case study:

Bringing a new take into the African American market

Elegantly expaning audiences


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 Approach

We conducted 6 focus groups in Atlanta and Chicago among young African American men and women, ages 21-35. After a discussion focused on their drinking habits and preferences, participants engaged in taste tests and product design testing. When it comes to picking a drink, mood and situation both influence the 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 quiet, intimate occasion, and associated with connoisseurship and comfort. During product testing, participants embraced concepts that promised a relaxing, intimate, nightcap experience. The winning bottle design concept suggested a premium, sophisticated product. However, during a taste test, participants found the sugary, energizing flavors at odds with the marketing and packaging of the new product.


From our research we recommended the client create a product that evokes quality and craftsmanship, while not pushing the brandy packaging too far into luxe territory, which may cause dedicated customers to assume it’s not for them. The solution was to 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. Subtlety was key: any flavor should be an accent to a base, while the brandy must stay front and center. Through our research, we were able to reevaluate an overpowering flavor profile and shift the marketing direction to connect with the target audience and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations.

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