Exploring the Sober Curious Movement: A Generational Shift

March 26, 2024

Has the evolution from “Dry January” to “Damp January” potentially paved the way for a longer-lasting “Sober Curious” lifestyle for younger generations?

According to our study “Beyond the Buzz: Defining the Sober Curious Movement,” there is a notable trend that Gen Z and Millennials are exploring alcohol-free alternatives. Our research unpacks what this might mean for brands looking to attract the sober curious demographic.

1. Younger generations at the forefront of online awareness of the movement

Sober curious people doing cheersGen Z and Millennials, while being the most prolific alcohol drinkers, exhibit the most significant awareness and interest in alcohol-free options. Their awareness is largely fueled by social media, at 36% among Gen Z and Millennials. This trend highlights a complex relationship with alcohol consumption among the younger generations, as they balance alcohol indulgence with a growing interest in the sober curious lifestyle.

Social media plays an important role in the adoption of this lifestyle, with younger consumers having sufficient influence and support through social media groups and other online platforms dedicated to the sober living, such as No Booze Babes, which has 40,000 Instagram followers. Our research found that social media and celebrities/influencers significantly motivate younger consumers when purchasing a brand. So, for brands looking to connect with sober curious Gen Z and Millennials, incorporating these platforms and influencer marketing into their marketing strategies is critical.

2. Embracing the movement: celebrating without alcohol

Sober curious friends sitting drinkingAfter identifying where to engage younger, sober curious consumers online, the question now shifts to how brands can effectively connect with them face-to-face.

According to our research, Gen Z and Millennials like to describe themselves as “special occasion drinkers” (42%) and “social drinkers” (37%). For this reason, brands with a pulse on what younger consumers want are integrating themselves into sober-friendly lifestyles. Loverboy, for example, created by Kyle Cooke and Amanda Batula of the reality show Summer House on Bravo TV, is a non-alcoholic beverage line that bills itself as “The Destination for All of Your Celebratory Needs.” The brand hosts events throughout the country, such as pool parties. Other brands and establishments offer educational experiences focused on non-alcoholic beverage food pairings and workshops on creating mocktails. Mindful Drinking Fest is an annual event with a tasting hall, bars, seminars, brand activations, and a non-alcoholic rave. Absence of Proof is an event series that hosts sober pop-up events, and Zero Proofed curates cocktail kits, events, and bar programs nationwide. Even dating apps like Bumble are offering sober happy hours.

3. The untapped potential: Gen X and Boomer generations

Woman on her phoneAlthough Gen Z and millennials show the greatest enthusiasm and knowledge about adopting a sober curious lifestyle, there are still many opportunities for brands to engage with Gen X and boomer consumers. Achieving this may require a more tailored approach in both the messaging and product positioning in order to meet the interests and preferences of these older demographics.

Given that the older generations are less likely to be on Instagram and TikTok, it could be wise to appeal to them via other social media platforms, such as Facebook, or through email marketing (preferred by about 80% of Gen Xers). These generations also prefer in-store shopping to experience products, suggesting that brands could invest in experiential and immersive non-alcoholic beverage events to activate these consumers.

Generational Marketing in the Sober Curious Moment

Before diving into targeted generational marketing campaigns within the sober curious market, start your journey by testing your brand’s messaging, brand identity, and packaging visuals with consumer research. These types of tests will help you align on the advertising communications and on pack designs that resonate with your target consumer, without alienating other audiences.

Gain deeper insights by downloading our Beyond the Buzz: Defining the Sober Curious Movement study report!

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