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Fancy a drink? Today’s youth say not necessarily

As a new generation comes of age, the alcohol industry faces a new set of challenges. Social occasions and alcohol have gone hand in hand for decades, but the world is changing. 66% of 16-24 year olds don’t consider alcohol to be important to their social lives anymore.

Wise beyond their years

As a group, today’s young adults are a sensible bunch. Contrary to what you might expect, they prioritise their education and careers: 78% of respondents said their education helps them to live the life they want right now, and 55% said the same of their working life.

One of the most popular words they used to describe themselves was determined, along with intelligent, caring and honest. And finally intelligence topped the poll when we asked this group what they most admire in others. Their values reflect this grounded and mature attitude; they rank happiness, love, equality and honesty amongst the things most important to them.

A new kind of hero

Their heroes aren’t beer swilling party animals either. Surprisingly, given their combined level of fame, Taylor Swift and her posse of twenty-something superstar friends characterise this sense of reason and low-key lifestyle (when not gracing red carpets and runways of course).

Speaking of their social gatherings, Swift’s pal Selena Gomez says: “We go to her house and hang out and cook or we go out to dinner”. (Vanity Fair, September 2015) Hardly the antics of a group of out-of-control young hedonists painting the town red.

Sensible but not boring

Whilst this audience might be sensible and thoughtful, they are not overly earnest; they picked ‘fun’, ‘funny’, and ‘bubbly’ amongst the words their friends would use to describe them.

And they’re well aware that they are straddling the boundary between childhood and adulthood; when asked to name something they were excited about many pointed to the new Avengers film. So whilst humour and fun are valid approaches, anything slapstick will fall short of their expectations. Approach humour with intelligence.

Help them embrace their individuality

We may also be leaving the age of “I’ll have what you’re having”. This demographic showed a huge appreciation for individuality and authenticity: 35% of the respondents ranked “not afraid to be themselves” as the characteristic they most admire in others.

And 71% said they want to be judged first and foremost by their personality. Groups of identikit youths brandishing the same drink as a symbol of their unity are likely to be a thing of the past. And so an opportunity arises for one’s choice at the bar to become a means for this generation to express their personality.

A new approach for drinks brands

Clearly alcohol isn’t the party fuel it might once have been to young adults, so a new motif is required for alcohol communications to this age group. Especially as our respondents rated the accuracy of their representation as a mere 4.4/10. Put simply, the current message isn’t working.

So what’s the way forward? Drinks brands will benefit from demonstrating how their products can be part of a social occasion without being the focus of it. Communications could take a more sophisticated approach. Positioning alcohol around food pairings is a way to bring out young people’s desire for education and self-improvement; enable them to become connoisseurs.

Ultimately today’s young adults are smart, independent and grounded. So we must talk to them as such. They aren’t aspiring to be the group in the club anymore, it’s high time we stopped trying to tempt them with that image.

Further knowledge

These observations have profound implications for communicating with young people – in content marketing and beyond! For more insights into the diversity of 16 to 24 year olds, particularly getting beyond the myths surrounding millennials and understanding the distinct identity of the subsequent Gen Z, check out of the full Youth State report.