Gen Z is redefining drinking culture, but how are brands adapting?
With Gen Z's approach to alcohol different to that of generations past, David Burgman, CEO and Founder of Raptor, examines how drinks brands are adapting, and what some of the best campaigns of the recent past have been.
Post-pandemic, Generation Z is redefining typical UK drinking culture.
The way they consume alcohol has largely changed, with Gen Z cutting back as part of new, evolved priorities. As a result, we have seen new trends amongst this generation emerge.
[Gen Z] drink to be social, not to get sloshed.
At Raptor, we commissioned some research to find out exactly what this means in a post-pandemic world, and discovered that the rumours are true; Gen Z does express a different view towards alcohol. They drink to be social, not to get sloshed, with many now turning to pre-made drinks as part of the shift.
Above: Heineken launched a virtual beer that even they knew was ridiculous.
Despite this, some brands continue to strike the wrong tone when it comes to marketing to this audience. Dutch beer brand Heineken, for example, launched a virtual beer earlier this year to shine a light on how brands are jumping onto the metaverse bandwagon without thinking about how it comes across. As a brand that is best enjoyed in real life, Heineken wanted to show how ridiculous it was for them to be on Decentraland, where people can’t even try their product.
Some brands continue to strike the wrong tone when it comes to marketing to this audience.
Some brands have, however, got it right. They show that alcohol brands can remain relevant to a generation that has changed its attitude to booze. Here are a few of my favourites.
Jägermeister’s IceCold Supermarket
Jägermeister opened a two-day pop-up shop on Oxford Street in London this October. The shop was designed to look like a supermarket and it sold limited-edition Jäger merchandise, including ice cream and exclusive bottles of Jäger. The supermarket had a back-of-shop ‘Freezer Room’ where guest DJs played music from the decks.
Jagermeister is usually a drink that is enjoyed quickly in a shot glass but, with this campaign, it was transformed into an experience to enjoy with friends. This worked well because it focused on the experience, not the alcohol. People could still have a good time at the Ice Cold Supermarket without drinking anything. The alcohol only improves the experience as an added extra for those who choose to drink.
Above: Jägermeister's Ice Cold Supermarket.
Budweiser X Boiler Room
US lager brand Budweiser and UK music broadcaster Boiler Room together brought a musical tour to Chile. The tour involved talks about Latin America’s new wave music and the future of the region’s culture, as well as live music performances.
Alcohol will always be associated with music. Even if it’s not a live music concert, you’ll almost always be listening to music while you drink. That’s why this campaign worked well. Budweiser moved the focus away from the alcohol and onto the music. It also tapped into Gen Z’s interest in discovering new musicians and DJs from different parts of the world, while promoting the Chilean music scene.
Beavertown does Coleridge
Craft ale brewer Beavertown produced a hand-drawn animated film based on the story of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Beavertown also released a new flavour of beer called Blood of the Mariner to accompany the film before Halloween.
Beavertown’s already quirky branding suits the Halloween spot.
This is definitely unusual. But it works. Beavertown’s already quirky branding suits the Halloween spot well. In addition, this was inspired by Disney’s Fantasia and old-school Looney Tunes cartoons, which can bring moments of nostalgia for all Gen Z.
- Director Alice Bloomfield
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- Director Alice Bloomfield
- Director Alice Bloomfield
Above: Beavertown's animated film was the perfect accompaniment for Halloween.
Smirnoff’s Drops of Advice
The vodka brand Smirnoff has, this year, launched a responsible drinking campaign ahead of Christmas. Its short videos provide ‘drops’ of advice to people who want to drink less this year, while still having a ‘wildly responsible’ time.
This campaign presents a brilliant example of how a brand can provide real value.
This campaign presents a brilliant example of how a brand can provide real value to people through its marketing. Yes, perhaps some of the tips are obvious (‘avoid top ups’, I’m looking at you), but they’ll still remind people of the ways they can stay in control of the notoriously out-of-control Christmas season. The campaign also speaks to a Gen Z audience that wants to avoid the loss of control they feel when drinking alcohol.
Above: Smirnoff's Drops of Advice were occasionally obvious, but an interesting approach to drinks advertising.
Diageo, PHD, and Brixton Finishing School
Global drinks conglomerate Diageo announced a partnership with media agency PHD and London-based Brixton Finishing School [BFS]. BFS provides young people from under-privileged backgrounds with the training and networks to enter the creative industries. The partners will offer BFS graduates the opportunity to complete a year-long rotation in both organisations after their courses.
This is the kind of activity that puts a big, impersonal global drinks brand in the younger generations’ good books.
Not a traditional marketing campaign, but this is the kind of activity that puts a big, impersonal global drinks brand in the younger generations’ good books. Gen Zers care about representation. They want to build an equal society. Diageo shows that it’s willing to be part of that with this partnership.