Why Southern Comfort Is Shifting Ad Budget Online

Consumers won’t be seeing much of Southern Comfort in the traditional media space this year. The liquor brand has moved all of its marketing dollars to the digital space, marked by the launch of new ads targeting tech-savvy 21- to 29-year-olds.

Four new Internet-only spots ask, “What is Southern Comfort?” The ads answer the question by celebrating the brand’s New Orleans heritage. “Celebration” and “One-of-a-kind” focus on the uniqueness and creativity associated with New Orleans, while a third centers on the brand’s creator M.W. Heron. The fourth spot highlights responsible drinking of the product.

The ads are now airing on Hulu’s ad selector under the “SoCo New Orleans Bouillabaisse” section. It allows viewers to choose their method of advertising: Ppre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll. Spots are also running on Break.com, CBS.com, Comedy.com, Fox.com, FX.com, MyDamnChannel.com, NBC.com, Playboy.com, TheFader.com and Pitchfork.tv, as well as at Southern Comfort’s Facebook fan page.

“The main focus of this campaign is to really cement that Southern Comfort is a way to tie back into New Orleans, more so as a vibe and a spirit, versus a more subtle brand DNA that was always talked about internally but not necessarily communicated to consumers,” said Lena DerOhannessian, U.S. marketing director for Southern Comfort. “And that idea of being more innovative and welcoming, and co-created with consumers, is what we are trying to do with our media.”

Making the move to an exclusively digital strategy this fiscal year (beginning May 2009), may seem risky to some, but DerOhannessian said the brand is taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity to connect with its target audience. “There is a very flexible structure in the online space that allows us to listen to [consumers] and give them the opportunity to speak to us in regards to the brand. It’s just an immeasurable benefit,” she said.

For example, SoCo gave sneak peaks of the campaign’s upcoming spots on its Facebook page, seeking feedback from its 150,000 fans.

Arthur Shapiro, an alcohol industry consultant for AM Shapiro and Associates, applauded SoCo’s strategy. “I think it’s brilliant . . . Digital provides access to the key target audience on a one-to-one basis. The world has changed,” Shapiro said. “That’s how people are communicating. That’s where they are getting their information. And, that’s where they’re relating to brands.”

Southern Comfort spent $7 million on advertising in 2008, and $500,000 between January and August of this year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co.