Wine, women and strong spirits

As women’s alcohol intake rises, they are becoming more important to drinks advertisers because this group of pub and club goers is most likely to amplify a brand’s message through word of mouth

wineBinge drinking is never far from the headlines – and alcohol consumption by women is a major factor behind this, even though the number of women aged 18 and over who drink alcohol has declined slightly, according to TGI data, from 94% in 1988 to 87% today.

However, there has been a noticeable increase in the frequency of consumption over the same period. In 1988 just 28% of female drinkers consumed alcohol at least twice a week compared to today’s figure of 41% – a sharp rise of 46%.

To coincide with this, the number of female drinkers who agree that the point of drinking is to get drunk has reached an all-time high of 1.3 million, representing 6% of the female drinking population.

Bottled wine has always been the most popular category of alcoholic beverage for the group, with around 80% of female drinkers consuming it.

And, despite an apparent stability in overall wine consumption levels, the frequency of it being consumed has seen some dramatic rises. In 1998, about a third of female wine drinkers consumed at least three bottles of wine a month; today the figure is approaching 40% – with almost 1 million women drinking at least 10 bottles a month. With the increased levels in frequency, there has also been a rise in overall acceptance that it is worth paying extra for quality wine – 7.8 million agreeing in 2003 compared to 8.3 million today.

However, arguably the most significant category rise in terms of overall consumption is vodka. In 1998, a fifth of female drinkers consumed the product compared to today when almost a third now drink it. One possible reason for this significant rise could be the widespread availability of cocktails in pubs, bars and clubs. Perhaps the perception of vodka has changed from it being traditionally viewed as a “short” to now being an integral ingredient in any cocktail or fashionable drinks concoction – for example vodka is now regularly served with energy drinks.

Further evidence to support this idea is found when looking at where women consume drinks. When out at a nightclub white spirits are the preferred choice for the majority of female drinkers, with 16% of them agreeing they would consume them while clubbing, compared to only 7% who would choose wine. Whereas at a pub or bar, the majority of women choose to drink wine (24%) with 18% of women opting for white spirits.

Interestingly, regular consumers of vodka are over three times as likely as regular wine drinkers to agree that they really enjoy going out to get drunk. Age could well be playing a factor here as regular vodka drinkers are also more than three times as likely to be aged between 18 and 24.

The number of brands a woman consumes in each alcoholic drinks category depends on overall levels of alcohol consumption. The women who consume the most alcohol, consume the most brands. Women who drink at least twice a week are 14% more likely than those who drink once a week to consume an average of over three brands per drinks category.

Women who are regular consumers of alcohol are becoming increasingly important to alcoholic drinks advertisers not only in terms of their frequency and brand consumption but also because they are the most likely to amplify a brand’s message through word of mouth.

The women who have the highest levels of alcohol consumption also have the highest levels of amplification. Indeed, the more they consume, the more brands they drink, the more the product field is discussed and the more expert and persuasive that discussion becomes.

Women who consume alcohol at least twice a week are 36% more likely to talk to many different people about alcoholic drinks, 57% more likely to know a large amount about the category and 60% more likely to agree they are “very likely to convince others” about their opinions on the subject.

The importance of effectively influencing the influencers is extremely apparent. TGI analysis reveals that radio and cinema are possibly the best ways to target regular female drinkers, as they are more likely to be in the top 20% of consumers for both media vehicles.

Caution must be used when advertising to this group as about half of it feels bombarded with ads and over a quarter find such advertising a waste of time. But with efficient and effective targeting, they are the most valuable female group to the advertiser: getting them “on board” with your brand would pay dividends.


Russell Budden, BMRB TGI marketing executive and media analyst, contributed to this week’s Trends Insight








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