Those Crafty (Beer) Millennials!


Millennials seem to be changing everything these days. Their spending power alone gives them the right to dictate what succeeds or bombs miserably in today’s marketplace. Take the craft beer category for example – it has exploded due to millennials revolting against traditional beer brands in favor of unique flavor profiles, local brew options, seasonal varietals and tasty beer served in really cool glasses.

Slingshot recently reported that 87% of millennials drank a beer in the last week. And on a weekly basis, 54% of millennials are looking to try a new beer. Millennials want variety, and they want to imbibe with beverages that are more reflective of their own unique personality than that of their grandparents.

Yet millennials are persnickety – they like what they like, and they make sure everyone in their social circle know how they feel pretty much at all times. They are a difficult segment to please given their quest for variety married with authenticity.

As the craft beer category grows in popularity and size, brands will have to look for ways to differentiate themselves from one another. According to Mintel, inspiring trial of novel flavors that offer some degree of familiarity, such as through the use of recognizable products and taste profiles, appears as a tactic that keeps the category dynamic. We’re talking breakfast stout, chili pepper beer, even bacon lager!

The impact of influence

Social media is clearly the primary platform upon which millennials interact, influence, and make decisions. Listening to their conversations across the social media platforms has become critical to understanding and monitoring new product launches. In fact, for some categories, social listening may be more feasible and even more insightful than traditional post-launch surveys.


Social media is so much more about people than it is technology. It’s about posting, commenting, sharing, and liking content on websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Millennials are driven to share information in this way based on the desire for their authentic voice and transparent opinions to be heard and shared by their peers.

That said, we have to adapt what we’re doing post product launch in order to maximize in-market success – it’s not just sales or syndicated data, it’s not just about tracking awareness and usage post launch. It has to be about listening, understanding, and respecting the different ways in which millennials share their feedback and use it to influence their lives and their wallets.

What’s the buzz?

We recently partnered with a client that was challenged with identifying a method for capturing and tracking feedback very quickly after the launch of a new line of craft beers. Results from previous rounds of our volumetric research indicated that sales may be soft, especially for on-premise consumption due to the heavier flavor profile. The team needed to track performance right out of the gate to course correct as quickly as possible.

However, the traditional methods for obtaining feedback, especially among millennials in this category, wasn’t feasible given the restrictions associated with shipping as well as testing beer in a non-controlled setting. Rather than ask the millennials questions via a traditional survey, we knew we had to listen – we had to passively monitor the buzz they were creating on social media – we had to track the words they were saying to each other about their experiences and more importantly understand the sentiment behind what they were saying to assess and track in-market performance.

Within four weeks of launch, we were able to provide our client a comprehensive scorecard summarizing the total buzz – we quantified the buzz volume, overall sentiment, media page types, language being used to describe the products and SKUs in the line generating the buzz. Overall, the buzz was very positive – total buzz volume for this launch was about 25% higher than what we saw for a recent competitive launch.


When we drilled down by SKU and we found that SKU A was the primary driver of positive sentiment for the line yet SKU B was garnering more mixed reactions – comments which are polarizing given they are linked to both positive and negative sentiments. This raised a red flag as we knew we had limited time to convert those showing negative sentiment to positive given the influence they have on each other on social media.

So, we dove even further into SKU B to diagnose the why and found that millennials were describing SKU B as “hoppy” and “malty.” While some liked those specific aspects of the beer, a notable segment showed to have negative reactions to those same characteristics.


These insights were invaluable in that they helped to explain the results from the forecast – the soft on-premise estimate was due to SKU B’s heavy flavor profile. It wasn’t delivering on drinkability, rather it was being found to be better suited for drinking 1-2 per session and to accompany a meal eaten at home. The team ultimately chose to pull SKU B from the market given the potential impact on the line.

We’re now working with R&D to conduct an experimental design in order to identify the ideal hoppy/malty flavor profile with the goal of improving perceptions of drinkability and sessionability.

As we come to a close, I have to admit that I’m not a millennial, but I say bottom’s up to this craft beer phenomenon! Bring on the varieties and let me at least feel like a millennial for a few more years!