Alcohol Advertising to Millennials and Gen Z: Strategies & Challenges

Alcohol Advertising to Millennials and Gen Z: Strategies & Challenges

Advertising alcohol to Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Generation Z (born 1997-2012) presents unique opportunities and challenges for brands. These consumers have distinct preferences, behaviors, and attitudes toward alcohol consumption, shaped by digital connectivity, health consciousness, social values, and budget constraints. Effectively reaching these younger audiences while navigating regulatory and ethical considerations is crucial for alcohol brands. 



Understanding their habits, preferences, traits, and generational trends is the first step in crafting targeted and impactful marketing strategies.


  • Flavor Preference: Millennials prioritize flavor innovation in their beverage choices, favoring rich, diverse, and unique tastes. 
  • Occasion-Based Consumption: Millennials tend to associate specific beverages with particular occasions, such as craft beer at bars and wine with dinner.
  • Value-Oriented: Price and value for money are significant factors, with Millennials often seeking the best deals and promotions when purchasing alcohol.
  • Brand Loyalty: Millennials are more likely to show brand loyalty, especially towards brands that consistently deliver quality and align with their values.
  • Social Drinking: Social settings heavily influence Millennials' alcohol consumption patterns, with bars and social gatherings being primary venues for alcohol intake​.
  • Health Conscious: While not as pronounced as in Gen Z, Millennials still show an interest in healthier beverage options, such as low-calorie and organic drinks.
  • Eco-Friendliness: Sustainability and eco-friendly practices are important to Millennials, who prefer brands with clear environmental commitments.
  • Value experiences over material possessions: Millennials prefer spending their money on experiences that create lasting memories, such as travel, dining, and social events, rather than on physical items​.

Generation Z:

  • Moderation and Non-Alcoholic Options: Gen Z shows a strong preference for moderation, with a significant interest in non-alcoholic beverages and low-ABV options. They are driving the growth in the no-alcohol drinks market​.
  • Social and Experiential Drinking: Gen Z prefers drinking in social settings and values the experience of drinking as much as the beverage itself. Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails and hard seltzers are particularly popular​.
  • Flavor Forward: Like Millennials, Gen Z values flavor highly, but they also seek new and adventurous tastes, often preferring innovative and exotic flavors​
  • Health and Sustainability: Health and environmental concerns significantly influence Gen Z’s purchasing decisions. They prefer products that are healthy and sustainably produced.
  • Authenticity and Transparency: Gen Z favors brands that are authentic and transparent, often preferring small, independent brands that align with their values​.
  • Digital Influence: Gen Z heavily relies on digital platforms and social media for discovering and choosing alcoholic beverages. They value recommendations from peers and influencers​.
  • Price Sensitivity: Given their relatively lower disposable income, price is a crucial factor for Gen Z, who often seek value for money and affordable options.
  • Convenience: Ready-to-drink options and beverages that are easy to purchase and consume are particularly appealing to Gen Z, aligning with their fast-paced lifestyle​.
  • Experimentation: Gen Z is more willing to experiment with new products and brands, often trying new beverages that align with their evolving tastes and preferences.
  • Community and Social Impact: Gen Z prefers brands that contribute positively to society and support social causes. They are more likely to support brands that have a clear mission and social responsibility​.
References:  (Drink Ripples)​​ (NIQ)​ (Park Street Imports)​​ (The Buyer)​ 

Strategies for Targeting Millennials and Gen Z

1. Leveraging Social Media and Influencers

  • Social media is a primary platform for reaching younger audiences. Brands like Budweiser and Bacardi have successfully used Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest for campaigns that resonate with younger users. (
  • While TikTok and Snapchat don't allow traditional paid ads, brands can boost visibility through organic short-form videos and strategic partnerships with influencers, including micro-influencers, and by leveraging user-generated content. 



2. Emphasizing Authenticity and Storytelling

  • Both Millennials and Gen Z highly value authenticity in brands. Pabst Blue Ribbon and Tito’s Handmade Vodka have achieved success by authentically sharing their brand stories and maintaining transparent marketing practices.
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon Example: Known for its grassroots origins and cultural appeal, Pabst Blue Ribbon has leveraged its authentic, down-to-earth & socially relevant content to resonate with younger consumers. (Tweet Highlighting #TeamAriana during widely followed reality tv scandal )
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka Example: Tito’s emphasizes its handmade production process and Texas roots, fostering a genuine connection with its audience. (

3. Focusing on Health and Wellness

  • With growing health consciousness, brands are creating and marketing lower-calorie, lower-alcohol, and non-alcoholic options. For instance, Heineken’s 0.0 campaign effectively targeted health-conscious drinkers by promoting its non-alcoholic beer. (
  • Emphasizing ingredients, transparency in production, and the benefits of moderation can appeal to health-oriented consumers.



4. Creating Experiential Marketing Campaigns

  • Experiences matter more to Millennials and Gen Z than previous generations. Brands like Absolut Vodka have hosted exclusive events, pop-up bars, and interactive installations to create memorable experiences tied to their products.
  • Virtual events, especially post-pandemic, have also gained traction, allowing brands to engage with consumers in innovative ways. (Absolute at Coachella)
  • In-Person Events and Sponsorships In addition to virtual events gaining popularity post-pandemic, in-person events and sponsorships remain powerful tools for allowing consumers to try products firsthand.

Real-Life Example: Red Bull often sponsors extreme sports events and music festivals, offering attendees a chance to experience its products in action and associate them with high-energy lifestyles.



5. Utilizing User-Generated Content (UGC)

  • Encouraging consumers to create and share their own content can increase engagement and authenticity. Campaigns that incentivize UGC, like Coors Light’s #CouldUseABeer, tap into the communal and participatory nature of social media during a time of need to boost morale. (#CouldUseABeer Campaign
  • This strategy not only amplifies brand reach but also builds a sense of community among consumers.


Challenges in Advertising to Younger Audiences

1. Navigating Regulatory Restrictions

  • Advertising alcohol comes with stringent regulations to prevent underage drinking. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have age-gating features, but ensuring compliance across all digital channels remains challenging.
  • Brands must balance creative marketing with adherence to legal guidelines, which vary by region and platform. (

2. Maintaining Ethical Standards

  • Ethical concerns around promoting alcohol to younger audiences, particularly those under the legal drinking age, require careful consideration. Brands need to promote responsible drinking and avoid messaging that glamorizes excessive consumption.
  • Campaigns like Heineken’s “Moderate Drinkers Wanted” effectively balance promotion with responsibility, highlighting the brand’s commitment to moderate drinking. (HEINEKEN® LAUNCHES GLOBAL RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION CAMPAIGN)

3. Adapting to Rapidly Changing Trends

  • Millennials and Gen Z are trend-driven and highly influenced by cultural shifts. Staying relevant means continuously monitoring trends and being agile enough to adapt marketing strategies quickly.
  • For instance, the rise of the sober-curious movement has prompted brands to innovate with non-alcoholic and low-alcohol products, a trend likely to grow.



4. Combating Skepticism and Brand Apathy

  • Younger consumers are often skeptical of traditional advertising and brand motives. Building trust requires transparency, authenticity, and consistent delivery of brand promises.
  • Brands that engage in social causes, sustainability, and corporate responsibility, like New Belgium Brewing’s commitment to environmental sustainability, often gain favor with these demographics. 
  • New Belgium Brewing’s sustainability initiatives have garnered positive attention and support from environmentally conscious consumers. (How New Belgium is Fighting Climate Change One Pint at a Time (podcast episode)

5. Navigating Price Preferences of Gen Z and Millennials

  • Gen Z Preference: Gen Z values affordability and discounts. Brands like White Claw have capitalized on this with competitively priced variety packs, appealing to their budget-conscious nature.
  • Millennial Focus: Millennials prioritize quality and unique experiences. Craft breweries such as Dogfish Head Brewery succeed by offering premium products like their "Wood-Aged Bitches Brew" stout, catering to Millennials' appreciation for craftsmanship and distinct flavors.

Advertising alcohol to Millennials and Generation Z demands a nuanced strategy that aligns with their unique preferences and values. From embracing authenticity and leveraging digital platforms to promoting health-conscious choices and creating memorable experiences, brands must navigate regulatory challenges and adapt swiftly to evolving trends. By doing so responsibly and authentically, brands can effectively engage these younger demographics and build lasting connections in a competitive market.

Back to blog