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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Fortney

Product Launch: How to Launch a New Beverage Trend That Sets a Market on Fire

Many product manufacturers hope that somehow their product launch will find a unique audience that will send it across channels creating a viral phenomenon and change an industry.

Most viral sensations happen by accident. They are not easy to predict. However, sometimes a situation occurs that can set a product on track to not only go viral but to set new industry trends.

The Story

In 2000, there were only a few flavored alcoholic beverages, but one company saw real opportunity with their line, DeKuyper Pucker Schnapps.

While playing around with new flavored product lines, Jim Beam Brands decided to invest more into its DeKuyper Pucker Schnapps line to test the market and build a new perception of how it could enhance cocktails rather than just be a shooter. To do this, our agency was asked to activate the second annual Longest Kiss Challenge in 25 markets.

The goals were to introduce and encourage the traditionally young schnapps market to experience the product in a new way while also supporting growth in specific markets. One of our driving thought processes was “this isn’t your grandfather’s gin and tonic”.

The event was both experiential for sampling newly imagined cocktails – gin and tonic, vodka soda, bourbon and whiskey drink flavorings – and also unique enough to attract a lot of media attention.

The Activation

  • On premise longest kiss challenge with a local nonprofit beneficiary in each market

  • On-premise promotion and sampling

  • Prize money of up to $1000

  • Media relations pre and post-event in each market

  • Media tour with a dating/kissing expert in 10 key markets

  • Radio promotional partner in every market

DeKuyper Pucker Schnapps Longest Kiss Challenge

Little did we know that a well-known restaurant and bar in Santa Monica, Lola’s, had been inspired on its own in the mid-90’s to reinvent another grandfather favorite – the martini. In the midst of the Sex & The City cosmopolitan craze, the timing for a new flavored martini was just right.

During the nationwide tour, we received the recipe for the Appletini, photographed it and did a selective media introduction that created an “old school” world-wide viral sensation.

It became a focus of our on-premise sampling promotion.

How we did it

Since Jim Beam Brands is a local area company in Chicago, we chose to work with a local food editor at the Chicago Sun-Times who ran a photo and the story of the Appletini on the front page of the Food section. This resulted in the Appletini appearing on morning news TV sets and being talked about on local radio stations.

The Appletini Chicago Sun-Times

Soon after, we approached a handful of key media with major influence – The New York Times, Playboy, Food & Wine, LA Times and USA Today. We went on to feature the Appletini at every remaining event in our tour. From there, it was spotted on Sex & The City, in Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, on national TV and various industry publications.

The Appletini went on to become a bar, restaurant and lounge staple around the world driving innovations in the recipe and inspiring two industries – alcohol beverages and the mainstreaming of mixologists.


The Results

  • Hundreds of participants

  • More than $250,000 donated to local nonprofits (including thousands of food items for local pantries)

  • Millions of media impressions

  • Increased demand for Sour Apple Schnapps, as well as other DeKuyper flavors

While the results were extraordinary creating a new global beverage trend, what developed was inspired and also not anticipated. We did not initially understand the impact that the Appletini would have on the alcohol beverage industry but looking at the shelves in any liquor store today, you can easily see and understand the impact.

Within just a few years of the introduction of the Appletini, there was instantly a new addition to the culinary and beverage world – The Mixologist and schools to train them.

As the city of Chicago began to gentrify, no new restaurant or lounge bar was without a Mixologist all competing for media coverage on new concoctions. They became an important part of the culinary part of restaurants as they created drinks specifically for specific appetizers, entrees and desserts. Now, mixology is a staple in restaurants from high-end, award-winning independent venues to major U.S. dining chains.

While we were able to generate millions of media impressions, the proof was in the increase in schnapps sales and excitement around mixology and new flavors within the industry and among consumers.


With more variations of flavored alcohol beverages, Americans, in particular, are whetting their palettes with more new flavors and drink creations than ever before and this trend will only continue as it has now crossed over from vodkas to fully mixed cocktails in cans. Trendy hotels and restaurants worldwide also offer their takes on custom made cocktails. All bartenders are encourage to be mixologists and creators.

We can only imagine how a trend like this would have been launched and received with the advent of social media channels, amplifying the event experience, messaging, and the drink.

Although the Apppletini recipe has been modified (the Apple Martini), the original ushered in a new era for the alcohol beverage industry.

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