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Refreshing Ideas – How Alcohol Brands are Evolving to Target New Audiences

The world changes just like consumers do, and with audiences ever-evolving, the alcohol marketplace has changed – the difference between Generation X, born in the days preceding the digital revolution, and concerned with career success and material gains – and the increasingly influential millennial generation is huge. Savvy brands are seeing this and shifting to meet demand accordingly.

Looking back to go forward

Invigorating a drink’s image, presenting it in a different way, and adapting its story to target a new kind of consumer are now crucial when it comes to driving a brand forward. Look at how gin has exploded over the last few years: thanks to a renewed focus on the spirit – down in part to the emergence of new heritage-based brands with forward-thinking attitudes – this once-dated drink is now at the forefront of the alcohol market, a staple spirit on any cocktail list worth its margarita salt, and not showing any signs of diminishing in popularity whatsoever. 

The key to the boom? Highlighting to the new generation of information hungry consumers that this is the spirit with serious history that’s still perfect for a modern market.

Craft beer, too, has exploded – again, it’s the case of an age-old drink repackaged for a new generation, a generation that wants a back story, but wants it in a contemporary way.

Habit of a lifetime

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that this new kind of consumer will respond best to new methods of communication – the challenge is cracking the content question: how do you promote an old product to a new market? The starting point is to look at the drinking habits of a new audience.

It’s not just about ‘what’ this generation is consuming – it’s also very much about the ‘how’. As the swathe of new experimental cocktail bars and craft beer joints across the UK attests, consuming alcohol is now less about getting drunk, and more about new experiences, social encounters and discovery, and alcohol brands need to join the movement. 

Let’s look at Hennessy. It’s a brand with over 250 years of tradition, historically associated with luxury and prestige. Today, the dated image of mature men in suits is giving way to a more dynamic view of a younger crowd  enjoying light and fruity cognac-based cocktails in cool bars across London. It’s made the transition from a serious spirit served neat to a key cocktail ingredient at the trendiest venues – a go-to for its flexible nature as much as its storied history.

Global players such as the Italian Campari Group, UK-based Diageo and French Pernod Ricard are also looking for ways to refresh the image of their strong brands. Light aperitifs – of which Aperol Spritz is probably the most  popular – have become an ideal way to reach a new market. Indeed, Aperol-branded orange cups and sun umbrellas are now pretty much a summer staple in pub gardens. You can even get sunglasses to match. When you consider that just a few years ago this was a relatively unheard-of drink in the UK, that’s a marketing masterstroke.

The overriding message from these lighter, more refreshing serves it that there is nothing positive in intoxication – there’s now an overwhelming on wellbeing and wiser drinking.

Free spirits

Based on this trend, new low-percentage and alcohol-free brands are appearing on the market. Californian brand Haus is advertised as “lighter than beer, easier to understand than wine – and way less sugary than those European liqueurs”. It’s a new spin on hard liquor, and brings the fusty image of dark spirits up to date for a new consumer. Celtic Soul from the Pernod Ricard portfolio is another alcohol-free dark spirit, while the Strykk brand, founded by Funkin Cocktails founder Alex Carlton, features Strykk Not Gin – a botanical blend that’s alcohol free. This shift to ‘clean drinking’ is one that brands cannot afford to ignore.

Crafty ideas

The beer industry, too, has evolved to target a new consumer, with craft brews pretty much leading the way when it comes to go-to beers for a younger generation. The image of aromatic IPAs or refreshing weizen beers being the sole domain of old-school CAMRA members has been well and truly cast aside – nowadays inventive beers are brewed by hipster kids under arches in Peckham, millennials cram into tap rooms in Hackney, and if you don’t know your saison from your stout, well, you can’t come in. In short, it’s a sector of the alcohol industry that’s been wholeheartedly adopted by the millennial market and, unsurprisingly, a surge in demand for low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers has followed, from the likes of Big Drop Brewing Co, which only produces 0.5% brews, and Peroni Libera 0, 0% from Asahi’s portfolio.

The big picture

While what’s IN the bottle is crucial, how it looks is now just as important when it comes to catching the eye of a new audience – an audience for whom taking a photograph of a drink is as commonplace as actually drinking it.

Some brands consciously focus on a specific colour or shape of a bottle to reach a specific group of consumers. Moët & Chandon champagne works powerfully with pink, gin Pinkster has invested in a new bottle design that shows off the drink’s rosey tones, and Asombroso La Rosa tequila is packaged in a way that tells the story of the drink inside – sweet, floral and distinctive. These products are designed for a social media savvy generation – they’re made specifically to be snapped and shared.

It doesn’t have to be a total overhaul – heritage brand Cointreau has recently launched revamped bottle to mark its 170th anniversary, and it’s a clever way to repackage but not totally rebrand: the label, conceived by iconic French interior designer Vincent Darre, is limited edition, and likely to catch the eye of a new, design-focussed consumer. It appeals to a changing demographic without losing sight of what the drink is all about, and that’s the goal any brand looking to reach new markets should be trying to achieve.

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