Alcohol is so deeply ingrained into human history and culture, with evidence spanning thousands of years back suggesting that even our great ancestors enjoyed a tipple. However, something is happening in the younger generations that is making alcohol brands uneasy.
Gen Z, those born after 1995, are less infatuated with alcohol than previous generations. This digitally native generation has grown up in a world where all, or at least most, of their lives have been documented by mobile phones and they pretty much have had unlimited access to screens and the internet since birth.
As a result, Gen Z ‘partakes’ in very different ways, even compared to Millennials. Their decision is more heavily governed by the fact that they know there is no escape from bad decisions, with these choices documented online and offering the capability to impact their digital and real lives in a big way.
Money and politics
One of the key reasons why researchers believe Gen Z tend to, as a generalisation, be less in favour of alcohol, is due to the economic and political turbulence they were raised in.
As kids who would have been directly affected by the financial crisis of 2008, they have grown up with much more conservative spending habits compared to predecessors.
That’s not to say that any previous generations had more or less money, but the way that Gen Z spend is far removed from other generations.
Moreover, alcohol has only become more expensive during their lifetimes. Their habits have gravitated towards more affordable options such as socialising at home or with friends, with shop-bought beverages whilst Millennials are still out in crowded bars and clubs paying a tenner for a double and mixer.
There also appears to be a level of groundedness in Gen Z’s decision to remain at home. There’s a greater sense of self-awareness, with the desire to not want to ruin friendships (or sofas) by getting too inebriated and acting drunk and clumsy. Whereas at the pub, the world definitely appears to be your oyster after five pints and often evokes the feeling of needing to drink more with fewer consequences.
Not only have their attitudes changed thanks to money and political climates, but they also have grown up in a culture of health and wellbeing.
The movement would have been deeply ingrained in their teenage years and many choose to abstain or change their drinking habits to ensure the longevity of their health, their social status, friendships and professional prospects.
Gen Z lives in a world in which lives are documented, from the mundane to the astonishing, everything ends up online, with little hope of it disappearing. The constant requirement to maintain a flawless social media presence teamed with the fact that their friends are also documenting their lives, which means one false move and it’s immortalised online forever.
The youth of today understand the consequences of drinking excessively and teamed with their lower opinion of these behaviours thanks to the media (and the embarrassment it can cause), they often steer clear rather than risk ending up in a viral video which could damage their ego or their future prospects.
Goodbye, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle..
Not to mention the ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle portrayed by celebrities and musicians up until the late 2000s is no longer popular. The era of the celebrity alcohol-soaked which culminated in a punch up with a pap may not be completely over, but it’s definitely lessened dramatically.
Gen Z has seen the output of alcoholism in some of their favourite childhood idols and this now shapes their own decisions as adults.
…Hello, health and wellbeing
Instead, Gen Z is more focussed on looking up to influencers whose lives are grounded in doing good and feeling good, with many encouraging a fitness lifestyle.
The generation is driven by influencers who are often anti-drug, straight-edge and ‘woke’ – encouraging open and honest conversations about everything from experiences of sexism, racism and further cultural issues to body positivity and cruelty-free lifestyles as the norm.
The more you know
Gen Z also has all the information they will ever need, right at their fingertips. Where other generations would have to go out of their way to find out the long-term effects of alcohol on their body, Gen Z has seen them first hand in the media and online.
Furthermore, too many young people have been subjected to the problematic drinking of their parents, grandparents and wider family members, resulting in their desire to keep the substance at arm’s length.
Finally, the prevalence of discussions around drinking-related violence and dangers, such as ‘date rape drugs’, has likely contributed to the desire to want to keep one’s wits about them. Gen Z has pretty much had the life scared out of them from a very early age thanks to the legacy of previous generations, it’s no wonder drinking isn’t the first thing they want to do as a recreational activity.
Social media has unknowingly played a significant role in disrupting how Gen Z interact with alcohol. Not only are they fearful of the repercussions that alcohol and social media might play in their personal and professional life, but they are also more reclusive because of it.
Smartphones mean they are always right next to their best friends and peers, even if they’re on the other side of the city, the country or the world.
Isolated socialising means that by using the likes of Snapchat or WhatsApp, to create groups, they no longer have the ‘be there’ to feel like they’re included. It’s cheaper, it’s safer and it’s less risky.
How do brands need to adapt?
It’s unlikely that the slumping consumption trends are going to change anytime soon, so brands need to stop viewing the Gen Z way of life as a trend. Although, of course, not all of Gen Z are shunning alcohol or at least partaking less, brands will have to adapt to meet their evolved needs rather than trying to shoehorn themselves into their lives.
The increased popularity of low/no alcohol options, which are still aimed at ‘grown-ups’ and not glorified pop, is a key entrant to this market. The demand for quality alcohol-free options has increased in line with health concerns and a heightened awareness of the effect of alcohol on mental health.
Not to mention the preference for quality over quantity which has been emerging in recent years. Consumption of premium drinks has increased, which means that they often aren’t drinking to ‘get wasted’ instead they opt for a beverage which they genuinely enjoy.
Finally, more brands are finding new ways to integrate themselves into Gen Z lifestyles. Instead of just ‘being’ an alcohol brand, they ingrain themselves in the likes of music events and become an experience and lifestyle brand instead.
Live-music activations have seen successful brand awareness and retention growth for the like of Jagermeister. Brands are now learning to focus on creating memorable experiences and content alongside establishing an identity which allows them to harness a point of view, making them more personable.
If you’re a drinks brand or startup looking for advice or support in your marketing, to ensure a successful launch of diversification into a new audience, get in touch with us today.
Also published on Medium.