You're pre-party drink may still be supermarket vodka and lemonade (with a dash of Ribena, just to take the paint-stripper edge off), but a new study into alcohol-buying trends suggests that after some Facebook scrolling and a quick check of the 'gram, you could be sipping Cristal like it's your birthday.
Published by media research groups Evolve Media and Hava Media Group last week, Behind the Bottle: An Exploration of Trends in the Spirits Category found that out of the 1,605 US adults aged 21-and-up questioned, 42 percent said that digital media (including things like e-newsletters, mobile apps, and social media) was "an influential touchpoint to get ideas and recommendations of what spirits to buy." Just 24 percent cited traditional media such as television, print publications, and radio as a source for alcohol recommendations.
The study also found that Millennials—those brunch-obsessed semi-adults aged between 21 and 35—were splashing the cash on top shelf spirits as a way to impress their mates. When faced with the question "I sometimes order a premium brand just to impress my peers," 28 percent of Millennials answered "Yes," compared to 11 percent of Baby Boomers.
So, it's social media—not drunken generosity—that could be to blame for your empty bank balance at the end of the night.
In a press release following the report, Evolve president Brian Fitzgerald claimed that Millennials are buying premium alcohol brands because knowing your spirits is like, so trendy rn: "According to the study, knowledge of spirits is becoming social currency among Millennials and they will order name brands to impress their peers."
But Leslie Hallam, course director of psychology of advertising at the University of Lancaster, says that Millennials are trying to keep up with the Joneses (or should that be the Kardashians?) just as much as their parents' generation. He told MUNCHIES: "Every brand that wishes to appeal to Millennials uses digital to reach them. Online is an extension of their nervous systems—the medium in which their individuality dissolves into peer-affiliation."
Hallam adds that Millennials are perpetuating this trend: "One of the most important differences between Millennials and Gen X et al is that for the former, it's not, 'What you have' but, 'What you know.' Being seen to have discernment in spirit choice is important social currency—as are the stories you can tell as a result. And these get told online, while they're happening. The drinks you have at the beach bar in Ibiza are a part of the story, and the brands that are a part of them are transmitted to friends anywhere in the world."
It's not the first time Millennials' humble-bragging Facebook statuses have been shown to influence alcohol choices. Last year, experts in Australia linked social media to increased drinking among women and a recent study by market research agency Mintel found that 75 percent of "US Millennials agreed that craft alcohol brands are higher quality than big brands," while 34 percent of those in the UK said "craft drinks are worth paying more for."
Unsurprisingly, alcohol companies are taking advantage of this link between booze and online sharing. James Chase, marketing director at Chase Distillery, which produces craft gin and vodka in Hereford, told MUNCHIES that the distillery has been specifically targeting the Millennial age group on social media in the past six months. They're already seeing results.
Chase said: "We have seen an increase in terms of engagement, particularly with this age group sharing content within their own communities on social. Our customers who attract this age group are growing, suggesting there is a role for perception with their friends. We see Millennials 'brand-calling' more and more as a sign to their friends that they know what they are talking about."
Maybe it's time to start saving money by going back to our teenage roots and drinking Sainsbury's cider on street corners. You never know, it could look OK with the right Insta filter …