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The rise of alcohol-free: how to reach millennials and gen Z changing the drinks industry - The Drum

Jan 14, 2022

Young hearts, run (alcohol) free? Millennials and gen Z are drinking more mindfully and consuming much less than previous generations, if at all. This isn’t just a passing trend... sales for alcohol-free beers and spirits are through the roof and show no signs of losing momentum, with the numbers continuing to healthily rise. Interestingly, market-leading beer companies now spend 30% of their marketing budget on 0% beer, meaning there’s a sobriety revolution occurring and brands are taking note.

Equally, alcohol brands are working hard to evolve and diversify their range of alcohol-free beers and spirits, providing more options for this expanding market. And adjusting their tone of voice through slick and innovative branding is proving to be a guaranteed way to set marketers apart from competitors in this high-growth industry and appeal to sober young consumers.

Understanding the switch to alcohol-free

It is integral for marketers to switch their product mindset from substitute to upgrade. A couple of years ago, when people chose a low- or no-alcohol drink, others would see it as a substitute for the ‘real deal,’ but perceptions have changed. Today the message behind alcohol-free is about making a conscious and positive choice, without having to compromise on taste and quality.

Millennials and gen Z dislike drinking between Monday and Friday. But they’re not necessarily less social in the week; they simply want to drink less regularly. For many, they actively avoid a life controlled by alcohol and are open to sampling alternative products. Previously, there was a lot of pressure associated with not drinking, but there’s been a big shift in respecting people’s personal choices.

It can also be a health-conscious decision, where drinkers understand the impact that alcohol has on their body and their mental health, and want to escape the feeling of dread that follows the next day. Happily skipping the hangover, millenials don’t see boozing as ‘cool’ anymore; instead they know the side effects and are consuming more consciously. If they fancy a refreshing tipple, they’re more likely to opt for an alcohol-free GT option to avoid feeling groggy and wasting their weekend.

Social media also plays a crucial role. When nights out weren’t as readily documented as they are now, it was much easier to let loose without fear of being documented in an uncompromising state. Now there’s a constant stream of live videos and photos shared online for all to see, including family, friends and potential employers.

So, how can brands tap into this trend?

During 2020, many of us worked from home and spent more time online than ever before. Users take an average of 50 milliseconds to form an opinion of a brand. Therefore, first impressions matter. And marketers have a minimal amount of time to make it count. This is why having a memorable and unique tone of voice is so important – especially when targeting gen Z and millennial consumers.

Using tone of voice to entice customers

Brands should have a consistent and identifiable voice across their various social channels – one that reflects the brand’s personality and works to serve its community, while also revealing what the brand stands for. The right tone of voice can build trust with audiences, which in time will work to increase a company’s revenue. Alcohol brands offering low- and no-alcohol options should question whether to lead their branding with the alcohol percentage, the logo itself, or even an element that matches the lifestyle of its target audience.

Sometimes a tone of voice can make a brand instantly recognizable, even before the logo is visible. It’s a way of connecting to consumers and ensuring that they recognize the brand through subliminal elements.

While the tone of voice should be consistent, it can vary depending on the subgroups that the brand is targeting. For instance, if it is targeting more than one audience or adapting its style and format to suit different social channels.

But a strong tone of voice won’t be enough to convince a growing group of non-drinking gen Z consumers to invest in your brand; clear messaging and a standout visual identity are as necessary as an appealing product. Gen Z may be changing the low- and no-alcohol space by rebelling against traditional drinks products, but the same rules apply with regard to capturing their attention. Brands looking to break into this space need to relearn the why behind their customers’ choices to consume less, and work out what the powerhouse brands excelling in this space are doing to retain their interest.

This is the first article in a three-part series from Paradise Agency. In the next piece, we talk to some of the key players in the low- and no-alcohol sector to find out how they approach their branding.

Amber van de Sande, creative account manager at Paradise.

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