Party Hard or Party Hardly
The party’s over and the lights are coming on. With 75% of adults 21-35 toning down their drinking on most nights out, moderation is becoming the new modus operandi among young adults (Iconoculture). More than past generations, today’s 20-somethings are foregoing lifestyles conducive to heavy drinking. The motivation behind the Millennial moderation movement goes beyond career aspirations. Millennials are increasingly embracing a transition into adulthood characterized by self-improvement and enrichment – in doing so, reengineering the image of young adults in pop culture.
At the root of this behavior is a shift in values for these consumers. Millennials have increasingly begun putting more stock in values connected to personal growth, exploration and tranquility, while hedonistic values associated with partying and binge drinking have fallen. Their moderation stems from their desire for happiness, balance and enrichment in their everyday experiences, grounded in self-care (Iconoculture).
It’s no longer enough for Millennials to just be physically fit – they’re reaching for a more holistic version of mind-body wellness. With APA singling them out as the most stressed generation and 37% of Millennials drinking in response to stressful situations, it should come as no surprise that they’re searching for ways to achieve a greater sense of fulfillment (Aetna, “What’s Your Healthy?”). They’ve found their answer under the self-care banner. Self-care can encompass a wide range of traditional and idiosyncratic practices – as long as the consumer is doing so mindfully in the pursuit of stress reduction. Heavy alcohol consumption simply does not have a place within the “self-carevolution.” However, that’s not to say that Millennials are adopting abstinence. They’re simply pioneering alternative forms of “partying” and finding creative ways to integrate their moderated consumption with their newfound balanced leisure time.
Performing Double Duty
Experience has become the ultimate status symbol for Millennials. 78% would rather pay for an experience over material goods with experiences ranging from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, cultural experiences and events of all kinds (JWT Intelligence, “The Future of Festivals and Experience”).
The thrill of party culture is giving way to small group socializing and experience-driven activities. Restaurants, concerts, movies, cultural spaces and live events lend themselves to more intimate interaction among core groups of friends and allow for enriching experiences. For those nights that Millennials prefer to be homebodies – 72% would rather stay in on some weekends than go out – group binge watching, marathon multiplayer gaming and board game nights are alternative options that maintain the balance of small group socializing and enriching experiences. IRL (consumer shorthand for “in real life”) partying isn’t the only option either. Over half of Millennials use their mobile devices to enhance their leisure time and admit that they’d rather ‘Netflix and chill’ than go out (Iconoculture; YPulse, “For a Good Time”).
While the experience has taken precedence in Millennials’ social lives, they’re still finding clever ways to weave drinking into their outings. They’re looking for their leisure activities to do double duty, and bars and clubs across the country have heeded their call – providing an opportunity to blend pursuits of personal growth with their social life (Iconoculture).
- Books & Bars is a Minneapolis open book club that rotates it’s meetings between craft beer bars throughout town
- The Secret Science Club meets at the Bell House in Brooklyn to host award-winning speakers with themed specialty cocktails served based on each speaker’s area of expertise
- The Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford hosts the monthly Stretchin’ and Belchin’ yoga class where beer meets fitness
- PechaKucha Nights are held in over 900 cities across the world where creative people get together and share their ideas, works and thoughts in a space for ‘thinking and drinking’
The New Normal
As Millennials pave new ground in moderation and blurring the channels for alcohol consumption and personal development, they’re challenging assumptions and depictions around the lifestyle of young adults, particularly in pop culture. Previous generations did the same. Boomers brought Bohemian lifestyles to light through the counterculture movement. The identity struggle of Gen Xers brought skepticism and cynicism to the forefront. Pop culture of the time was inspired by each generations’ own shifts in values, and we see this illustrated as such, whether it be the rise of electric, psychedelic rock in the 1960s or the identity-seeking, teenage coming-of-age films in the 1980s.
Just as pop culture adjusted then to meet the desires and social cues of young adults, it must do the same today. The glorification of binge drinking and partying seen throughout the 2000s and early 2010s is just beginning to give way. Alessia Cara’s billboard-topping hit “Here” epitomizes the cultural shifts of Millennials today and serves as an anti-party anthem. Films such as The Kings of Summer, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl explore lifestyles of teenagers beyond partying and drinking.
As marketers, we too are obligated to embrace Millennials’ newfound priorities and lifestyle. We need to adapt to these new social cues, understanding the reality of today’s 20-something year olds social lives.
- Be wary not to fall into the trap of glorifying heavy alcohol consumption. Recalibrate representations of young adults socializing, flipping the script on the party hard, gaudy nightclub clichés that we see all too often
- Embrace the small group, in-home hangout, being alongside consumers in owning a feeling of JOMO (joy of missing out) as they ditch FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Alcohol brands need not to fear. Cater to Millennials’ desire for learning and discovery, offering them enhanced experiences that provide personal growth and development beyond alcohol consumption
- Celebrate Millennials in their decision of sobriety and moderation, helping them navigate the perils of curbing drinking habits in a world of pre-game parties, after-work happy hours and social engagements
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