5 ways millennials are shaking up the alcohol market (and what your brand can do to keep up)

The way we consume alcohol is changing. For the first time in a century, 2016 saw a drop in the global sales of alcohol and this decline appears to be accelerating. The amount of young people abstaining from alcohol is at an all-time high, one in five now refrain from drinking altogether and these days, students are just as likely to go on a juice crawl as a a bar crawl. But there’s no need for the industry to panic, while 1 in 5 aren’t drinking, 4 in 5 still are and are happy to spend more on one bottle if they deem it worthwhile. As consumers’ habits change, alcohol brands need to pay attention to how the market is changing and adjust their strategy accordingly.

Image from trnd activation campaign with Freixenet ICE cava UGC created by participants in the trnd and Freixenet ICE campaign

1. Style over substance

We could write volumes about young people and drinking. The under 35s prefer wine to beer, are more likely to drink cider than their older counterparts, and are 22% more likely to have spent upwards of £50 on a bottle of spirits in the last month, we could go on (check out Nielson if you wish that we had!) but while Millennials may spend less of their monthly income on alcohol than the age groups before them, they’re happy to spend more if an adequately stylish or interesting option is available. Alcohol is not a regular purchase for this demographic, rather it’s something which is purchased enroute to social gatherings meaning if your brand breaks through then your consumers could begin to spread your message on your behalf. Millennials tend to seek out the unique which is great news if you’re a Belgian craft beer company brewing mustard seed beer but less so if you’re an established brand attempting to appeal to a more selective audience. In this day and age, traditional ABL campaigns simply don’t cut the, ahem, mustard. To appeal to younger drinkers, brands need to offer something different to their competitors and if the product itself isn’t it, then the message should be.

2. A great product is not enough

Perhaps it’s growing up with all the world’s knowledge at their fingertips but Millennials require more from the companies that they interact with. On the whole they tend to be more socially and environmentally aware. Consumers increasingly expect the brands they use to represent something and they’re paying attention to the legitimacy of it (who could forget Pepsi’s inauthentic miss hit?). Through a sharing culture, millennials choose to promote experiences which reflect their own personality. It is therefore more important than ever to tap into your own consumer base—socially, politically, ethically and aesthetically. Brands need to define what they stand for but from a genuine place – the younger generation are hard wired to spot the difference.

3. The spirit of sharing

Millennials are the social generation. Increasingly valuing social interactions over material possessions, they’re willing to spend more on alcohol and nights out providing they get the social currency and interesting Insta-worthy life experiences to make it worth it. Brands that want to keep up should make themselves compatible with the millennial desire to promote personal identity through social media. Marketers understand the importance of influencer marketing—using social media figureheads as brand ambassadors - but all too often overlook the real-life influencers that are already using their brand. Harnessing and activating their own consumer base and building an army of influencers could just be the shrewdest move a brand will make.

4. The responsible drinking challenge

The laws on advertising alcohol are some of the strictest, in fact, some public officials are calling for a complete ban on marketing alcohol. Studies have found that marketing practices breach codes of practice and are not sufficiently protecting children. You simply cannot control who sees your ABL activity and similarly, sports sponsorship (which seems to play a major role in advertising alcohol), can be seen by children and adults alike. A cannier way to market drinks would be to invite your consumers to do it for you. Spanish cava brand Freiexent recently ran an everyday influencer campaign with trnd. In it 1,000 consumers were given 3 bottles of Freixenet ICE cava and inspired to share with friends and peers. The campaign resulted in 813,125 unique targeted trials of the drink in an authentic – but more importantly – responsible way.

5. Experience is king

Millennials see straight through advertising. They distrust intrusive marketing campaigns and increasingly turn to their friends and peers for recommendations on new products. When it comes to advertising alcohol, encouraging your existing consumers to discuss and share your brand could work wonders. Alcohol works as a fantastic word-of-mouth trigger. A recent campaign that trnd ran with KOKO KANU led to a huge increase in the amount of brand interaction and authentic UGC on social media. Influencers in the campaign received a full bottle of the spirit along with insider information and scenarios which encouraged dialogue and the creation of UGC on participants’ personal social media pages. The truth is, consumers want to see ‘people like them’ enjoying the product in aspirational scenarios. By activating already engaged consumers, KOKO KANU formed an army of real-life influencers who generated real-world insights, increased positive reviews and drove targeted trial amongst their peers.

If you’d like to know more about what trnd could do to help your alcohol brand grow, get in touch.

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