as well as the letter of the code. On this basis, it could be that by choosing a channel with such as high percentage of U18s, means that the chances of an U18 seeing a piece of alcohol content increase.

Linked to this is the Portman Group’s code which stipulates that:

“Cartoon-style imagery, childish fonts, bright colouring, personalities that are particularly admired by under-18s, pictures of real or fictional people known to children or terminology popular with children should not be featured.”

Portman Group, Rule 3.2(h)

With video becoming a bigger part of Snapchat’s offering, brands also need to ensure that people used in videos (and static images) look over 25 (CAP Code, 18.16).

Alcohol brands should proceed with caution

There’s no doubt that the latest data on Snapchat’s UK audience is good news for drinks brands. It offers brands interesting new ways to reach and engage consumers. The launch too of Spectacles suggests new creative uses of video.

However, do the risks outweigh the rewards? For brands in categories like cider, RTDs, lager and mainstream spirits brands we think the answer is yes. For brands with products that appeal to more experienced tastebuds then there is potential if they can find a way to build an audience and an engaging content strategy. Brands that do feel it has relevance should sense check everything against the CAP Code.

For brands in the above categories though, we’d suggest erring on the side of caution and waiting until the percentage of U18s falls to 21% or below.

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