Millennials: Mythical Beast or Wine’s Last Frontier?

Tapping into the Millennial consumer market is a priority in ALL industries, not just in wine.  Wine should have it easier, since it is well documented that Millennials are already drinking wine in record numbers, and we are already having a positive financial impact on the industry as a whole. So why is it SO HARD for the wine industry to reach out to us?

Let’s take a quick look at how wine and Millennials seem to view each other.  From my own work with small businesses and huge companies alike, the Millennial consumer group tends to be viewed as some kind of mythical creature that has magical powers to bestow on whomever finds and befriends it, but is almost impossible to reach.  Sound familiar?

The Mysterious, Mythical Beast

The Mysterious, Mythical Beast

Yep, Unicorns. In most of my preliminary conversations with companies that want to tap into this consumer group, you could pretty much switch out the word “Millennial” for “Unicorn”  just about every time it’s mentioned.  As in “Unicorns have come of age in an era unlike any other,” “Unicorns are very savvy, they can sense when people are trying to pander to them, and they do not like it,” “Unicorns have the ability to communicate with thousands of people in just an instant” or “If we could just reach the Unicorns, we would make millions” and my personal favorite “Why do Unicorns drink wine?”

Now, this is not to say that all of the above statements are not true (at least as they pertain to Gen-Y), but what I take away from these conversations is that businesses still don’t understand us. At all.  Let’s take a step back – we are your neighbors, your kids, your co-workers, your interns, your baristas – not some mythical forest creature.  Yes, we stand to be the wealthiest generation in the world, and yes we grew up being marketed to and now the bar has been raised – but think about it: Why do Millennials drink wine?  Because it’s delicious, interesting and fun.  Why do you wine? I’m sure we’ll come up with some things in common, here.

If that’s how the wine industry views Millennials, then how do we view wine?  This is an easy one, folks:

Sorry, Members Only.

Sorry, Members Only.

In this case it’s just that simple – the wine world tends to be a private club to most of us.  And rather than hiking it to the top of the stairs with the rest of the plebeians, then going through the initiation rituals and membership fees, we’d much rather just sneak in with our friends after dark when the security guard is gone and enjoy the club OUR way.  It’s a thrill, it’s fun, and we don’t have to be someone we’re not.  Eventually, of course, this sneaking around loses it’s thrill, and rather than join the existing club, eventually we will build our own.

So what do these charming analogies teach us?  On some level, each party feels that the other is beyond reach. The irony, of course, is that despite this, Millennials want to drink wine (and are) and wine companies want to reach this powerful consumer group (and are trying).

Unfortunately, there is such a wide gap to bridge in this relationship before the wine industry will start benefiting from Gen-Y.  It’s tough to hear, but it’s true: the responsibility for changing both of these viewpoints lies with the wine industry.



Filed under Basics, Growth, Marketing, Myths & Legends, Outreach

5 responses to “Millennials: Mythical Beast or Wine’s Last Frontier?

  1. Ashley

    I like this… building up the question, tossing back at the industry and seeing what they come up with. I’m afraid, however, the change will not come from any plotting within the wine industry. As it is with most happy accidents, Millennial participation and conversion usually happens as a byproduct of some peripheral movement. I mean, I would be very surprised to see a cultivated strategy targeting Millennials succeed. Unfortunately, I believe that the best way to engage them (er… us) is to ignore them while luring them in with something shiny. Cat and mouse. They’ll (we’ll) come around in time.

  2. Martin

    A good analysis, but having marketed to several generations over the past 25-30 years I have heard these same kinds of comments made of other generational groups. Reaching any consumer requires an understanding for what’s relevant to that consumer and a message reflecting same. The wine industry still has a long way to go to effectively reach and influence many generations; not just Millennials. The spirits industry tackled similar challenges in the 90’s. Today, as a result of cocktails, spirits are fashionable and popular with multiple generations. I disagree that the responsibility for changing direction is totally in the hands of the wine industry. If Millennials don’t educate and develop a knowledge base within the wine industry, nothing will happen. It seems like you have a job here Leah.

  3. Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Lifestyle. Any product, whether it be iPod, iPhone, cereal, tacos, razors, toothpaste, indie band or wine is ultimately successful because someone saw how it fit their lifestyle. If it is something that appears to not match a lifestyle, it is not long for this world. Simple as that.
    Wine fits. Everyone treats is like drive through. Gotta happen right in front of me before it gets cold. This is transformation. It is happening. I think we should watch it unfold with some sense of satisfaction and guidance. We’re making this happen. Let’s enjoy it.

  4. hamid reza

    Hi Leah,
    thanks about this website and also good information..

  5. David Ayre

    Dear Leah,
    I stumbled on your page from Google when searching unicorn legends. May I comment on the image on your page, please?
    The unicorn has never been described (since Ctesias the ancient Greek) or depicted as winged; this is an oddity. My familiarity is closely associated with it as the crest of Clan Cunningham.
    The rare creature in heraldic mythology you have shown is the Ronaldus, which is present on the armorials of Ronald Reisinger, Baron of Inneryne.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards,

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