Increase Revenue with Tourism Boards, Part 2: Philadelphia Distilling

Image: Philadelphia Distilling

Brands live and die by consumer awareness and interest. It should go without saying: If nobody knows about your brand, how do you hope to make money and stay in business?

Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, breweries, wineries and distilleries can boost brand awareness by partnering with or joining tourism boards. Such organizations are also known as convention visitors bureaus (CVBs) and destination marketing organizations (DMOs).

Last week we took an in-depth look at this type of partnership from the tourism board side of things. We examined how the relationship between Visit Annapolis, Symmetry Agency and other partners evolved into Annapolis Discovered. That transformation benefitted the city of Annapolis, its businesses, and its residents. And much of that success hinged on the tourism board understanding that it needed to focus on, learn about and support Annapolis’ restaurant and nightlife scene.

This week we’re looking at this type of working relationship from the operator side. Andrew Auwerda, president and co-founder of Philadelphia Distilling, operates a distillery with a cocktail bar on site. That bar won the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Award for Distillery Bar of the Year.

Auwerda shared the story of Philadelphia’s partnership with Visit Philly during the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas in a session he co-presented with Symmetry Agency’s Ben Isenberg.

Part Two: Philadelphia Distilling

When Auwerda opened Philadelphia Distilling back in 2005 it became the first craft distillery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition. It was also the time before the Craft Distilling Movement had gathered significant steam. Now, Pennsylvania counts 82 craft distilleries across the state.

Initially, Philadelphia Distilling was located in an industrial park. As most would assume, that location didn’t offer the features and amenities tourists were eager to experience. The industrial location was also one that tourism bureaus were hesitant to promote to potential visitors.

With that in mind, Auwerda moved Philadelphia Distilling to a new neighborhood called Fishtown in 2017. For those who are unaware, Fishtown is a culinary and creative destination popular with hipsters and foodies. It’s also one of the hottest and most sought-after destination neighborhoods in America.

This new location housed not only the distillery but a front-of-house operation that included an event space and a cocktail lounge. The latter earned the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Award for Distillery Bar of the Year.

Interestingly, as far as Auwerda was concerned, the goals of increasing brand awareness and the reach of Philadelphia Distilling, along connecting with the community, surpassed the need for the front of house to generate profits. That doesn’t mean that Auwerda was comfortable with the idea of operating the bar and event space at a loss. Rather, he realized that if Philadelphia Distilling’s spirits attracted more eyes from across the United States and the rest of the world, the brand as a whole would generate more revenue.

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Philadelphia Distilling fully embraces the goal of increased visibility—the distillery, for example, is literally surrounded by glass. It doesn’t get much more visible than that. Guests who are enjoying a cocktail at the distillery’s cocktail bar can do what today’s consumer really wants: watch the product they’re consuming be created; today’s consumer wants to connect with the brands they support.

To that end, Auwerda has built a destination. However, he needs people from all over the world to be aware of the destination he has created. To accomplish this crucial goal, Philadelphia Distilling reached out to Visit Philly and other organizations that are tasked with creating awareness and driving tourism to the city. Auwerda also reached out to some local journalists he knows.

America, Meet Philadelphia Distilling

Last year, Philadelphia hosted a journalist convention. Members of the media were to visit, explore, and learn about the city.

“This is gold if you’re trying to market your space,” says Auwerda of such an opportunity.

Auwerda received a call asking if it would be alright if about 80 recognized lifestyle and industry journalists from all over the country came by for a tour, a cocktail and food. To him, saying yes to this opportunity was a no-brainer.

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Making close to 100 journalists happy by providing an incredible and educational experience motivated them to share the brand with their audiences. The boost to Philadelphia Distilling’s reach was gargantuan. The benefits also weren’t be one-sided.

The city of Philadelphia helped deliver an impressive experience to relevant journalists, and the journalists’ audiences learned about an interesting brand that crafts top-quality spirits and offers an amazing tour. Philadelphia Distilling helped the city by proving they could deliver on—and exceed—visitor expectations, driving revenue to hotels and other businesses. Multiple people and brands benefited from this one experience.

Chance Favors the Prepared

There are, of course, costs associated with these types of opportunities. Auwerda recommends planning for special events, building them into the budget and being prepared at a moment’s notice. As he sees it, giving away free drinks and inexpensive food is a “cheap buy” compared to any other form of advertising.

“Editorial coverage of your establishment is by far—all the statistics prove—it’s what people remember,” says Auwerda.

Now, Philadelphia Distilling hosts groups being brought in by Visit Philly every month. Auwerda says to keep in mind that not every group your city’s tourism board, CVB or DMO is bringing to your venue may be the most relevant to you and your brand. However, within that group there may be members of the media and influencers who can increase your brand’s visibility. It’s important to be at the top of the list for tourism organizations tasked with bringing in visitors.

Check this out: Increase Revenue with Tourism Boards, Part 1: Annapolis Discovered

For instance, Visit Philly once brought a group of Norwegians to Philadelphia Distilling. The distillery’s products aren’t sold in Norway but Auwerda realized that he was top of mind for Visit Philly when they were hosting groups of visitors. A valuable relationship had been formed.

“Open the doors, get that community involvement, show them a good time—whatever group you can get through—because I think it’ll come back to you tenfold in terms of new customers and new eyeballs,” says Auwerda.

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