Drinks and brands that do not centre around one gender will drive future trends, industry observers believe, as modern consumers look to avoid stereotypes. 

Speaking at the Global Drinks Forum in Berlin earlier this month, William Rowe, CEO of creative agency Protein, said that looking forward, drinks that succeed in the market will not limit themselves to targeting specific genders. "People think now about manly drinks and girly drinks," he said. "I think that's going away in the future."

Citing findings from Protein's forthcoming Drinks Report, Rowe said 'early-adopters' are "shifting beyond the traditional markers of identity". He said consumers expect greater diversity and representation in the brands they choose to purchase. Rowe defined 'early adopters' as affluent, tech-savvy, creative and open-minded consumers - not necessarily Millennials.

According to the CEO, 25% of US craft beer drinkers are female - and within that, 72% are "frustrated by brands that treat them as an afterthought". Meanwhile, 37% of US whisk(e)y drinkers are female. "This stat is only going up," he said. "Let's think beyond just marketing to males."

He conceded that some brands are beginning to appeal to both sexes - highlighting Bud Light's Equal Pay campaign, featuring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen.

Gendered approaches to advertising feel antiquated, said Rowe, citing several beer campaigns, including this one from Skol.

Companies should look to depict multiple genders, sexualities and ethnicities with their brands, he told the audience. To illustrate the point, Rowe highlighted Smirnoff's Voguing commercial: 

Meanwhile, the founder of cocktail festival series Tales of the Cocktail, Ann Tuennerman, who was also speaking at the forum, said female consumers have "significant purchasing power", while an "equal number" of men and women describe liquor as their most-consumed beverage. 

Going beyond sex, she said the trade needs to understand that women are "more than just a gender". Brands should look to develop personal relationships with female consumers, Tuennerman argued. "Women invest in brands that reach out to them directly.

"[The trade should] communicate a compelling brand story - think about social media. It's a such an easy way to start telling your story in a quick way."

Beyond brands, the industry also needs to consider drinks as 'genderless'. A recent study from Diageo into the future of cocktails suggests bartenders are using 'gender-neutral' language to describe, name and serve cocktails.

As part of the movement, Tuennerman said that it is important to encourage more women to work in the trade. 

"When there are more women in the industry," she said, "they are going to create more cocktails, bar designs, drinking experiences that appeal to a more diverse group of women. In turn, a more diverse audience will start going out to bars."

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