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.

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

Millennials Will Spend the Money – Just Give Us a Reason

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Will Millennials spend the money on a $50 bottle of wine?”  Ok, sometimes the price changes, but I’d have to say I answer this at least 2-3 times a week.  The answer is YES, WE WILL.  But in order to spend more money than we normally do on wine (or ANYTHING) there must be a reason for doing so.

This spring, I compiled the data from a survey I conducted online – some of the results from that survey I included in my May 5th post, Where Millennials Are Buying Wine.  I asked over 100 Millennials (mainly residing in Southern California) questions about their wine buying habits.  None of the answers were a big surprise to me, but to many people who are not members of the Millennial Generation, the answers are a real wake-up call.

THE NUMBERS

First we need to know what Millennials normally spend on wine.  From the research based on the informal online survey a baseline was established in terms of the average amount on money respondents spend on a bottle of wine.

Average Amount of Money Millennials Spend on a Bottle of Wine

Almost 60% of respondents spend between $11-$20 on average on a bottle of wine, so we have our baseline.  According to survey results,  giving wine as a gift is one of the main reasons the survey respondents buy wine in the first place (these results to be posted soon).  I know from experience and observation that we tend to spend more money on a bottle of wine when we give it as a gift – and so the question was posed: Just how much are we willing to spend on a bottle of wine – in any circumstance – including as a gift?

Most Money on Wine

Most of us are actually happy to pay $50 and above for a bottle of wine as a gift.  Two thirds of us are willing to go above our typical price range for a gift.  So what does this mean in terms of increasing sales among Millennials?

GIVE US A REASON

Seriously. If you are in the position of selling wine to a Millennial, and you get the feeling that it may be more than this young person is comfortable spending on themselves – suggest it as a gift.  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Hostess Gift, Birthday Present, Wedding Gift – help them find a reason to spend more money on your wine.  I’ve mentioned this before in the April 3rd post, along with a few suggestions on how to engage young people and build a relationship with them – feel free to take a look and do some brushing up.

Now that the numbers are in, let’s see what we can make happen.

Have you tried this approach with success? Without success?  Are you planning to now?  If you have a related experience you’d like to share with other readers, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.  We can all learn from what you are doing.

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Filed under Basics, Charts & Numbers, Marketing, Myths & Legends, Outreach

Reaching Millennials: Don’t Believe the Hype – YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES

In keeping up with blogs, research, and ideally all things Millennial, I generally tend to come across well-intentioned but TERRIBLE advice. The latest was on a staffing company’s website encouraging human resource departments to create new, Millennial-friendly corporate handbooks. A fine idea for corporations, but incredibly flawed in execution – which is why I’m pointing out an alternate solution that everyone can use.

To keep things short(ish) and sweet,  I’ve decided to summarize below (though if you REALLY wanted to see the original in all it’s glory, you MIGHT find it in my @millennier tweets, and it MIGHT be under TRAGIC MILLENNIAL ADVICE: PIMP MY CO.S HANDBOOK…).

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.

The information was found on the company’s website  from June 2009.  The title of the piece was Create a GenY-Friendly Employee Handbook, and like many of these pieces, it was fairly insulting in an odd, benign way.  In the How to Write a Handbook section, the writer suggests personalizing it with current events and fads in order to really get through to us.  It gives the following suggestion as an example:  “compare customers to stars competing for ‘American Idol’ stardom.” While I realize that we may be younger than the person giving this advice, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN.  We do not need a company to create a mascot and a “let’s pretend” example for every single situation we may encounter in the big, bad world.  While I have plenty to say on this topic, I’m going to stop because the point here is that this NOT GOOD ADVICE.

I do want to say in all seriousness GOOD FOR YOU, STAFFING COMPANY. Thank you for putting in the effort to encourage your clients to support their Millennial employees. Unfortunately, you COMPLETELY MISS THE BOAT.

Not on a boat

Not on a boat

Is it a bad idea to want a handbook for a company that will resonate with Millennials and get them excited about the company that they work for?  No. In fact it just might work, if it’s done well.  What will that take?  American Idol allusions?  In depth research on gen Y?  Watching Family Guy reruns from the first season?  NO.  It simply takes a Millennial.  If these companies selected a couple employees in their target group to actually write the new handbook, it would be completely customized to their own tastes and interests while communicating all the information a handbook needs to get across.

I don’t understand this trend.  Business has realized what a powerful consumer group we Millennials are, enough to launch campaigns for millions of dollars just to win gen Y hearts – and yet most don’t even think to reach out to us to help shape these campaigns.

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.  Many businesses are creating their Facebook pages, holding events (hooray!), and thinking of new ways to reach out to gen Y.  Yes, research is great – I recommend that you check out the links on the side of the blog for some awesome resources. However, an invaluable tool that we all have ARE THE MILLENNIALS THEMSELVES.  Consult your gen Y children, your neighbor’s kid that’s back from college for the summer, your intern, your new tasting room employee – these people can give you valuable feedback and help to shape each of your projects.  Listen to their critiques, learn from their approach – it will save you time and energy and give you a direct line in to the consumer group you want to reach.

If you want to reach out to gen Y, don’t overlook the Millennials right in front of you – they could be the most valuable resources at your disposal.

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Filed under Basics, Growth, Marketing, Myths & Legends, Outreach, Tragic Millennial Advice

Some Serious Advice: Carol Phillips Speaks Out About Millennial Marketing

A couple weeks ago, Pete Krainek of The CMO Club posed questions to Millennial Marketing guru Carol Phillips about how companies and CMOs can more effectively reach out to the Millennial consumer group through marketing.  On May 29th, Ms. Phillips posted the conversation on her fabulous blog, Millennial Marketing, and the results are short, sweet and worth their binary 1’s and 0’s in gold.

Below are some excerpts of the interview (many of these topics have been discussed recently here on The Millennier).  If reaching out to Millennials is something that you – or your company – is trying to do (and you’re reading this, so it IS), this is some important information that will be crucial in building your successful approach.

“Millennials are literally begging wine makers to market to them.”

– Carol Phillips

For the full posting of the interview, go here. (For those of you who have not taken a look at Ms. Phillips blog, I highly recommend. Like, HIGHLY.)

Photo: Carol Phillips and friend, Emily Fleming. Carol is President of research and consulting firm, Brand Amplitude, and teaches marketing at University of Notre Dame.

Carol Phillips answers  questions about marketing to Millennials.

More and more companies are looking to engage, market and sell more effectively to Millennials. What are the most important things CMO’s should consider as they develop their marketing plans?

The most important thing is to take time to truly understand their core values. It’s easy to get caught up in studying their buying behavior, media use and latest-must-have technology. But if you study their values, you will have a better idea of how to connect with them. Obama and Apple won their hearts because they ‘think’ like Milllennials.

In study after study — on beer, education, social media, philanthropy, workplace needs and news media — we find that understanding Millennial values helps shed light on behavior. Taking the time to really ‘get’ the way they think is well worth the effort and pays dividends in how you manage, communicate and ultimately market to them. Without those insights, the paradoxes can be baffling.

Who does a good job in engaging millennials and why?

Millennials love brands, but are cynical about marketing. They distrust commercial messages, so any effort must be authentic and come from a trusted source. The absolute best way to engage them is through each other. Our advice to clients is to engage them by giving them ‘social currency’, in the form of experiences and information, and then make it easy to share. Starbuck’s Red promotion at the holidays, Taco Bell’s long running late night promotion, and the Ford Fiesta car giveaway contest all have great Millennial appeal because they are about sharing. In the entertainment area, ABC Family did a great job of repositioning ‘family entertainment’ to be more Millennial-friendly.

What are some examples of approaches that didn’t work or miss the boat?

An iconic brand currently popular with Millennials, but is due for a makeover, is Corona. Millennials love sophisticated tastes in beer, wine and spirits, and they prefer imported beer. But their idea of relaxation is not going on vacation or sitting on a beach. Relaxation is something that needs to happen every day, like watching Family Guy, throwing a frisbee to a dog or making a great meal.

Beyond specific brands, there are whole categories that are missing the boat. Millennials are literally begging wine makers to market to them. Casual restaurants also are missing an opportunity to build community around their brands. Realtors, travel and financial services need to start clueing into their future target.

Any myths you think out there on Millennials that CMOs should not believe as fact?

Yes, there a lot of myths. Unfortunately some of them have a grain of truth to them so it can be hard to sort out what is real and what is not. The main caution is not to make the mistake of thinking Millennials are simply younger, more techo-savvy versions of Boomers and X’ers. If you have teenagers or young adult children, you know this is true. They simply ‘think different’. Their sheer numbers make it inevitable that they will shape us – marketers and managers – more than we will shape them.

What final words of advice do you have for CMOs looking to improve engagement and sales results with Millennials?

Listen to your own Millennials, at home and in the office. They will give you the best advice about how to reach others like them. We learn from our younger colleagues, our own kids and my students every day. There are also a lot of great blogs written about marketing by Millennials. Finally, its not a challenge to talk to them online – they love to talk and they literally ‘live’ online.

AMEN CP!

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How Millennials View YOU, Wine Industry

Everybody’s attempting to do the brand new dance now – it’s called TRY AND REACH OUT TO MILLENNIAL CONSUMERS.  Well, what do Millennials think of all this?  Granted, there aren’t nearly enough people attempting, but let’s look at the landscape.

dancefloor

It looks a lot like the dancefloor at the last wedding you went to.  Now, not everyone is out on the floor – it takes a certain amount of courage to get out there.  Of the people out on the floor, you observe a few different types.  First off, there’s the “kids.”  They’re looking pretty good – they know the music, know the moves, and they’re having fun.  Then there’s the “grandparents” – we love them just for getting out there and trying.  Then there’s the “parents” – they’re a bit older than the kids, but they’re out there.  They’re trying.  Some of them are attempting to bring back their own famous dance moves from back in the day – with little success.  Some are trying to copy the “kids” since they must know best, right?  This can be pretty embarassing to watch.  Some of them, however, know the music and know the scene and can get right down to business.

Welcome to the party that is the wine industry right now.  Good for everyone on that dance floor for just getting up and trying.  As an observer, though, you can see that not everyone is… let’s say effective.  Most of the “kids” look great.  You want to go up and hug the “grandparents” just for being awesome enough to try.  But it’s the main population of the dance floor, the “parents,” that are tough to watch.  The best people on the floor know the music and the scene – regardless of whether they are 14 or 62 – the rest are trying, bless their hearts, but they’re not really getting anywhere.

officedance

Let this be a warning...

So if the dance floor is made up of companies vying for the Millennial consumer, that would make the Millennial consumer… YOU. THE OBSERVER.

Millennials have had advertising campaigns shoved in our faces since we were propped up in front of our parents tvs.  It’s safe to say that we’re a pretty savvy group.  It’s not like we don’t KNOW that we’re being marketed to. We fully realize this – we’re used to it.  In fact, we get perturbed if we are NOT marketed to, and yet a company telling us that they are hip will not make us consumers.  We are innate experts at taking in and analyzing information in order to form opinions.  And we are REALLY good at forming opinions, as any Millennial parent will tell you.  And just as it’s crystal clear to anyone looking at that dancefloor that Uncle Billy is making an ass of himself, it’s just that easy for us to see which companies are wasting their time.

Possibly the most simple and powerful example of this comes from a recent post on FineArtsLA.com.  The post is a piece on a new wine tasting group in Los Angeles (WTF LA – yes, this is my group and apologies for the plug, but there is a reason for it…).  The freelance writer, Jenia Gorton, is a Millennial and has some VERY interesting things to say about how young people are treated as consumers in the wine industry.  I think the most interesting is this quote:

It seems like there is “good” wine, which young people are expected to know nothing about, and “cheap” wine, for us ignorant 20 and 30-somethings, bums, and broke alcoholics.

It speaks directly to what many companies and marketers think of young people consuming wine today: we aren’t educated and we won’t spend the money.  Yep, we hear you loud and clear, but maybe we don’t want some company’s version of 2 Buck Chuck.  Or the new Yellowtail.  It’s possible that we want to be respected as consumers and have a company or two reach out to us based on qualities other than our wallets.  Like our tastes, our sense of humor, our lifestyles, our shared experiences – but if a company is not connected to any of these things… that effort will still be a FAIL.

So what can marketers learn from Millennials like Ms. Gorton? If you’re going out on the floor, you better know how to DANCE.

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Where Millennials Are Buying Wine: Some Tough Love For The Wine Industry

Millennials are wine’s next big consumer.  So why aren’t smaller business in the wine industry (boutique wineries, wine shops, wine bars, etc.) seeing much of the action?    There could be several factors at work, most of which business owners have direct control over.  These controllable factors include outreach, branding, marketing, social media presence, brand awareness, accessibility and plain old customer relations.  However, one factor that many people don’t think of – and one that business owners do not have direct control of –  is the current buying habits of this generation.

Somehow (Millennials) have gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we’ve never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s.  And there’s the issue.

Though there are some numbers out there that I have found useful for my own use, the details that small businesses need are not available from the huge (and expensive) research firms at this time.  Having all the tools, I decided to take matters into my own hands and conduct my own online survey for my company, Millennier Wine Sales.   This survey was conducted over the internet using direct email and social media tools.  The sample size consists of over 100 respondents within the age range of 21-32.  The percentages that you see are rounded to the nearest 100th of a percent.  The respondents were all located in states where it is legal to purchase wine grocery stores, and mainly resided in California.

Though this information was originally intended only for MWS, I’ve decided to publish my findings in the hopes that people will take notice of the trends and pass on the information so we as an industry can do something about it.  I’ll continue to post the other findings of this survey, but I find it extremely important to all aspects of the industry to focus on this first question:

Millennial wine buying habits as revealed by a recent Millennier Wine Sales online survey

Millennial buying habits as revealed by a recent Millennier Wine Sales online survey: Bars 1.91%, Grocery Stores 45.71%, Liquor Stores 25.71%, Mini Mart 1.91%, Restaurant 4.76%, Wine Shops 17.14%, Other 3.80%

The most important lesson we learn from this chart is that ALMOST HALF of Millennials are buying their wine in a grocery store.  An additional 25% are purchasing wine at liquor stores that include giants like BevMo and others.  With results like these, it is not hard to understand why small businesses in the wine industry are not feeling the positive effects of this Great New Hope called Millennials.

It makes sense really.  As a Millennial, I’ve walked the path than many of us have taken, and many more will continue to do so in the future:  We get our first apartment and realize that with 2 Buck Chuck, we can actually buy wine!  It’s kind of a big deal to even HAVE wine as a 21-22 year old, so I would (swear to God) not drink it myself, but save it for guests (I know, I know).  After we get used to buying wine for $2, we start in on the Yellowtail.  Now we’re experiencing a new varietal or 2 and guess what – this is why we love Syrah!  After some time with the YT, we now know we enjoy wine and are comfortable spending more than $10 on a bottle of wine.  Now we’re serious wine consumers, but the only place we really feel comfortable buying wine is in the super-market.  Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we have never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s.  And there’s the issue.

Less than 2% said that they purchase most of their wine from wineries or wine clubs (included in the “other” category).  How will smaller wineries that do not have placement or distribution in huge grocery store chains be able to reach this important group?  How will small businesses in all areas of the wine industry benefit from this generation if almost all the money is going through only 2 channels?

The answer is clear.  OUTREACH.  It’s a great sign to see over 17% of this group purchasing most frequently from wine shops.  This is a trend that everyone in the wine industry should encourage.  It could be the only way that non-supermarket brands can benefit from these consumers in the short- and long-run.  I strongly believe that WE as members of the wine industry need to be the ones to get Millennials out of the grocery store aisles and into wine shops & wineries.   Talk to your favorite wine shop, encourage them to reach out to this age group.  If you are a winery and the shop carries your brands, offer to hold a tasting there geared towards younger drinkers.  If you are a retailer,  look into social media – even if you’re intimidated, all it really takes is a Facebook page.  Throw events, reach out to younger social groups in your area, get creative.  I know of a young BOOK CLUB in LA that has all their meetings at a wine shop with a tasting bar.

Though this will be a difficult hurdle to overcome for smaller businesses in the wine industry, it is not insurmountable.  It will take a grassroots approach to create the paradigm shift that is needed, but the first step – identifying the issue – has already been taken.  Please pass this information on to others who are affected by it, even if it’s just something that is brought up in conversation.

If you are a small business in the wine industry and you have already taken steps to get young people out of the grocery store aisles and into wineries or wine shops, leave a comment, share what you’ve learned with others who are looking to start.  If you’re a Millennial, what do you think would regularly get you into a smaller wine retailer?   Share your thoughts and let’s get to work!

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The Wealthiest Generation Ever: Wine Must Go Grassroots

Take a tip from Millennials: Go Grassroots

Take a tip from Millennials: Go Grassroots

According to Deloitte Research, Millennials born between 1982 and 1993 have an annual income of $200 billion and can expect to inherit $17.8 trillion from previous generations, making this the WEALTHIEST GENERATION EVER.  Many industries are frantically trying to capitalize on this, from insurance companies to banks to the automotive business, so where does the wine industry fit in?

It is crucial that the wine business harnesses the potential of this affluent generation now.

Millennials love wine and are buying it in record numbers. We have already made the choice to enjoy wine, much to the amazement of many industry professionals.  However, many young people do not feel like they would be accepted in the current wine culture and therefore don’t seek to be a part of it.  For example, many would rather purchase the same big brands in the anonymity of a grocery store aisle rather than risk being embarrassed by lack of knowledge in a wine shop.  For the US Wine Industry, this means that a large part of the generation (which John Gillespie calls the “future of the wine industry”) could potentially continue to support the same few enormous companies that they find in these stores – both domestic and foreign – instead of supporting the thousands of  smaller independent producers and merchants that the American wine industry has to offer.  It is crucial that the wine business harnesses the potential of this affluent generation now.  There must be a paradigm shift.

Take a tip from the Millennials: go grassroots.  Every person in the wine industry that deals directly with consumers has the potential to make an impact.  Be an ambassador.

Invoke The Campsite Rule

Invoke The Campsite Rule

The next time a Millennial enters your store, tasting room, restaurant, bar or event, take the time to speak with them.  Answer their questions, ask some of your own, and add to their base of knowledge.  Many newer wine drinkers, not just Millennials, are intimidated by the “old school” exclusive and snobbish wine culture – make it your goal to debunk this stereotype.  Welcome them into the wine community.  It’s time to invoke a variation on The Campsite Rule: Leave each young wine-drinker with a better wine experience than when you found them.

If we in the wine industry can take advantage of the circumstances and cultivate this group not just as the new generation of wine buyers, but as the NEW GENERATION OF THE WINE COMMUNITY – we can create a lasting relationship that will benefit everyone for years to come.

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