Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How the hospitality industry can tap into Gen Z drinking trends 

By Sophie Abrahamovitch, co-founder and CEO of DUSK

While TikTok trends come and go, the ‘damp’ lifestyle, which has been trending on TikTok over the past few months, could be here to stay.

Loosely defined as an attempt to consume alcohol more mindfully, what’s interesting is the new opportunities this behavioural shift is bringing for hospitality brands. 

Gen Z hasn’t stopped going out. They still spend and they still drink, but in a different way. If the hospitality industry – which is currently geared towards Millennial tastes and sensibilities – wants to capitalise, they’ll learn to speak in Gen Z.

Authenticity is key and when done successfully, brands can re-align themselves with this generation, successfully winning them over and tapping into a bunch of new loyal customers. 

At DUSK, we’ve seen first hand that, and while tried-and-tested marketing gimmicks won’t cut it anymore, there are a few things that will.

Pair it back

Authenticity is key – a response to the aesthetic era of Instagram, which can be seen by the rapid rise in more organic and less curated content platforms like Tiktok & BeReal As such, burning marketing budgets on aesthetics like flower backdrops is unlikely to land with an audience that wants ‘real’ brands, above all else.

Instead, we’re seeing a wave of relaxed and laid-back venues pop up across the UK: London’s Top Cuvee or Manchester’s KERB, for example. For Gen Z this is what it’s all about – community-centric spaces that speak to attainable values.

The brands navigating this best are those genuinely listening to their target audience and building their brands around those values. They’re leading with product, and dropping the inauthentic, overly-aspirational voices of yesterday.

Innovate, don’t imitate

Experiential and ‘guerrilla’ marketing tactics reigned supreme for the past few years, and that’s especially true for hospitality and alcohol brands.

Dating app Thursday for example has become famous for its cardboard-sign parody ads in London. Corteiz, too, has responded well to Gen Z’s sensitivities towards advertising.

These brands encouraged a wave of others to follow in their wake, but marketing teams should be cautious when following suit as copycat tactics aren’t going to hit the mark with an audience that cares about creativity and originality. 

Nothing’s wrong with taking inspiration, but there’s a fine but definite line between imitation and innovation.

Influencers – in or out?

The distance between Gen Z and super-influencers is increasing. Gen Z are looking for people they can relate to and connect with, which isn’t necessarily those with millions of Instagram followers.

Super-influencers retain a purpose for brands with significant budgets and growth ambitions, particularly as marketing platforms to reach new, broad audiences. However, it’s important marketing teams recognise they’re not what they once were and at DUSK, we’ve found micro-influencer activity, managed in-house, is far more effective at building long-term, trusted relationships.

Gen Z wants connection, and people with fewer followers who resonate with them often appeal much more to niche audiences and tastes. 

Inclusive comms

The ‘damp’ lifestyle trend doesn’t just tell us about Gen Z’s drinking interests. It demonstrates just how nuanced this audience really is – when it comes to drinking occasions, there really isn’t room to generalise. 

Gen Z continue to go out and enjoy drinking, but their habits and attitude varies around alcohol, meaning marketing teams need to be wary of a blanket approach where people are categorised into one of two camps – ‘non-drinkers’ and ‘drinkers’. 

Comms need to be inclusive of differing behaviours, and the hospitality brands that succeed will be the ones who treat ‘No’ and ‘Low’ as part of an average week in the life of Gen Z drinkers. If you want to create content that really kills it, there’s only one way to learn. 

Spend time exploring this generation’s behaviour, both on and offline – this will not only help brands understand the type of content that really resonates, but it will help them find their own voice at a time when being unique matters more than ever. Immerse yourself – follow like minded brands and creators who have captured Gen Z’s attention to understand what makes them tick. 

Above all, it is key to experiment with content. There are no boundaries any more and the only way to learn what works is through trial and error, while maintaining a strong brand identity.