Alcohol brands are lifting millennial spirits

Interbrand

Beer and liquor brands are counting on millennials to lift their spirits. From Budweiser to Smirnoff, alcohol companies are reorienting their personas and their products for a generation that is interested in new tastes, as well as brands with legacy and relevance.

Pleasing the millennial palate

Tastes among the next generation of customers continue to evolve, but beer, wine, and spirit brands are doing a good job of keeping pace. Despite the talk of millennials having an eye for only small craft brewers and distillers, size is not a de facto disadvantage amid the huge spread of alcohol brands.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, brewers of Budweiser, have put particular effort into elevating their brands to premium status and invigorating their beer offerings by creating more excitement and aspiration around them, especially among millennials. And the strong performance of its flagship Budweiser brand reflects the successful impact of the company’s brand-building efforts around the globe.

Budweiser as a brand is embracing the notion of being a “macro brewery” in an effort to attract beer drinkers in a market saturated with microbreweries. Its new positioning, “Brewed the Hard Way,” supports this effort as well. Budweiser’s strategy is to appeal to core Bud drinkers of all ages, including millennials.

Corona enjoys a strong connection with millennials and with a wider variety of beer drinkers, through experiential campaigns based on a shared affinity for the beach, music, and sports. Its brand is built on this attitude as well as its highly recognizable bottle depicted with a lime wedge, a one-of-a-kind taste, and its clever sense of humor.

Meanwhile, Jack Daniel’s has maintained a popular storytelling strategy on social media, focusing on an authentic Americana lifestyle. The brand also has taken a much more interactive approach, responding to individual Facebook posts and tweets—and reinforcing connections with the crucial millennial audience that is embracing the brand’s old mystique for a new era.

Moët & Chandon has a strong internal commitment to its brand, and in the last year, has focused its attention on a new advertising campaign, “The Now,” which has received a positive response among millennial audiences. The campaign builds off of the brand’s previous initiatives centered on #MoetMoments, an effort with a similar theme that encourages consumers to live in the moment.

With both new products and new ways of talking about their products, alcohol brands are winning over the next generation of customers.

Unforgettable experiences and cultural clout

To reach a wider audience and raise the premium value of their brands, many brewers and distillers are making plays to establish themselves as more than just drink makers, pulling on their status as culturally and historically relevant institutions and creating interactive experiences and spaces to win customers’ hearts and minds.

This year, the highlight of Budweiser’s marketing efforts in the US has been its substitution of the name “America” for “Budweiser” in a broad-ranging campaign that has made the brand a more important part of the cultural conversation, especially in the context of election-year divisions. It included a “Made in America Festival” as a flagship music event that was held over Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.

Corona’s brand still plays a big role in its home market. In 2016, for example, they created Movimiento Playa Corona, a major initiative that helped preserve more than 40 beaches across Mexico. The brand isn’t just something you enjoy on a beach, it’s ensuring there is still a beach to enjoy.

Many producers are focusing on building memorable experiences. Leading blended whisky brand Johnnie Walker is following the recent trend toward opening “brand houses,” and opened four new “brand embassies” in Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, and Chengdu, which gained more than 10,000 visitors at launch and successfully reached the high-end Asian market. Jack Daniels is doubling down on experience, with parent Brown-Forman committed to a USD $140 million expansion of the famous Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee. Similarly, Moët & Chandon’s cellars have joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, firmly establishing the brand as both timeless and historically significant.

Nonstop innovation

Beyond new campaigns and messages, alcohol brands continue to focus on the core of their business: great products that meet the needs of customers.

Smirnoff continues to find ingenious new ways to package its vodka and get it into the hands of consumers. For example, Smirnoff Ice Electric Mandarin and Electric Berry varieties are targeted at millennial festivalgoers and packaged in plastic, resealable bottles, allowing consumers to “pursue a night of movement” on the dance floor or at a party of friends.

The Jack Daniels brand continues to grow its family of products across countries, price points, channels, and consumer groups. Its competitor to Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, for example, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, tested very well and was introduced in the fourth quarter of 2015. And its newer whiskey brands, including Fire as well as Honey, had explosive growth in 2015 that is poised to continue in 2016. In February, Jack Daniel’s released its first rye varietal, meant to appeal to both the current segment of brand fans as well as an entirely new segment of drinkers who previously had been drawn to heartier rye bourbons such as Bulleit.

With one eye on the past and another on the present, the alcohol sector is capturing millennial tastes and imaginations through new offerings and product innovations. Meeting demands for crafted products and growing wholly new segments and experience for whatever your tipple, alcoholic beverages remains a competitive and fast-moving space.