Social Lite draws the curtain on more retail theatre

The RTD brand is promoting new products in a way that draws attention from larger competitors at the "moment of truth."


Social Lite Vodka is a highly “active” brand in the shopper space – literally.

Once again, the RTD pioneer is using what its co-founder calls “retail theatre” to drive home its connection to active lifestyles in the great outdoors with a cottage-friendly giveaway that is one part of a nation-wide shopper program tied to the launch the brand’s first ever lemonade and what it says is the first apple vodka soda in Ontario.

Last winter, the brand did promos around social distancing-friendly snow tubing, even adding the inflatable tubes to its ecomm shop. And now that all the white stuff has become water, Social Lite is taking to the lakes and giving buyers a chance to win an inflatable paddleboard, valued at $800.

Co-founder and chief growth officer Neetu Godara says the vodka brand’s giveaways are an example of “great retail theatre.”

“As a small independent Canadian business, we are competing at liquor stores across the country against giant multinationals who have huge budgets,” she says, “Our advantage is winning in store and we want to execute with excellence.”

That execution includes a full POS kit specifically created for the Western Canadian market. Godara says Social Lite wants to display prominently at point of purchase to catch shoppers’ attention, but especially in Western Canada, where Social Lite has more private sales options available.

“It creates a great presence for us and we have a full calendar for our western customers all through the summer,” Godara says. In other markets, the program includes case cards, shelf talkers and posters, all tied back to the giveaway and new product launches.

According to Godara, the RTD market has innovated and exploded, but the brand saw a flavour gap it could innovate around, as well as potentially take share from an adjacent category. “We want to give people better-for-you options…and an alternative to cider, which is very high in sugar,” Godara says.


She says that it’s been doing vodka sodas for several years and thought a new twist was required for the seltzer market, and it started playing around with lemonades a year ago (pictured, above). What makes Social Lite distinct, regardless of the SKU, is that it “stays true to better for you.”

And these are launching directly to a 12-pack, as consumers are moving to larger formats, especially in Western Canada.

Later this year, the brand will also be breathing life into a big endcap program at the LCBO: an inflatable “air sofa,” or self-inflating lounger sometimes referred to as a “lay bag,” the first giveaway with in-store purchase the brand has done in Ontario.

“When you walk into a liquor store, there is a huge section of space dedicated to RTDs, and more and more of that space continues to be allocated to key competitors like White Claw, Cottage Springs and Nutrl,” she says. But she adds that people want to support local brands like Social Lite right now, and that great display and brand blocking is how it “competes at the moment of truth,” Godara says.

In November, Social Lite brought its sales team in-house, joining the internal team that handles shopper marketing efforts.

Last week, to draw attention to the launch, Social Lite did its largest ever influencer campaign, giving 120 micro and macro influencers a chance to sample the new flavours, part of a heavily investment in social and digital meant to compliment its retail theatre.