10 Bar Marketing Ideas and Strategies That Are Real Thirst Quenchers

Marketing 22 minute read 13th March 2022

You need more than just a neon bar sign and regular happy hours for your bar marketing strategy. If you want to ensure a steady stream of local clientele, you need tons of literal and figurative arrows directing casual drinkers, party-goers, and merrymakers to your venue. With a new generation of pub-goers and discerning drinks enthusiasts establishing an ever-changing set of notions for what a bar should be, it’s never been more important for savvy business owners to pull out all the stops in putting the spotlight on your establishment.

Bar promotion and marketing ideas that bring results don’t have to be unnecessarily complicated. There is a fantastic array of results-driven approaches to consider, many of which won’t just increase footfall to your bar, but may also boost the profit margins on your food and drinks sales and ensure a long-term presence in your community.

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Bar Marketing Strategies: Covering the Basics

Before we dive right into some game-changing bar marketing ideas that can take your bar promotion to new heights, you should have the key principles of a good bar marketing strategy covered.

No single approach to marketing provides a blanket solution that will work for each and every establishment. It’s important to know the finer details of where your business is positioned in order to more effectively leverage the strategic foundations of bar marketing to help you achieve the best results — with whatever marketing idea you employ.

  1. Have a crystal-clear understanding of your target demographic. Knowing the age range, social status, work-life habits, gender balance, and general preferences of your audience is going to pay dividends when it comes to fine-turning your strategy. After all, a country pub out in the countryside is going to require a different approach to an inner-city hipsterfied bar — and a million other iterations could apply.
  2. Make sure your prices reflect your current clientele and other customer groups you’re targeting. Setting prices for drinks is rarely an uncomplicated task, and it needs careful consideration based on who your existing and target customers are.
  3. Be sure to have a social media presence. It’s extremely important to keep it updated, active, and dynamic. It’s the 21st century, and there’s simply no getting around this.
  4. Make sure your licenses are in order. It’s all very well planning events, live music, and grandiose foodie experiences, but licensing laws are notoriously opaque, and you don’t want to end up with a fine on your hands while you’re trying to boost profits.
  5. Have a website. Seriously. Unlike your social media pages, your website won’t require as much activity and management. Having a website is still a necessary component of any bar marketing strategy as it expands your online reach, boosts your online presence, and can give you.

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10 Bar Marketing and Promotion Ideas to Level-up Your Bar Game

Here are 10 bar marketing ideas to help you promote your business and keep the tap flowing.

Bar Marketing Idea #1: Get Your Menu Online

One of the simplest bar marketing strategies that will boost engagement, your booking numbers, and walk-ins is to post your menu online. Whether on your own website, a search engine site, or a reviews hub (preferably all three and more besides), this relatively easy step can make a real difference.

Why? Simply because pub and bar-goers, especially those on the lookout for some food or a range of cocktails or specialist drinks, are a lot more discerning than ever before. Indeed, recent industry research suggests that as many as 77% of customers check out menus online to help them decide where to eat and/or drink; just as importantly, as many as 70% of drinkers and diners put off visiting an establishment because there was inadequate business online presence and information. And make sure you’ve developed a menu that’s truly enticing — this applies to both your online menu and printed menu.

Bar Marketing Idea #2: Put Your Business on the Map

Make no mistake, your bar needs to be put on the map — literally — if you want a bar marketing strategy that works each and every time. Add your business to Google Maps to help your customers find you more easily, to help you improve your online ranking and reputation, and to reinforce your visibility in this fiercely competitive industry.

Having a presence on Google Maps and a Google Business Profile are boxes you absolutely have to check off to get more traffic to your online sites and through your doors. The best part? Getting on Google Maps and making the most of its suite of wonderfully useful tools couldn’t be easier.

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Marketing Idea for Your Bar #3: Introduce Game Nights

Themed nights and events for pubs and bars are nothing new, but innovative and savvy pub owners are continually seeking out new ways to reinvent trusted formats, create new opportunities for engagement, and drum up excitement for upcoming happenings or their latest offerings. As a bar marketing strategy, nothing brings a big crowd like the chance to try something new, have fun with friends, and maybe scoop a great prize.

Your choice of a game night event comes down to knowing the kind of vibe that will pull in new customers and your core audience alike. There’s an already well-established trend for board game nights that’s still in full swing; this is an affordable and proven option that keeps customers engaged for hours and keeps the orders coming. Retro arcade machines are also popular right now.

If you have the space, you could set up a shuffleboard, an indoor curling lane, or other interactive competitive game. Alternatively, quiz and trivia nights also continue to draw big crowds, although you might want to look into ways to make your quiz/trivia night stand out from the competition. Try linking it to another key trend; you may also offer unusual prizes or get a well-known host to make your quiz a must-visit event.

Bar Marketing Idea #4: Get Artsy

If you’re running a local bar, you should aim to be more than just a run-of-the-mill watering hole. There’s a real and pressing need in these uncertain times to re-establish pubs as community hubs offering a plethora of events and opportunities to bring people together. What can be a more creative bar marketing idea than getting “artsy” and helping promote the local culture? Make your venue more appealing to creatives and culture vultures with poetry slams, open-mic nights, and gamified art events.

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Marketing Idea #5: Get Your TikTok Game On

With user numbers edging towards the 80 million mark, and projected figures for 2022 hitting 1.5 billion, getting your pub or bar noticed on the latest social media phenomenon is a no-brainer.

With a significant emphasis on funny, viral, and impactful content, TikTok provides an enormous amount of potential for businesses in the hospitality sector, particularly if you want to let people know that your pub has its finger on the pulse of contemporary culture. Getting started on TikTok is, thankfully, very easy. The platform’s impressive AI can help you reach your target audience with relative ease — especially compared to the algorithms of other social media platforms.

Whether you want to create snappy original content that showcases beautiful shots of what your bar does best, participate in any of the countless TikTok challenges, or join the latest viral video trends, TikTok allows you to seamlessly blend different types of bar marketing strategies. The audience demographic may be largely composed of younger people between 16 and 24 years of age, but with 26% of TikTokers between the ages of 25 and 44, there’s still a decent-sized pool of potential customers you can target with fun and interesting TikTok content.

Bar Promotion Idea #6: Shroud Your Venue in “Mystery and Secrecy”

As a bar promotion idea, creating an air of mystery and secrecy may seem counterintuitive. The goal of any type of promotional strategy, after all, is maximum exposure. However, there are different types of exposure to consider, and one approach in particular has been explored with great success by bars that wish to attract a more discerning — but undeniably loyal and influential — clientele: exclusivity.

In the last decade, there’s been a notable trend (primarily amongst cocktail bars) of creating secret venues, exclusive events, and speakeasy-style bar experiences which leverage secrecy and a hidden-gem quality to drum up excitement and drama amongst a venue’s target VIP clientele and the larger public audience. Everyone loves the feeling of being special when they’re chosen to be a part of exclusive invitees; and we’re all guilty of giving in to the temptation of “spilling the beans” about things that are supposedly hush-hush.

Holding secret events or adopting a more exclusive policy isn’t for every bar, but it’s something that can work wonders for the right kind of venue, for certain clients, and/or if the timing is right. This bar marketing idea doesn’t have to involve an all-out reinvention of your brand, either. Starting a whisper campaign about secret menu items, or hosting invite-only movie nights, gigs, or other events which are explicitly under-wraps will effectively redefine your venue as the place to be… for those in the know.

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Bar Marketing Idea #7: Transform Your Bar Into a Community Hub

Promoting inclusivity, as opposed to the exclusivity we mentioned earlier, and building on another previous bar marketing idea of establishing your venue as a cultural hub, transforming your bar into a community hub can be especially effective if your goal is to boost customer numbers, particularly during quiet hours or traditionally slower days. And always remember that your local community will appreciate any effort on your part to play an active role in community-building.

There are a million different ways to interpret this, and it once again comes down to the kind of establishment you run. For example, there are hugely popular social media groups which promote bars that are dog-friendly. You’d be amazed at how far word spreads among dog-owners about pubs which not only welcome their four-legged friends, but also provide them with a bowl of water or a cookie! Even just doing the bare minimum to make a certain group of customers feel welcome in your venue goes a long way. The same goes for young families, cyclists, freelance workers… The list goes on and on.

Hosting community-minded events, such as charity fundraisers, reading groups, language classes, or local activist meetings tap into the same strategic energy, and there is a rich vein of opportunities out there to explore and help you make your bar the heart and soul of your community.

Promotion Idea #8: Create a Loyalty Program That’s Hard to Resist

Rewarding your loyal clientele is always a good idea and should always be part of a bar marketing strategy. Not only does it keep your best customers coming time and time again, it encourages new ones to join the fold and to consider your pub as one of their favorite places.

Lots of pubs which support independent, local breweries have been resurrecting the ‘growler’ — a takeaway container which can be filled up with beer for a price that’s almost as good as a wholesale rate; offering this as part of your loyalty program is definitely something that will be hard to resist, keep your customers happy, and also strengthen your bar’s ties with other local businesses. You can offer other drinks for your loyalty card program; or you could explore ways to include branded merchandise into your program.

It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to bring real results from loyalty programs. A recent Harvard study claimed that increasing customer loyalty by 5% can boost revenue by up to 95%. If that’s not enough of an incentive, well, what is?

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Bar Marketing Idea #9: Give Your Brand a Unique Voice

If bar marketing over the past decade has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s customers and pub-goers want their favorite bars to have a unique identity and voice.

When establishing a voice that’s uniquely your own, make sure it resonates with your pub’s clientele and community and that it’s aligned with your USP. In other words, consistency is key. Your chosen ‘voice’ and how you communicate with your clientele is consistent across all platforms. Your voice should be ever-present on your socials, website, and menu, as well as in the names of your cocktails, and in the design, decor, and visuals you implement.

Get it right, and it’s a surefire way to get your bar noticed and, more importantly, remembered.

Promotion Idea #10: Foster Local Partnerships

No man is an island; and no bar exists in a vacuum. Establishing mutually-beneficial partnerships and relationships with other local businesses that share your core values, target audience, and aspirations is one of the most effective bar marketing strategies you should implement. Your partnerships don’t have to be complicated, exclusive, or long-term to deliver real results; to be effective, your partnerships simply have to share the same goal of serving the needs of your community and keeping the local economy thriving.

Maybe there’s a local food truck that’s a hit at your Sunday market, or an up-and-coming chef making waves in your community’s food scene. Get them to do a pop-up at your bar; they’ll bring in their own fans who’ll love the fact you’re on the same wavelength, and they’ll gain exposure to your loyal customers who value your discerning eye.

The same goes for a multitude of other businesses, from local retailers looking to promote their wares, to artists, educational establishments, charities, gyms… as long as there’s a tangible and logical link between your business and theirs, you’ll reap amazing benefits when you join forces and share customer bases.

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Bar Marketing Success With Out-Of-The-Box Thinking and Tried-And-Tested Practices

Thinking outside the box to create a bar marketing strategy that will give you the edge you need in this competitive business is always challenging, to say the least. And keep in mind that not all innovative ideas become successful. But if you keep the basic foundations of bar marketing intact, if you remain true to your brand’s image, and if you stay committed to your business goals and your role in your community, your promotional ideas will always be off to a good start.

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