The Drum, 19-02-2024

For The Drum’s food & drink focus week, Jonny Davis of Allied Global Marketing looks into what the booze brands are doing to capture the attentions of gen Z, famously the driest generation in… generations.

How are alcohol brands trying to recapture the attention of gen Z? / Sam Battaglieri via Unsplash

There’s a reason every alcohol brand wants to connect with the gen Z audience. More accurately, there are 353 billion reasons: it’s already a global spending power of £353bn. Brands are no longer waiting for this audience to mature. They are ready to spend. Gen Z is seeing far more alcohol abstinence than previous generations. So, if they’re to reach that market, alcohol brands need to connect in a new way. The old tricks are not landing. Can the old dogs learn some new ones?

It’s a generation that prioritizes authenticity and engaging narratives – values they expect brands to mirror. In a concerted response, alcohol brands are adapting their marketing and business strategies to better resonate with these somewhat elusive but nonetheless progressive consumers. Alcohol brands, like any other brand, will have to meet gen Zers where they are. That means looking closely at what they bring to the table in three key areas: authenticity, social responsibility, and sustainability.


Avoiding the ‘ick’ is essential to connecting with gen Z (though I’m painfully aware that saying so may have done exactly the opposite of its intention). Alcohol brands need to be themselves while also living those shared gen Z values. That’s all before we get to the details of showing up well and appropriately on each unique channel. The clear leader here is hard seltzer brand White Claw. Alcohol brands often play in a genderized space where they reinforce tired old gender stereotypes. This is not an issue for White Claw. There’s a clean 50/50 gender split in younger consumers of hard seltzer, and White Claw accounts for more than half of seltzer sales. Women love it. Men love it.

And the brand has been a part of the dawning of a post-gender world where millennials and gen Z are increasingly comfortable with the idea of gender fluidity. The brand consistently and authentically plays in this space. It can because doing so is authentic to the brand.

Social responsibility

Gen Z is transforming the business landscape with its demand for social responsibility. To truly connect with the gen Z audience, alcohol brands must be authentic, yes, but they must also speak genuinely and from experience when communicating their values and beliefs.

French liqueur company Pernod Ricard hired a new chief executive of North America in 2020, Ann Mukherjee, who by her admittance was an unlikely choice for the top job at a company that sells alcohol: in an interview with Fast Company, she revealed a difficult relationship with alcohol, having been assaulted by an inebriated man, and dealing with her mother’s death which was caused by a drunk driver.

While many C-suite leaders may be reluctant to share such personal details, Mukherjee’s experiences informed one of her first initiatives at the helm of the company: a campaign (launched on Valentine’s Day) about consent for Absolut Vodka. The campaign connects to Pernod’s sustainability CSR strategy as it ties into the value of the brand and highlights responsibility as one of their commitments under its ‘Responsible Hosting’ pillar – to fight alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking.


Gen Z is the ‘sustainability generation’. Alcohol brands must move past greenwashing. The generation is just too smart and too well-researched to be fooled.

Sustainability programs must be lived throughout the organization and not be a marketing tactic. At Allied, we worked with Heineken to produce The Greener Bar at Electric Picnic music festival. The result was a greener festival experience that didn’t compromise on Heineken’s iconic festival experience, service and entertainment but delivered it on a minimal carbon budget, using innovations in circular design and building methods, materials, and technologies to reduce waste, water, and energy use. The result was a genuine and authentic connection between the brand and the gen Z audience. Brands must truly live their sustainable credentials and invite the audience to participate in the experience.

Getting these three core elements correct will be the cornerstone of building a connection between alcohol brands and the gen Z audience. Then all you have to do is tell the story in a compelling manner in the right channels. Easy, right?

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