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Millennials: Dicing with danger

Millennials are the target market on everyone’s lips. Set to become the largest generation since Baby Boomers they will soon number 50% of the global workforce

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Millenials love ‘new’ - discovering, experiencing and owning something before anyone else. And if they love it, as digital natives, they will let everyone else know, and often move remorselessly onto the next new thing. This drive is putting brands under intense pressure to innovate.

Millennials are also thrill seekers. They’re spontaneous and crave heightened taste experiences.

There has been a wave of new ‘dangerous' drinks with names, packs and product descriptors to appeal to this adventurous consumer. Whisky and bourbon have been getting in touch with their dark side: Jim Beam’s Devils Cut plays off the notion of the angel’s share. The devil’s cut is the portion that is trapped in the barrel wood. By extracting this premium bourbon, adding it to an extra mature six year old bourbon and bottling it at 45% ABV, the end spirit has an infusion of deep bold taste and colour. 

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky is another player in the shot market, relying on social media and other grassroots tactics, which appeal to Millennials. The tagline is 'Tastes like Heaven Burns like Hell’ with plenty of devil imagery. In pursuit is Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire, made from Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Whiskey and naturally infused, red-hot cinnamon liqueur. 

Perhaps the ultimate in thrill seeking is Naga Chilli vodka from The Hot Enough Vodka Co Distillery. The tasting notes by the Master of Malts run something like this:

Nose: Good crivvens, this stuff smells like pure evil, like the very blood of Satan himself. Such a pungent nose of chilli, it makes your eyes water just sniffing it.

Palate: Oh, actually, this stuff’s not so bad, wait a second, whats that, a burning sensation. Oh dear please no!

Finish: asdfkjhjj hfasjklkljfds klajkh khffjk hfjkhfjhklfhjkjfj fkjhlf [Ed. He’s just mashing his hands against the keyboard and he has a look of panic and also terror as though he’s seen things no one ought ever see]

Innovation, disruption and hence Millennial attention can also be achieved by combining two previously distinctive categories together. Josh Hayes, senior brand director for Malibu at Pernod Ricard USA is correct when he says "The idea that a product resides solely in one category is no longer true in consumers’ minds". Malibu Red is billed as 'a delicious blend of 70 proof smooth Caribbean rum and fiery silver tequila' on its website and the suggested serves are either shots or Malibu Red Cola Danger. The addition of tequila implicitly adding danger.  

Another arguably tame, established market looking for a dose of adventure is lager. Desperados also looked to tequila to create the world’s first tequila flavoured beer. Ironically, for a pack that appears to hail from Mexico or, at very least the Wild West, it is a brand that originated in France. So much for authenticity, another characteristic Millennials hanker after, but perhaps overlooked when this brand offers a thrilling, tequila-influenced party-time.

What all these pack designs have in common are visual cues that evoke danger and death: The colours red and black, motifs such as skulls and devils, charring and fire.  Red is the colour of blood, and has historically been associated with danger and courage. In the Middle Ages, a red flag announced that the defenders of a town or castle would fight to defend it, and a red flag hoisted by a warship meant they would show no mercy. In car racing, the red flag is raised if there is danger to the drivers. In international football, a player who has made a serious violation is shown the red penalty card and ejected. Black is culturally associated with secrecy, mystery and ultimately evil and death. Skulls, devils, charring and fire all evoke religious meanings of death and hell. 

We need Millennials to move on to the next new thing before they burn out!

13 January 2015