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Millennials and their Drinks... It's Complicated

Naira Musallam, PhD • 23 Aug 2017

Millennials are likely one of the most studied generations to date. 

As a group, we are very diverse. For every study on Millennials that shows us to be the scorn of our culture, another shows us to be entrepreneurial, conscious capitalists. 

All of this can really make your head spin. 

As a co-founder of SightX, it just so happens that I have at my disposal some innovative ways to dig into such a topic and uncover the real truths about this generation. 

Through all of the work we've done with clients, more often than not, researching Millennials and their preferences is a top priority. One big reason is that we are set to account for 30% of all retail sales by 2020. We are also incredibly mobile, tech-savvy, and well-educated. Oh to be a Millennial, the focus of so many brands and sales initiatives!

While the team and I were sitting around one evening- as Millennials ourselves-we wondered, how in the world do we deal with this pressure? Well, on the evening in question, it was with a nice full-bodied red wine from California at a bar around the corner from our office. Later that week, I was at home pondering the same, and I thought to myself- I’d like a bourbon Manhattan. It's my go-to drink when I want to feel sophisticated and introspective.

So we figured, why not try to find out how Millennials imbibe? What influences those adventurous, impatient, results-oriented, progressive, confident Millennial’s drink preferences?

Well, as it turns out, our biggest influences come from…each other. 

We found that even though we all have our favorite drink when we do branch out, 35% of us switch based on the recommendations of people we’re with. While it may not be as easy for an alcohol brand to create an online community to foster conversations and encourage reviews from customers, these influences are something for those brands to think about.

But then, sitting at home with my bourbon, I realized that my drink preference can be different than when I’m out on the town with friends or eating at that cool new restaurant in NYC that took 30 days to get a reservation. 

So does occasion really influence our preferences? Yes, but only partially. It’s an incomplete question without the full context. Our findings showed that other factors also hold sway- which means there was more research to conduct. 

60% of us claim that the occasion does influence our drink choices. For the 40% who disagreed, when they did actually make a conscious drink change, the primary driver was- you guessed it- the company they kept. 

Of all the drinks that we asked about, beer and wine are still the perennial favorites. But, interestingly enough, vodka came in as a not too distant third. Is this more Russian subversion of our American culture? Another unanswered question for the FBI perhaps? I missed the report from the House Intelligence Committee, so maybe this was covered, not sure.

Another trend that we thought was interesting to point out is that Millennials seem to be a bunch of homebodies. 

Of the top beverage choices, nearly 40% were most recently consumed at home or a friend’s home. Is this a new challenge for brands? Yes, you can reach almost anyone in this mobile-first culture we live in, but how do you really engage? 

If anything, our findings reveal that we Millennials are more diverse than the label would lead some to believe.

These were my reflections on our study. To read the full report or explore another topic, feel free to reach out:

Naira Musallam, PhD

Naira Musallam, PhD

Naira the co-founder of SightX and our in-house expert for all things research, statistics, and psychology. She received her doctorate from Columbia University, and served as faculty at both Columbia and NYU. She has over 15 years of experience in data analysis and research across multiple sectors in various industries.

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