Case Study

Bringing a new take into the
african american market

The Challenge

A well-known liquor brand wanted to expand its relationship with the African American market by rolling out a new product line of flavored brandy. While the client is considered a cherished, trusted brand, it is not considered upscale or fancy, so branding was essential to expanding the audience and appeal. Within a highly fragmented, commoditized market, this new product would need to inspire the flavor enthusiasm required to propel word of mouth, while filling the niche suitable for the product type.

With this in mind, the client enlisted Zebra Strategies to gather consumer opinions and obtain insightful feedback before releasing the new product.

Our Initial Findings

We conducted 6 focus groups in Atlanta and Chicago among young African American men and women, aged 21–35. After a discussion focused on their drinking habits and preferences, participants engaged in taste tests and product design testing. We uncovered several insights:

  • Mood and situation both influence choice, and respondents all mentioned asking a bartender or server for suggestions when considering a new drink or liquor
  • Brandy is perceived as an option for a relaxing, intimate, nightcap experience, and is associated with connoisseurship and comfort
  • The sugary, energizing flavors were found to be at odds with the marketing and packaging of the new product

Actionable Insights

From our research, we offered several recommendations:

Do not push the brandy packaging too far into luxe territory, which may cause dedicated customers to assume it is not for them

Infuse sensuality as a touchpoint of bottle design, flavor enhancement, and marketing direction, offering a unique positioning opportunity that does not compete on price or prestige

Be subtle—any flavor should be an accent to a base, while the brandy must stay front and center

This research helped shift the marketing direction to connect with the target audience and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations.