How Beverage Brands Can Build Cultural Relevance

Cultural relevance feels impossible to define because the very nature of it is ethereal and fast-moving. Which means that brands that touch our lives every day need to think in terms of lasting platforms versus fleeting moments.

In other words, they need to create cultural moments.

That’s no small ask for any brand. But the task becomes even bigger for beverage brands—specifically alcohol brands—given that Gen Z consumes 20% less alcohol than their millennial counterparts, according to Berenberg Research.

So what’s a booze brand to do? Get creative. Recognize that where Gen Z-ers under index on alcohol, they over index on community. Pivot to a participation-based marketing approach, intentionally engaging this demographic by infusing your brand into their communities, encouraging authentic interactions and turning moments of participation into purchasing opportunities.

And each of these moments can become cultural acts, driving fame without feeling like advertising. Here’s a proven four-step process.



Understand culture. There’s fast culture, which is rapid and ever-changing, and slow culture, which is more enduring. You’ve got to root your insights in the latter, but create with the former.

When it comes to slow culture, think about the variables -- everything from the rise of fresh tech to demographic shifts to politics. These keep us engaged and participating in the world around us. So your brand needs to invest in these elements to ensure it’s on solid footing.

In terms of fast culture, get a firm grasp on consumption trends, because how people are connecting influences how they consume. Are they interested in large gatherings, or do they prefer drinking at home? The time of year and occasion will have further implications, such as seasonal cocktails in colder months or ready-to-drink beverages for on-the-go, outdoor events. It’s also important to think through wellness lenses, as consumers increasingly seek low-cal and low-ABV beverages.

Create with culture, not for culture. Create for your tastemakers. Don’t view them as a means to reach your desired customer base -- but, if you’ve designed with them in mind, you’ll naturally secure their buy-in. Choose partners who resonate with your brand’s values, but don’t treat them as an advertising channel, but as an influence channel instead.

This means establishing your content around your brand values with a specific audience persona in mind. Think about who your ideal customers are, how they spend their time, and what they enjoy. Craft content, experiences and partnerships that speak directly to them.

Be authentic and credible. Brands who either don’t add value or lack alignment will get called out. If you’re trying to appeal to a new generation, you’ve got to prove you’re relevant and at times even irreverent. Gen Z wants the brands they choose to match their vibe. They don’t want to enjoy the same things as their parents. They want different and, if possible, better.

Showcase what your brand cares about and how that aligns with Gen Z values, like mental health, diversity, sustainability and social responsibility.

Help shape and fuel culture. Don’t just show up to say you were there. Show up if you’ve got something meaningful to add. Anything you add to the realm of culture should not be an echo. Push. Provoke. Engage.

When trying to disrupt the current market, identify areas that are unexpected but align with your brand and audience. When vodka pasta was going viral on TikTok, Absolut Vodka partnered with Heinz to make its very own vodka sauce. It worked because it was unexpected, but it was also in line with what its audience cared about.

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