“Women-First Spirits: Sorry, Not Sorry”
Dr. Nicola Nice has gained great notoriety in the world of women-first spirits, with her brand Pomp and Whimsy having been featured in both Forbes and Vogue for her unapologetic approach to putting women at the center of her craft cordial crusade. We’re very excited to discuss such an important mission – and uncover how she plans to reach, empower and give voice to passionate fans along the way.
Nicola Nice, thank you for being with us today!
Thank you for having me!
I think it’s important to start at the beginning, and you’ve got a great story to tell! Can you tell us a little more about yourself and what lead you to found Pomp and Whimsy?
Sure! I trained as a sociologist, and spent the first 20 years of my career in the field of consumer insights and brand strategy. I have always advocated for the female consumer and specialized in understanding her needs. As I worked across a variety of industries – from fashion to personal care to spirits – I was struck by how under-represented women were in the brand and marketing landscape in spirits. As a woman, that was something that bothered me. As an entrepreneur, I saw it as an opportunity.
Much to your point, you’ve said many times that you feel women are treated as “second class consumers when it comes to spirits.” And I think most (if not all) of us would agree.
What do you think lead us to this point historically/culturally? I’m sorry for the broad question (and please don’t feel the need to expound at the length to which I’m sure you could)…but I suspect you’re uniquely qualified to paint this picture for us.
Well, I’m glad you agree and that I’m not the only one that feels that way! The story runs fairly deep and really dates back to the Victorians and their puritanical attitude towards the gender divide and where women should be seen and what they should be doing. Then of course you have the temperance movement, and even post-Prohibition continued restrictions on women both serving and consuming liquor in public. This long social history has led to deep seated myths and stereotypes about women as drinkers that still endure today. Myths that are not supported by the actual data on female consumption
Well it seems you’ve done a heck of a job garnering real insights and busting those myths. And in doing so, you truly put women first at Pomp and Whimsy – but not only with a brand or image. Can you tell us how were you able to translate such a powerful vision into a product that supports it?
Oh, I’m just getting started! As a former researcher, I naturally spent a lot of time understanding my audience and digging into the who/when/where/what/why of women as drinkers. I wanted to understand the specific occasions for women and how we are looking to feel in those moments. I also delved into our biology to better understand our palates, how we taste, as well as how we relate to flavor on an emotional level. And I went back in time to look at the way women have made and consumed spirits (specifically gin) over the centuries. I discovered a whole body of work by women about liquor making in the home. After a lot of tinkering in the kitchen, I finally took the leap and surrounded myself with a really talented team of people to help me bring it all to life!
Wow! That’s a thorough, well-thought out approach…no wonder you’re “hitting all the right notes” with consumers.
Knowing the stigma that is associated with being “for women” in this space, it was important to come to this with some real data and insight to really back up what we are doing
So we know women are first in who you’re hoping to reach – but can you tell us more about your target market? And going a step further – what is the plan for reaching, empowering, and giving a voice to those whom you hope will be passionate consumers, fans, and advocates of your brand?
I think first it’s important to state that being focused on women does not mean that we are exclusive to women. I always say that we are no more exclusive to women than Jack Daniels would say they are to men! Drinking is fundamentally a social activity, so I think that it’s important that brands operating in this space are able to cross those divides (and certainly not perpetuate them). At the same time, it’s important for our consumer to know that we are for her. Therefore as a brand, we will appear in places in her life where she is most looking to be empowered and uplifted. What this means in marketing terms is a heavy emphasis on partnerships with brands and social influencers who are active in the space of female empowerment – whether they be in fashion, the arts or business. We have an opportunity to speak to women with an authenticity that they have not experienced from this industry before, and that is an exciting place to be.
I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head – and from where we’re sitting at Beverage Marketing Association, that approach is likely to nurture an emotionally connected core consumer, and empower your most outspoken fans to advocate for you. Kudos!
I feel really passionately about this need to take women seriously, and there is real satisfaction in sharing that passion with others – both in the industry and outside.
Finally, I’d like to conclude by asking you a question that looks ahead (as we often do). What are the biggest challenges facing companies hoping to win over women as spirits consumers in the next 3-5 years, and how much do you believe the preferences of female alcohol consumers will shift in that time?
Now that folks are beginning to wake up and see the commercial value of women as liquor consumers, there is the real opportunity for this movement to become mainstream. There has never been such a large cohort of empowered female consumers as there is right now. And what is special about where we are socially is that older women – the daughters of the equal rights movement of the 60s and 70s – are now in positions of power and influence, lifting the rope for other women to rise up. It is this emphasis on collaboration and mutual empowerment that really sets us apart as a generation of women in business today. In addition, you have Millennials now aging into a position where they have real economic leverage. With their tendency to seek out more meaningful and authentic relationships with brands, there is a unique opportunity for (women) entrepreneurs to connect with them on a deeper level, giving us advantage over the traditional large suppliers who can’t compete. A rising tide surely lifts all ships – hopefully this will continue, making this a GREAT time to be a woman entrepreneur in this space!
From everything we’re seeing here, I’d say that rising tide is indeed coming (and already happening). Dr. Nice, thank you kindly for joining us today – these are some incredible insights for all folks looking to better understand and connect with their core consumer. We wish you all the best with Pomp & Whimsy, and are so excited to see what comes next for you/the brand!
And of course, we hope to have you and the team on-hand to participate in the industry’s annual marketing forum (eBev) this fall! You’ve got a powerful and unique perspective.
Absolutely, I would love to! Thank you so much for having me – this was fun!
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