Liquor marketers pioneered the practice of targeting young men in bars in the 1990s with tactics such as paying scantily clad models to mingle with the clientele at upscale establishments, promoting cocktails made with specific liquor brands. But today's young adults are harder to impress and tend to be distracted, juggling cell phones, personal digital assistants and wireless Internet devices even when pub-crawling, say promotion experts.
"It's necessary to create an experience people will take with them when they leave the bar," says John Palumbo, president of DVC Experiential Marketing, New York.
His company advised Skyy Spirits to create a presence inside 20 bars in seven major cities last May through August to promote its high-end 1800 tequila brand. Each weekend, "brand ambassadors" working for Skyy set up a videocamera in a section of each bar and invited patrons to step before a glamorous backdrop to be filmed with Hollywood-style lighting.
For years, Bacardi USA's Dewar's has dispatched kilt-clad men representing its Highlander icon to bars to promote the Scotch whisky. But last year, Dewar's began experimenting with a new type of hands-on event designed to get young men involved in using the premium whiskey in realistic settings. Bacardi devised a series of cooking events and fashion shows targeting influential, urban young men under age 35 in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Chicago; the events will be expanded to more cities this year.
A series of "Dressed to Kilt" fashion shows, which began last fall in Los Angeles and New York, help spotlight apparel and entertainment trends.
Elbowing into the club scene are other marketers besides liquor companies. Zippo Manufacturing Co., in the quest to get younger men interested in its classic lighters, launched "The Zippo Hot Tour" late last year, visiting certain music venues that seat 500-1,000 people. The primary target was men 18-24, with guys up to 35 years old as the secondary target, says Jeremy Stephan, president of Fuse, Los Angeles, the promotion agency coordinating the program.
"We sought out a certain type of club that plays modern, indie and punk rock 'n' roll to reach young men who are passionate about music and who would be influential over their peers," he says.
At clubs including The Back Room in Austin, Texas; Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco; and Churchill's in Miami, Zippo featured at least three glamorous young women dubbed "The Zippo Hotties" who collected the names and contact information of people wanting to compete in its "Wheel of Fire" on-site competition to win Zippo-related premiums.
Yosha! Enterprises aimed for trendsetting men with a sampling effort for Momints liquid-filled breath mints. Exotic-looking containers-glass vials containing five mints sealed with a cork-were distributed at two of Manhattan's hottest nightclubs, Lotus and Bungalow 8, says William Brudner,Yosha! director of business development.
Still, marketers can't get complacent once they've identified the cool night spot for guys. "There is a very high turnover on nightclubs that are considered cool for a few weeks or months at a time," adds Mr. Brudner, 24.