About a decade ago, there was widespread concern within the wine industry about the drinking habits of younger Americans—their focus seemed to be on beer and spirits, with wine coming in a distant third.
That trend has apparently reversed. According to the Nielsen Millenial Study, the 21-34 age group is drinking wine, and they display some interesting trends. The Millenials are open-minded, willing to experiment and less likely to get stuck in a wine rut. They favor products that are locally grown and produced. They tend to plan their purchases rather than indulge in impulse buys, which makes the job of marketing easier. Most importantly for the future, they are “more likely to equate cost with quality,” and “more likely to trade back up to more expensive alcoholic beverage brands as the economy improves” (presumably, Nielsen is comparing them to the Baby Boom generation in these respects).
Marketing to the Millenials obviously centers on social and alternative media of all sorts. The most famous example is Gary Vaynerchuk, the idiosyncratic New Jersey wine shop owner who created a revolution with Wine Library TV. Wine websites are becoming more interactive, from established forums such as Snooth to mobile apps such as Hello Vino. Wineries, retailers and distributors are scrambling to get on board—more than 80% of people in the industry are on Facebook, and nearly 65% use Twitter.
Technology moves rapidly, and many wineries are already way past Facebook and Twitter. Some are going directly to the consumer in the form of digital tags on wine labels; these tags allow consumers to download information and videos to their smartphones. Others, such as Jordan, are working directly with restaurants that use iPad wine lists to deliver content, and providing videos to sommeliers for use in staff training.
While social media is critical, most observers agree that marketing to Millenials has to be honest and genuine— a sincere attempt to be interactive, to involve them in a conversation and solicit their opinions rather than delivering a canned marketing message.