Millennials: What Motivates Their Spirit Selections?

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Millennials are increasingly the key age group for nearly every bar and restaurant concept, and the difficulties chain restaurants face building loyalty with them are well known. Now a report from marketing and public affairs consulting firm MWWPR, “Millennials & Spirits: Influencing the Path to Discovery,” shows just how important their changing tastes matter.

How important are their tastes? “The youngest Millennials turn 21 in 2016, which means the entire generation is now of legal drinking age. Not only are they the largest generation in the US — and in world history — but they’re also on the verge of commanding the largest spending power. In fact, Millennials just surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the US Census Bureau,” and that’s just for openers, according to the report.

MWWPR’s research gave them insights into what drives the legal drinking age (LDA) generation to trial and influence spirits. The results: friends and bartenders have the most sway over Millennials, although their rush to share things over social media is tempered unless they find similar opinions among influencers or earned media. Their circle of influence is relatively intimate and personal, but they look for third-party validation when offering opinions.

The online survey, conducted among more than 1,000 Millennials ages 21-34 in the top 20 DMAs who drink spirits three or more times per month, found they are just as enthusiastic about discovering new brands as they are about how those brands taste. Three primary audiences came to light as the most trusted sources of information around new spirits products: friends and co-workers (62%), bartenders (50%), and the brands themselves (43%). The two main factors that most influence them are experience and authenticity. Bartenders influence Millennials because they are considered to be experienced, educated, authentic, creative, and experts.

Two-thirds agreed they were interested in trying small batch or craft spirits, and about a quarter strongly agreed that they taste better than major brands, although a third said tradition and history can influence their purchases.

While the study specifically concerned spirit brands and how best to market them, the same sort of analysis has been used to describe the changing wine market as well. Bars and restaurants have a unique place now as part of the marketer’s tool kit, but more importantly, they need to build on whatever is authentic and unique about their own operation, and use those brands that speak to their customers.

It’s another reason why having bar staff who are knowledgeable about every food and drink item sold is so important. If there’s no one on the front lines who can tell the brand’s story, it’s less likely a customer will take the leap, either for a new or a well-established brand. Brands that have strong stories Millennials perceive as adventurous, authentic, cool, experienced, and creative appeal to this particular demographic.


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