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White Claw: How They Reached Millennials and Became the Best Thing Since Avocado Toast

Ain’t no laws when you’re…. and you know the rest. If you were alive for at least 30% of 2019, you heard about White Claw and witnessed the brand explode with a cult-like following. If you’re a skeptic like me you approached your first Claw with resistance before being completely delighted, shocked, and humbled at the genius and deliciousness of flavored hard seltzer. From that first refreshing drop, I was a believer. Some would say obsessed. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say that I am part of a group chat with two of my coworkers where we exclusively discuss breaking Claw-related news (see shameful, slightly concerning screenshot):

Now that White Claw is here and has claimed their spot in refrigerators across the nation, it’s almost hard to remember life BC (before-Claw.. I’m so sorry). But how exactly did they do it? It’s no secret in the marketing world that millennial minds can be the hardest demographic to tap into. They are known for being distrustful of new brands, they don’t respond well to traditional advertising, and once you’re out, you’re out (see: cancel culture). These factors are pushing brands to their creative limits in a bid to reach this highly sought-after audience, with many leveraging FOMO and social media influencers by creating one-time “experiences” like pop-ups, to creating unique apparel, to whatever the hell this is:

They skipped the gimmicks

However, White Claw seemed to skip the gimmicks and instead opt for a more simple marketing track. They rolled out their website and social media with graphics highlighting the insta-friendly can, and created video content with hip-but-ordinary-looking models. This worked because there’s nothing worse than seeing a brand “try too hard” (see: the infamous Gucci meme campaign of 2017). The keyword here is authenticity. Millennials can smell a phony from a mile away, and are aware of the outlandish tactics used to buy their loyalty. Instead, White Claw put themselves out there, and instead of forcing a persona for their drink, they let their audience create it for them. Which leads me to my next point…

They didn’t put themselves in a box

White Claw could have taken many different approaches when defining their “target audience”. They could have focused their branding on being a healthy drink alternative due to their low-calorie count, or women with their “feminine” color choices and fruity flavors, or even honed in on the college crowd by showing White Claw being enjoyed at parties. Instead, they hit all of the above and more. When you take a look at their Instagram feed, there is something for everyone:

In this screenshot alone, people from all walks of life can fit themselves into the White Claw brand. You’re hitting the fitness crowd with the dumbells, the wellness crowd with the healthy food and yoga mat, the drink snobs with the fancy cherry cocktails, the party crowd with the beads and party hats, and even your local outdoorsman with the raspberry claw posing after its strenuous hike. It crosses all ages, all genders, and all lifestyles. The keyword here is inclusion. The worst thing you can do to your bottom line is to exclude certain populations by leaning too far towards one. To reach the superstar status of White Claw, and the diverse species that is the millennial, you need to bring people together, not segment them apart. In a world where niche audiences and hyper-targeting are the norm, White Claw went against the grain and it paid off.

Values over trends

Since their 2016 rollout, White Claw have known exactly who they are and what they stand for, and that is the most important aspect of branding. A good brand should constitute a promise or an agreement between themselves and their audience. When the audience sees the branding, it should evoke positive emotions based on positive past experiences. This is how the audience develops trust - with consistency and reliability. Not only did White Claw succeed in developing trust among their audience, but they did it going against all of the marketing trends of today. No frills. No gimmicks. Just honest, transparent branding, with an honest, transparent product. So the next time you’re trying to re-vamp your brand, don’t look to millennial trends, but instead, look to the millennial values of brand transparency, honesty, and inclusion. And If you’re still hitting a wall, I’ve heard there’s a certain carbonated beverage known to get the creative juices flowing….

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