Image Credit: SomeEcards

When in 2012 one of UVA’s most illustrious donors, Paul Tudor Jones, announced a $12 million gift to establish a Contemplative Sciences Center to foster “modern applications of contemplative thought,” people thought he was bonkers. Today, as the mindfulness movement seeps into more and more touchpoints in our lives, we’re realizing that Paul was not bonkers – he was actually five years ahead of the rest of us.

Since 2012, Google searches for “yoga” increased 40%, searches for “meditation” grew 51% and searches for “purpose” shot up 56% (Google Trends). Type in “mindfulness” on Pinterest and you’ll see hundreds of pages of infographics, videos and inspirational quotes to help you eat better, sleep better, ease stress and live with intention.

Ironically, the more time we spend texting, tweeting and snapchatting with each other, the more we find ourselves yearning to make meaningful connections with people who share our values. But our society-wide addition to our smartphones makes it feel impossible to just turn the damned things off and interact with our friends. Instead, we turn to novel, organized gatherings of people with shared interests – some of which force us to surrender our lifelines smartphones as a cost of entry. Unplugged parties, Conscious Family Dinners, sober raves and meditation retreats all fit the bill.

As this trend gains momentum, the implications for beverage marketers should not be overlooked. With more consumers seeking out fresh (and refreshing) ways to interact, bar crawls, keg parties and cocktail gatherings will inevitably become passé, and beverage brands will need to seek out new ways to connect.

Thus far, I’ve come across two alcohol brands that have clearly latched on to this trend:

  • Michelob UItra has seen significant sales growth in recent years, which it attributes in part to its targeting strategy aimed at consumers seeking community through active lifestyles. This year, the brand made headlines with its Superbowl ad that tapped into our affinity for group fitness as a bonding activity (and featured the beloved Cheers theme song). “Communities forming around fitness activities represent a new type of socializing,” said Azania Andrews, vice president of Michelob Ultra, in a statement reprinted by Adweek. “[This spot] emphasizes that beer is a part of this new world, grounded in celebrating accomplishments.” Nuff said.
Antarctica beer
Image Credit: BBDO for Antarctica Beer
  • Antarctica Beer chose to embrace the tension arising from the fact that, while the world has never been more connected, people still feel isolated because so much time is spent alone when “connected.” In 2016, the longtime sponsor of Rio’s Street Carnival opted NOT to give Carnival attendees what they thought they wanted – free wifi – and to instead encourage them to disconnect from their devices and treat the event itself as the world’s best social network. By inviting consumers to “log out and jump in,” Antarctica positioned its brand as one truly walking the walk in the mindfulness movement. It also gained 5 points in brand preference, the market’s main indicator for sales growth, and gained 20 points in brand awareness vs previous year’s efforts, according to creative agency BBDO.

Do I believe the move toward more mindful living is an omen that Gen-Y is going to revive prohibition? No way. Do I believe alcohol marketers should take note? Absolutely. There are millions rooting for the mindfulness movement to transform our culture for the better … brands should not turn a blind eye.