September 30, 2023
Liam O’Brien Keeps it Simple when it comes to Gaining Distribution
Liam O’Brien is the Brand Ambassador of Bristol Syrup Company for almost 2 years now. In this interview, he shares some tips on how to gain cocktail placements and grow your brand.
With a Bachelor's in Food Science & Technology, Liam O’Brien started off his career in the culinary industry and worked as a Head Chef for several years. He worked with several renowned restaurants in Nottingham for almost 9 years before he made a career switch in 2016. Liam joined a Gin School, learned to distill, completed an apprenticeship in distilling, and started working with bars and distilleries. A few years later he became the Brand Ambassador for Ableforths, Atom Brands, and later Dystopia Hockley. He now works as the Brand Ambassador at the Bristol Syrup Company where he works with trade partners across the UK.
Tell us a little about your background and journey into the Spirits Industry.
We could be here for a while so I will keep it short and take answers on a postcard. Many years as a chef at various high-end establishments before moving into bars and later drinks brands. I’ve distilled, consulted, cooked, shaken, served and sold most of my life.
I love people and conversation, I love to teach and talk with people to find out what they need and what I can do to help. I don't ever switch off but that’s something I’m working on.
Your current role, and what does your day look like?
Every day is a new day with new challenges. But each one starts with stretching, a shower, lots of coffee a school run, and a race against time to make it through the day without dropping the ball regardless of what happens.
How do you increase your brand's visibility and promote awareness around consumers and trade?
I work with brands I believe in. Brands that have quality and reputation work for me. That is 70-80% of the work. Quality products and brands sell themselves. I just facilitate conversations with friends, colleagues, and connections within the trade to help where I can. Failing that shouting really loud on 50-50 Facebook groups seems to help raise awareness.
What strategies do you use to gain distribution, increase volume sales and gain cocktail placements? Could you give us an example of an account you recently cracked?
Keep it simple and honest.
Talk to your partners in trade or the consumer or end-user and understand their needs and wants, after you know that you are not selling you are helping or assisting in their growth and vice versa.
Ask your trade partners how you can help and follow through on what you say you can do, never make promises you can’t keep this is how you build relationships and trust and that’s how you gain listings and volumes.
Good and great services beat the average!
How do you think a Brand Ambassador can help drive marketing and sales personally?
Ambassadors act as the face and voice of a brand and provide touchpoints for contact. A good ambassador in old school and new terms should always be a good communicator, be passionate and not see themselves as a salesperson, not a sales tool (although they are!) they should want to talk about how syrup will make great drinks taste better. We are here to show our partners what our brands can do for them and explain why these brands exist and how we can help them drive sales and volumes in their venues.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Time -bandwidth. Because in the end, I am just 1 person with only so many hours in a day or week. I love my work arguably too much but I love my family too
Our goal should be to manage ourselves out of a role by building and training ambassadors in both on and off-trade to act in our absence so we can take the time to appreciate our work, our families, and our lives.
Image: Liam O’Brien
What do you focus on in your training and masterclasses?
Always connect with the room and try to find out what they want to get out of that session. Too many people just go through the motions and yes there is often a brand message or narrative to get across but every session, training or master class is unique. I try to give people the tools to speak about a brand or category with the same passion and enthusiasm as I would. Our goal should always be to make more ambassadors in our stead
How has digital marketing proved to be an effective tool for you? Can you tell us about your digital marketing strategy?
I don’t overthink or engineer things like this, I try to keep it simple and honest anything I document is in real-time often with terrible photos to prove it. Real experience can’t be strategized. Digital marketing is a tool to be used for sure but some tools require skill to use.
In the end, I would rather talk to people if given the option. We have to remember that reach alone is not enough if the content and engagement hitting the end user reach means nothing and the message is poor.
What is your idea of a good life?
Life is good generally. I’ve got everything I need I’m Happy if not a little stressed. But honestly, if I had the option of a remote farm to be able to grow my food and spend more time with my family would be great.
The world is a beautiful place and I’d like to see more of it given the chance
Which is your favourite cocktail?
This is always the hardest question to answer as it has more questions than answers. What are we doing? Who are we with and where are we going? But simply put good company and good spirits generally leads to good drinks too. As long as I have a good conversation the drinks are always supplementary.