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06 July 2023

I’ll have what they’re having… How alcohol brands can reframe ‘indulgence’

Bar basso high snobiety

Alcohol isn’t a category you could ever accuse of being particularly austere. And yet there lies an opportunity for brands, across beers, wines and spirits, to really indulge themselves. Specifically, to reframe and rewrite previous notions of what ‘indulgent’ looks, sounds and feels like, in order to keep up with changing consumer attitudes, and spending habits.

In recent years, and influenced by the pandemic (of course), we’ve seen a rise in popularity of premium alcohol. We couldn’t go anywhere so we brought the party to us. But BevAlc Insight’s latest inbox inspo suggests that trading up is slowing down…

“For years now, consumers have been trading up to higher-priced products within the beverage alcohol space – a trend that accelerated during the pandemic, when many people transferred the dollars they would spend on travel or dining to the retail space. But economic pressures are growing, leading to a cooling of the premiumization trend.” (Drizly)


A cooling, yes. But not an irrevocable freezing, according to the online retailer. To crudely summarise the article (although we’d recommend the read…), the cost of living has spooked consumer confidence when it comes to spending on the ‘non-essentials’ – but alcohol is still seen as an ‘affordable luxury’ in times where, let’s face it, we need a wee treat once in a while.

Across generations, ‘indulgence’ is desired in some form or another – regardless of whether Gen Z are in their puritan or hedonist era. Our lives are still busy, we’re still feeling the pressure, and those occasions to switch off and connect with those we care about are still just as relevant as they were last year, and the years before that.

So what has changed? What should your brand be leveraging and how do you indulge your consumers (responsibly)?

Engine gin filling station

Be Playful

Success doesn’t quite look how it used to. Between LSN’s macro trend ‘The Pleasure Revolution and Virtue’s deep dive into the ‘New Codes of Luxury’, the conclusion is people’s free time holds more value to them than being a ‘boss bitch’ on the brink of burnout. For consumers looking for an escape, think about how your brand world can become a real space for fantasy to play out. Like spirit brand, Engine’s, Grand Torino inspired, immersive website or make believe sports club-cum-rosé retailer, Rochambeau’s community of like-minded tennis enthusiasts. Extravagance, prestige and opulence make way from whimsy, kitsch and nostalgia.


Get Comfy

I mean, what’s more indulgent than revelling in the good old days? Seeking pleasure in comfort has spurred a trend for nostalgic fonts, colours and photography that feels more and more prevalent. But use it wisely. There’s a fine line to tread between gimmick and authenticity. Read ‘nostalgia’ as shorthand for storytelling, but the story you re-read or rewatch time over.

Graza olive oil

Make it easy

Breaking down the social constraints of exclusivity and knowledge snobbery in categories such as wine, new drinks brands are eclectic and inclusive, and liberated from the boundaries of tradition.

Especially within the likes of wine or whiskey, many premium brands are looking at different ways to ‘unstuffy’ (the technical term) their category. Be it through retelling their story through new, relevant channels, like Johnnie Walker, or articulating taste through a more candid, emotional tone and accessible formats like Bowl Grabber and NICE.

And actually, it’s not even just in alcohol that using unconventional formats breaks down a perceived snobbery. Olive oil brand Graza, positions their premium olive oil as ‘made to be squeezed and drizzled’ through the use of their plastic squeezy bottle. Indulgence and luxury no longer feel reserved for once-in-a-while special occasions – we’re looking for a means to make special more frequent. For categories like beer and RTDs this presents an exciting opportunity to level out and level up their playing fields.

Nice wine

It would be easy to say the rules are, there are no rules but the gist of it is that indulgence does seem to be in the eye of the imbiber. Times have changed and our attitudes along with them. But all that really means is that there are more opportunities and occasions to connect over a much stronger, more emotional motivator. Money is tight and purchase decisions more scrutinised but consumers remain resilient – they know what matters to them, so make sure you do too.

Care to indulge us in your brand’s next challenge? Get in touch

Thanks to:

Virtue – ‘New Codes of Luxury’
Bev Alc Insights by Drizly – ‘What to know about beverage alcohol premiumization in 2023’
Wunderman Thompson – The Future 100 2022
LSN Global