Millennial Marketing

To the Wine Community at Large:

I write to you as a firmly established member of what is typically called the “ Generation” and I have a bone to pick. Mainly it is a result of a recent phenomenon in the community, one I like to refer to as the “dumbing down of wine.” It seems to be an increasingly popular opinion that in order to bring wine to younger and newer audiences, wine needs to be brought down to “our level”. Unfortunately for the marketers it is almost instinctive by now that we will reject most things that people attempt to target to us. We like to adopt things ourselves. Look at the successes and failures in mainstream viral marketing. Most things that succeed do so because young people want to have them, not because they were told they need to have them.

Wine doesn’t need to change the way it is, but it does need to change the way young people are told about it. Some believe that wine has to be trendy or cool or fun or marketed like beer and hard alcohol to become popular with young people. They point to trends in in music and magazines and tech gadgets and tailor their wine approach to these same tactics. The problem is that they are missing the ways in which wine has a competitive advantage.When it comes to young people, wine will never win a competition with beer or hard alcohol on trendiness or shock value or sex appeal. It’s like a horse by telling people its a cow because you think cows are what people want.

I’d like to let you in on a little secret about young people. Just around the time we reach legal drinking age we also start to have a desire for sophistication or a desire to be seen as an adult. We’ve done a lot of moving on from our teenage years and, contrary to popular belief, the majority of us are not a bunch of binge drinking, hard partying, pierced, and tattooed hooligans as we are portrayed in the press. The majority of young people today are smart, ambitious, inquisitive, and above all we’re sophisticated and discerning consumers (even if we’re not yet, we like to think so). This is where wine can compete. Make us feel sophisticated, after all this is one of the ways it is marketed to adults. Wine is a complex and beautiful drink with a great history and a great culture. This is something a lot of the Millennial Generation would love to learn about but the marketers don’t think we want to learn the story. Sure we have our idiosyncrasies and like cool stores, but most of all we want to be treated like the adults that we are. We don’t like to be talked down to, we are willing to ask if we don’t know something, and we certainly don’t like it when older people feel they have to dumb stuff down for us.

Truthfully, millennials shun wine because:

  1. the price point of good wine is a bit high
  2. no one has really attempted to market wine to us in the middle ground (Meaning someone needs to meet the millennials with a good wine at a decent price and speak to us at a level somewhere between wine kindergarten and hoity-toity wine college).

I feel I may be getting a bit drawn out, but for now I’ll leave you with this:

  • We hate when marketers treat us like we have no attention span or sophistication. Speak to us like the adults that we are and please please stop the race to the bottom when it comes to marketing wine to Millennials.
  • Stop dumbing it down to broad-reaching food pairing suggestions and one flavor wine descriptions. We are interested and we want to learn. If you want to sell us wine then be willing to teach us and to take time with us. Part of wine’s appeal is it’s complexity, let’s not lose that for the sake of selling out.
  • Finally, if you want to integrate some of the things we enjoy like social networking and other technological concepts, why not get a member of our generation to help you. Please don’t have a member of an older generation try to create products for us without our input. Remember how cool you thought some of the things your parents created were?

I would like to say that I do appreciate the strides that are being made in the wine world. Hopefully with a little input from young people the incredible culture that is wine can spread even further.

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Posted in Marketing, Passion, Wine | 54 Comments »

  • Jason

    Great points. I would add that the wine industry needs to embrace a presence in pop culture, become more accessible in clubs, and overall have a more ‘party’ feel.

  • Jason

    Great points. I would add that the wine industry needs to embrace a presence in pop culture, become more accessible in clubs, and overall have a more ‘party’ feel.

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Jason,

    Actually the one of the reasons I wrote this is because that’s one of the places that the wine industry has missed the mark. Their money is not well spent trying to out- compete beer and liquor in clubs (pop culture maybe but still not super effective). There is a large segment of the twenty something population that doesn’t want wine to do that. Wine companies that are trying for a party feel often loose out badly to hard liquor in clubs because hard liquor has the competitive advantage here. Wine in clubs would also be at an extremely high price point (just look how much a budweiser costs in a club even). Wine needs to look at it’s strengths and where it can compete. Pop culture, clubs, and parties have not proven to be one of those places. Save for a few high end champagnes, which few twenty somethings can afford anyway, selling out the wine culture for the club and party industry is not the way to go. Of course, this is just my opinion and time will tell, so who knows? Though I do feel I’m representative of a large portion of the Millennial Generation.

    -Brad

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Jason,

    Actually the one of the reasons I wrote this is because that’s one of the places that the wine industry has missed the mark. Their money is not well spent trying to out- compete beer and liquor in clubs (pop culture maybe but still not super effective). There is a large segment of the twenty something population that doesn’t want wine to do that. Wine companies that are trying for a party feel often loose out badly to hard liquor in clubs because hard liquor has the competitive advantage here. Wine in clubs would also be at an extremely high price point (just look how much a budweiser costs in a club even). Wine needs to look at it’s strengths and where it can compete. Pop culture, clubs, and parties have not proven to be one of those places. Save for a few high end champagnes, which few twenty somethings can afford anyway, selling out the wine culture for the club and party industry is not the way to go. Of course, this is just my opinion and time will tell, so who knows? Though I do feel I’m representative of a large portion of the Millennial Generation.

    -Brad

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    I should also add that wine is distinctly suited to take advantage of the long tail when it comes to young people and doesn’t necessarily need that sort of mainstream appeal to succeed with new generations.

    -Brad

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    I should also add that wine is distinctly suited to take advantage of the long tail when it comes to young people and doesn’t necessarily need that sort of mainstream appeal to succeed with new generations.

    -Brad

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Brad: Great post. I got into wine as a 20-something precisely because it seemed to me to be the logical extension of college (you keep learning things), it was a more fun hobby than golf or flower-arranging, and it was something I loved. The process is the fun part and I think you’re right that the wine biz is insulting the 20-30 crowd by suggesting all you want to do is go to clubs and get hammered all the time.

    I found it interesting on your wine blog that you listed both Dr. Vino and Gary V. as good examples of wine blogs. I think it’s because they’re both teachers. Dr. Vino is like your beloved college teacher, and Gary V. kind of reminds me of my favorite high school teacher/coach who knew everything but was slightly demented in the best possible way and knew how to motivate us to get moving.

    All good educators know that you get nowhere if you dumb things down for your students. I think that the wine blogs and the wine publications that will succeed in the next evolution will be those where they approach wine like a life-long class–not a private country club for those in the know (that would be the hoity-toity end of the spectrum) or a kindergarten.

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Brad: Great post. I got into wine as a 20-something precisely because it seemed to me to be the logical extension of college (you keep learning things), it was a more fun hobby than golf or flower-arranging, and it was something I loved. The process is the fun part and I think you’re right that the wine biz is insulting the 20-30 crowd by suggesting all you want to do is go to clubs and get hammered all the time.

    I found it interesting on your wine blog that you listed both Dr. Vino and Gary V. as good examples of wine blogs. I think it’s because they’re both teachers. Dr. Vino is like your beloved college teacher, and Gary V. kind of reminds me of my favorite high school teacher/coach who knew everything but was slightly demented in the best possible way and knew how to motivate us to get moving.

    All good educators know that you get nowhere if you dumb things down for your students. I think that the wine blogs and the wine publications that will succeed in the next evolution will be those where they approach wine like a life-long class–not a private country club for those in the know (that would be the hoity-toity end of the spectrum) or a kindergarten.

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Hi Dr. Debs,

    I think you are spot on with your insight. The way people get information is changing, thanks almost completely to the internet and its trickle-down effects.

    Great teachers no longer operate from positions above us, they operate by engaging us in conversation, it’s why social networks and blogs work so well and have become so popular.

    I like to theorize that pop culture and the media are directly representative of a very small percentage of the population. The rest of the population then is forced to grab pieces of info and direction from a collection of different sources. Its why the need for niche focus has become so important and why those who do it well are succeeding so famously. This is one of the things that the wine industry needs to take better advantage of.

    -Brad

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Hi Dr. Debs,

    I think you are spot on with your insight. The way people get information is changing, thanks almost completely to the internet and its trickle-down effects.

    Great teachers no longer operate from positions above us, they operate by engaging us in conversation, it’s why social networks and blogs work so well and have become so popular.

    I like to theorize that pop culture and the media are directly representative of a very small percentage of the population. The rest of the population then is forced to grab pieces of info and direction from a collection of different sources. Its why the need for niche focus has become so important and why those who do it well are succeeding so famously. This is one of the things that the wine industry needs to take better advantage of.

    -Brad

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  • http://www.writeideasmarketing.com Andrea Morris

    From one millennial to another, I couldn’t agree more! We are sophisticated, know what we want, and aren’t afraid to try new things. If you’d like, you can check out my post on being a millennial in the business world – http://writeideasmarketing.wordpress.com/2007/04/11/professional-millennial-my-life-in-gen-y/

  • http://www.writeideasmarketing.com Andrea Morris

    From one millennial to another, I couldn’t agree more! We are sophisticated, know what we want, and aren’t afraid to try new things. If you’d like, you can check out my post on being a millennial in the business world – http://writeideasmarketing.wordpress.com/2007/04/11/professional-millennial-my-life-in-gen-y/

  • http://www.wineoutlook.com farley

    Brad,

    Very good read with well-made points. I’d like to add a slightly different angle which is more about the presentation of wine versus the marketing of it. I started my wine journey during college and was mainly self-taught for the first half of it. By the time I’d read enough to have some idea of what I was doing, I started noticing that even when I would ask for the wine list in restaurants, the server would often look to my date for the order or would present wine to him that I had ordered. Not always but enough to make me mad.

    I think it all goes back to not knowing the audience. Young adults know about wine. Women know about wine. When you treat them as they don’t, you alienate possible consumers. Not good business, in my opinion.

  • http://www.wineoutlook.com farley

    Brad,

    Very good read with well-made points. I’d like to add a slightly different angle which is more about the presentation of wine versus the marketing of it. I started my wine journey during college and was mainly self-taught for the first half of it. By the time I’d read enough to have some idea of what I was doing, I started noticing that even when I would ask for the wine list in restaurants, the server would often look to my date for the order or would present wine to him that I had ordered. Not always but enough to make me mad.

    I think it all goes back to not knowing the audience. Young adults know about wine. Women know about wine. When you treat them as they don’t, you alienate possible consumers. Not good business, in my opinion.

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Farley,

    Great point. I’m often suprised at the ways typical marketing contradicts common sense. Again, I think trying to make wine something that it is not has been detrimental to the entire industry (restaurants and wine bars included).

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Farley,

    Great point. I’m often suprised at the ways typical marketing contradicts common sense. Again, I think trying to make wine something that it is not has been detrimental to the entire industry (restaurants and wine bars included).

  • http://www.themarketingstudent.com/ Dave

    Does wine really have to be aggressively marketed to us Gen Y-ers?

    I see wine as a “you’ll enjoy it when you get there” item. Part of the rite of passage into the world of mature, adult sophistication.

    What’s the problem in waiting for us to “grow into it”, depicting it as something that you’ll get once you are tired of being a kid?

  • http://www.themarketingstudent.com/ Dave

    Does wine really have to be aggressively marketed to us Gen Y-ers?

    I see wine as a “you’ll enjoy it when you get there” item. Part of the rite of passage into the world of mature, adult sophistication.

    What’s the problem in waiting for us to “grow into it”, depicting it as something that you’ll get once you are tired of being a kid?

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Dave,

    I’ll answer you with a question back. Did golf need to leave the country clubs and meet the general public? No, of course it didn’t have to but it did. Is the golf industry complaining about all the money they’re making?

    Like any industry with reasonable competitive saturation, the wine industry is looking to expand. What they see is a segment of the population already drinking alcohol but not yet adopting their form of it. Thus they’re trying out ways to expand their product offering through marketing as any good business would.

    Thus far they’ve been unsuccessful and perhaps its due in large part to them are being too aggressive as you say. All the passion and aggression in the world will do no good if the actual marketing effort is misguided.

    Its established that Millennials don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. The question now is how does the industry get millenials to drink wine without forcing it down their throats? What is the tipping point to mass adoption? Its not a question of need for marketing, its a question of the business side of wine needing to actually do well in business.

  • http://pinstripes.wordpress.com Brad Maier

    Dave,

    I’ll answer you with a question back. Did golf need to leave the country clubs and meet the general public? No, of course it didn’t have to but it did. Is the golf industry complaining about all the money they’re making?

    Like any industry with reasonable competitive saturation, the wine industry is looking to expand. What they see is a segment of the population already drinking alcohol but not yet adopting their form of it. Thus they’re trying out ways to expand their product offering through marketing as any good business would.

    Thus far they’ve been unsuccessful and perhaps its due in large part to them are being too aggressive as you say. All the passion and aggression in the world will do no good if the actual marketing effort is misguided.

    Its established that Millennials don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. The question now is how does the industry get millenials to drink wine without forcing it down their throats? What is the tipping point to mass adoption? Its not a question of need for marketing, its a question of the business side of wine needing to actually do well in business.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/gamay Kathleen Lisson

    Wonderful, wonderful post. I am a big fan of Gary V.’s daily show, he is my friend that just absolutely loves wine and wants to share it with everyone.

    Come to think of it, that’s what makes his presentations so authentic.

    Maybe marketers should find out where wine would fit in young people’s lives and market from there. You can’t grab a glass of wine at a club and boogie down on Saturday night, but you can grab a bottle of wine and make your girlfriend a nice dinner on Friday night.

    Kathleen Lisson
    Albany, NY
    Wine and Stories from the Vineyard
    http://www.myspace.com/gamay

  • http://www.myspace.com/gamay Kathleen Lisson

    Wonderful, wonderful post. I am a big fan of Gary V.’s daily show, he is my friend that just absolutely loves wine and wants to share it with everyone.

    Come to think of it, that’s what makes his presentations so authentic.

    Maybe marketers should find out where wine would fit in young people’s lives and market from there. You can’t grab a glass of wine at a club and boogie down on Saturday night, but you can grab a bottle of wine and make your girlfriend a nice dinner on Friday night.

    Kathleen Lisson
    Albany, NY
    Wine and Stories from the Vineyard
    http://www.myspace.com/gamay

  • http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103 Veronique Barretto

    Love this article. Thought you might be interested in this DSA company that I recently joined. It is called The Traveling Vineyard. I am a wine consultant for this company and I market their boutique wines via in-home wine tastings. At age 23, I am the youngest consultant of their 2000+ national consultant force. As a personal wine consultant, I perform wine tastings in the comfort of peoples homes, with 15-20 of their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. I bring 5 complimentary bottles and provide a free tasting lesson to the guests. I am having a blast, and I feel this company is a great response to your #2 of why millenials shun wine. The wine I market is priced between 9.99 and 19.99 a bottle, it comes from small family owned boutique vineyards from all over the world. This is a perfect answer for your middle ground dilemma. Great wine, great price, and a great wine lesson to go with it! Check out my website if your interested in learning more.

  • http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103 Veronique Barretto

    Love this article. Thought you might be interested in this DSA company that I recently joined. It is called The Traveling Vineyard. I am a wine consultant for this company and I market their boutique wines via in-home wine tastings. At age 23, I am the youngest consultant of their 2000+ national consultant force. As a personal wine consultant, I perform wine tastings in the comfort of peoples homes, with 15-20 of their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. I bring 5 complimentary bottles and provide a free tasting lesson to the guests. I am having a blast, and I feel this company is a great response to your #2 of why millenials shun wine. The wine I market is priced between 9.99 and 19.99 a bottle, it comes from small family owned boutique vineyards from all over the world. This is a perfect answer for your middle ground dilemma. Great wine, great price, and a great wine lesson to go with it! Check out my website if your interested in learning more.

  • http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103 Veronique Barretto

    Thought I should leave my website =)
    Veronique Barretto
    Senior Wine Consultant
    The Traveling Vineyard
    http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103

  • http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103 Veronique Barretto

    Thought I should leave my website =)
    Veronique Barretto
    Senior Wine Consultant
    The Traveling Vineyard
    http://www.myttv.com/veronique10103

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  • http://google.com alex

    hi all. nice site.

  • http://google.com alex

    hi all. nice site.

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  • Tempe Reichardt

    Hi Brad,

    Wow, am I ever glad I found your blog. I’m a Boomer, and have had a long and exciting career in the wine industry, including founding WineSmart.com, based in London (that’s a long story…,) and also exporting California wine to Europe over a 12-year period of time. I’m now back in the USA and currently have an exciting business importing top quality, great value wines from all over the world. In addition to selling those wines through the dreaded three-tier system, I’m also in the process of setting up a new e-commerce biz to sell my portfolio over the internet. My target market is first and foremost Gen Y, Millennials, and secondly Boomers because we like a good thing too!

    At any rate, your blog so hits home for me and my business mission, and confirms my research as well as my instincts about your age group’s tastes, interests and needs in wine consumption. I am the first to acknowledge that I very much need your peers on my team, and I’m wondering if you’d like a job!

    In all seriousness, I’d love to have the opportunity to share some ideas with you, and who knows there could be an opportunity for collaboration.

    If you are so inclined, please e-mail me and provide me with your phone number so we can talk.

    If nothing else, let’s have an e-mail dialogue!

    Cheerio,

    Tempe

  • Tempe Reichardt

    Hi Brad,

    Wow, am I ever glad I found your blog. I’m a Boomer, and have had a long and exciting career in the wine industry, including founding WineSmart.com, based in London (that’s a long story…,) and also exporting California wine to Europe over a 12-year period of time. I’m now back in the USA and currently have an exciting business importing top quality, great value wines from all over the world. In addition to selling those wines through the dreaded three-tier system, I’m also in the process of setting up a new e-commerce biz to sell my portfolio over the internet. My target market is first and foremost Gen Y, Millennials, and secondly Boomers because we like a good thing too!

    At any rate, your blog so hits home for me and my business mission, and confirms my research as well as my instincts about your age group’s tastes, interests and needs in wine consumption. I am the first to acknowledge that I very much need your peers on my team, and I’m wondering if you’d like a job!

    In all seriousness, I’d love to have the opportunity to share some ideas with you, and who knows there could be an opportunity for collaboration.

    If you are so inclined, please e-mail me and provide me with your phone number so we can talk.

    If nothing else, let’s have an e-mail dialogue!

    Cheerio,

    Tempe

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  • http://blog.wtnservices.com/index.php/2007/12/12/wtn-services-millenials-wine-branding-labels-oh-my/ Chris Edwards

    Interesting thoughts. Discussions concerning Millenials keep popping up all over the place. Enjoyed your prospective very much!

    Chris
    http://www.wtnservice.com

  • http://blog.wtnservices.com/index.php/2007/12/12/wtn-services-millenials-wine-branding-labels-oh-my/ Chris Edwards

    Interesting thoughts. Discussions concerning Millenials keep popping up all over the place. Enjoyed your prospective very much!

    Chris
    http://www.wtnservice.com

  • michael

    I assume GEN Y kiddies lack a certain aptitude at interpersonal communication, being the first generaton to always have email, instant messaging, digital music and texting in their lives. We see it in public everyday. Clueless young folk plowing through their day in an i-tunes haze, checking texts at red lights in their cars and on foot. Perhaps if Gen Y got off the blackberry and turned down the ipod, marketing folks would be allowed in to know what this self indulged generation wants. I am sure their parents will be more than happy to buy it for them.

  • michael

    I assume GEN Y kiddies lack a certain aptitude at interpersonal communication, being the first generaton to always have email, instant messaging, digital music and texting in their lives. We see it in public everyday. Clueless young folk plowing through their day in an i-tunes haze, checking texts at red lights in their cars and on foot. Perhaps if Gen Y got off the blackberry and turned down the ipod, marketing folks would be allowed in to know what this self indulged generation wants. I am sure their parents will be more than happy to buy it for them.

  • Jeff

    Michael,
    We’ve got a pretty good bullshit detector built-in thanks to most of our lives being the target of aggressive marketing. Sounds to me like you might be part of that problem in which case we will continue to “keep you out,” thank you very much.

  • Jeff

    Michael,
    We’ve got a pretty good bullshit detector built-in thanks to most of our lives being the target of aggressive marketing. Sounds to me like you might be part of that problem in which case we will continue to “keep you out,” thank you very much.

  • Jake

    @Jeff…awesome response…lol This is why we feel that the only way any company will reach our generation is if the message is delivered by our generation. Word of mouth viral marketing being the only dependable delivery method – our friends do not recommend crap they don’t like… simple, dependable, easy.

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  • Rodrigo Maturana

    Here´s a site that shows through videos the winemaking process in an easy and interesting way.

    http://www.xploradorwinemaker.com

  • Rodrigo Maturana

    Here´s a site that shows through videos the winemaking process in an easy and interesting way.

    http://www.xploradorwinemaker.com

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