Junipalooza is a festival driven by passion and prowess that brings depth to the gin market like never before. The event takes festival-goers on a journey through the minds of the gin-makers and offers the chance to hear the stories, dreams, and ideas that have gone into every drop of gin. It is truly an event born out of a love of the spirit and propelled by mastery and demand.
Brother combo Emile and Olivier Ward are the masterminds behind Junipalooza. We spoke to Emile to find out how they have successfully established themselves as thought leaders in the gin space and created such a standout event in a crowded marketplace.
Emile shares how Junipalooza came to be in a very organic and natural way. He notes that he and his brother Emile are their own audience, so if something doesn’t pique their interest then they have no intention of pursuing it.
‘Our brand story very much stems from the idea that if we enjoy or find interest in something, then our audience will naturally follow. We’re all on a journey of discovery and it is our role to highlight what we think is best and noteworthy. This has permeated through everything we do, including Junipalooza, where our guests know they will discover a new and exciting gin or rediscover a unique facet from an established gin distillery’
Emile and Olivier recognised an opportunity in the market and used their passion and knowledge of the spirit to concoct a gin event like no other. Having both worked in the drinks industry, the Ward brothers set out on their mission with a solid awareness of the competitive landscape and a firm idea of what they did and didn’t like. They wanted to move away from the traditional trestle table and roll up banner approach and offer gin lovers something different.
‘Junipalooza was initially born out of a natural demand from gin distillers who were all looking to us to create a bespoke event promoting gin as a whole. Before we created Junipalooza, we were highly critical of the elements that we did not like in existing shows and set out with some fundamental pillars including the meet the maker rule and a very specific stand aesthetic. We also made sure that we would always prioritise consumers first then exhibitors and finally ourselves.’
Emile, commercial and operations director, and Olivier, creative director and gin expert, forged together to create gin knowledge powerhouse. But in an exploding gin market, it’s no easy feat to stay ahead of the curve. Emile explains how they maintain their competitive edge by positioning themselves as thought leaders in the space and always staying curious.
‘This came again from a natural growth having worked in the alcohol industry prior to starting Gin Foundry. We very much fell in love with Gin just before everyone else did and had a front row seat to the rise of gin’s popularity and a behind the scenes access to the upcoming distilleries. We set our own path within Gin by creating Gin Foundry, Junipalooza, Ginvent, and Gin Kiosk so we were working to help everyone rather than compete. We stay ahead of the curve by simply staying curious and in touch with as many distilleries as possible.’
Emile and Olivier are also the founders of the Gin Foundry – the largest gin website, hosting the most in-depth, accurate, and independent gin reviews. Gin Foundry was born out of a love for gin, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to understand exactly how everything is made. It was the same passion that inspired the Ward brothers to launch Junipalooza.
They wanted to find a way to truly transmit their passion, and the passion of gin makers and distillers, to consumers. Therein lies the unique selling point that would differentiate their offering.
The distinct value of Junipalooza is clear. It is centred around the stories of these gins – how they are made and the people behind them. The Ward brothers wanted to bring this knowledge to gin lovers and, through the website and festival, offer a platform that their audience can trust and return to, again and again.
‘The Meet the Maker rule is by far the single biggest unique feature of Junipalooza. It started off by requesting the owners or distillers to be there in person as we felt otherwise we would know more about the gin than the sales representatives. The reception we got from guests then told us that this was the right way to go and we have then enforced the rule ever since.’
These stories and insights populate the Gin Foundry website and social media channels, creating a wealth of content that not only delivers value through education, but stirs excitement for the festival too. Junipalooza has no shortage of content to pique the interest of gin lovers.
‘We use our own platform, Gin Foundry, to write reviews, hold interviews, publish opinion pieces and promote the industry with topics and debates. We use social media as a tool to promote the editorial content we write on Gin Foundry. We also create buzz by having a three-tier ticketing system with Super Early Bird, Early Bird, and Standard which allows us to keep talking about the show and rewards our returning guests. We also then use traditional PR and work with affiliates to generate more buzz.’
‘Gin is such a vast world to talk about, there are the people who make it, there are the brand stories, and then there is the process along with the spirit itself. There is a huge well of content to pull through so once we have our list of exhibitors confirmed, we then set out to plan content that highlights everyone in specific or different ways. This dictates what we talk about but we also then cherry pick what we think will suit best.’
Emile explains how this content helps them maintain the position of thought leader and trusted advisor in the world of gin. They use this content to not only share knowledge and value, but also to communicate their own values to their audience.
‘This always comes back to content and providing our opinion based on fact and through debating it within the industry. Our audience comes back to us because over the years we have never set off of the course we planned and from our ethos nor have we compromised in order to make more money. Our love for gin transpires in everything we do and both our audience and the industry can see it with their own eyes.’
Emile shares that the biggest factor in establishing yourself as a trusted advisor is to prioritise giving value to your customer over growing your bottom-line.
‘We always prioritise the guest’s and exhibitor’s experiences over our bottom-line. We always reinvest in providing more to guests each year such as a guidebook, custom glassware, maps and an upcoming app, but also by providing more water, seating, food, staff and security.
We then prioritise exhibitors by allowing them certain avenues to sell as well as certain perks such as ice, tonic and power. These small things count to us being oversubscribed by exhibitors and increasing our attendance 40-50% each year.
Finally, another facet that makes us unique is that we are constantly bringing in new distilleries but also giving the opportunity for returning distilleries to upgrade and do more at the show through sponsorships. This year, we’ve also moved into experiential rooms and we see this as the future of the show as the gin category keeps growing.’
Emile says that their best customers are the ones that joined them from the very beginning and have grown with them on their journey. Emile explains that from customer service, to ticket sales, to the experience on the day, they always prioritise a personal and human touch.
As for the future of Gin Foundry, Emile gives us a sneak peek into what they have in store…
‘2018 was the 5th year for Junipalooza London and the show now has 75 exhibitors and 2,800 guests which is fantastic, but we see the future in experiential activity. This means gin distilleries taking more than their own stand and taking over a room in order to bring their brand to life. We’ve had Live Distillation from Warner Edwards which proved immensely popular so watch this space for 2019.
Internationally, we now host Junipalooza in Melbourne for its third year and the appetite there is growing more rapidly than in the UK so a lot of exciting things will be developing there. Finally, we also host it in Hamburg and are looking to add a fourth city in 2019!’
To find out more about the power of unique content and a strong brand story to drive your event, check out our Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Events.