Tag Archives: Wine Industry

MIND THE GAP: “Phase 2” Proves Elusive For Wine Industry & Millennials

About a BILLION years ago (well, more like 6 months), Gary Moore, author of Vinotrip: A Maryland Wine Blog, put into type-written the words what EVERYONE looking to reach out to Millennials should hear. Everyone in the wine industry, anyway.

In a short and sweet post about the increasingly big deal being made about wine companies reaching the millennial consumer, he finished with the following invaluable question:

“You sell alcohol. How hard can it be to sell alcohol to college graduates in their mid-twenties?”

LISTEN TO THE MAN. He certainly has a point.

His words have been echoing through my busy little head ever since he wrote them. At first, I lol’d. A lot. Then I started thinking more and more about this. Why on EARTH does the wine industry need me to say all this stuff? It really should be simple. I shouldn’t have to constantly reverse engineer the needs, wants, desires, dislikes, etc. of myself, my friends, and others in my generation in order to re-format these things into easily digestible somewhat sporadic how-tos for the world to read (though I do enjoy it quite a bit).  So, really. Why?

Look familiar?

In the time I’ve had to clarify my thoughts on the matter, I’ve come up with an answer to Gary’s question: it’s HARD. And here’s why: Survival. (Tough love is incoming, people. Fair warning.) To clarify, it’s difficult because of the the attitude and image that the wine industry in the United States has carefully cultivated in order to emerge, survive, and thrive over the last 40 years. The inability for the wine industry to change the marketing tactics that it has been using for the last almost-half -century accounts for the failure to appeal to millennial consumers.

In the mid 1970’s, when US wine became an international contender on the wine scene, both wine producers and wine drinkers embraced their (well-deserved) status with evangelical enthusiasm. And as evangelicals do, they sought to prove that Americans could be just as knowledgeable, critical, and refined in taste as their European counterparts. And though I was not around for this incredible time, I believe this image and attitude is exactly what the US wine industry needed to survive.

This is the foundation upon which current wine culture in America is based. Throughout the decades, the industry has not lost the evangelical zeal to display its knowledge and refinement. Marketing campaigns embrace it, wine publications tout it, and wine drinkers from this era flaunt it.

It was effective to market wine in this way to generations 40 years ago – even 20 years ago – but it’s NOT WORKING NOW. For the next generation of wine drinkers, this attitude tends to turn us off. Some people are annoyed by it, some people are intimidated, some people don’t identify with it, the list goes on.

RANDOM STORY THAT THIS REMINDS ME OF: The story of my friend’s grandmother. This woman lived through the great depression as a child with a large family and went through unthinkable hardships: poverty, starvation, the death of young siblings. Though she didn’t speak of this much with my friend, this time weighed heavily on her throughout her long life. When she passed away, my friend and her father went to clean out her home to sell it. When they went into the basement, they found over 20 boxes of canned goods – some recent to some almost 50 years old. Because of her formative years in need, this woman had been buying and hoarding thousands of cans her entire life because she felt that she would someday need them; in reality, however, she had been spending her family’s hard earned money on a misappropriated sense of safety.

I find this very similar to what is happening with the wine industry today. Today’s attitude was created in a time of need – it helped the wine industry emerge, survive, and thrive for years. However, that’s not what it takes to survive today and certainly not tomorrow. Attempting to create new “brand ambassadors” using the same old tactics is proving to be a failure.

EXAMPLE: How many new brand ambassadors from the target millennial demographic did your company’s last full-page, full-color ad in Fill In The Blank Glossy Wine Publication get you?

Too far? Ok, my apologies. Snarkiness aside, clinging to the safety of what has worked in the past is exactly what will torpedo efforts now and in the future. By no means am I encouraging companies big or small to do away with what has gained them their current following. There is value to that approach, but only to one’s current customer base. In other words, to maintenance – not to growth. This is why I’m not suggesting  companies completely amputate this approach.

I do, however, highly recommend that if any company wants a NEW consumer group, that you create a NEW marketing plan for them – separate from your existing plan. This means a new attitude and image for this group. Put in the effort to find the aligned interests of the demographic and of your brand and work from there. If you personally don’t know what I’m talking about, find someone that does. This kind of work won’t be easy at first, but it WILL be worth it.

You’ll know it’s working when it’s no longer difficult to sell your alcoholic beverage to a twenty five year-old college graduate.

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Filed under Basics, Growth, Marketing, Outreach, Tough Love

Small Indulgences in Hard Times: How the R-Word Can Work for Wine

Back in August I was invited to a press tasting here in Los Angeles. Normally, this would not be something to write home about – or in this case, the entire world – but this particular event fascinated me.  It was not at a trendy restaurant during the off-hours of a weekday, it was not during cocktail-hour at one of the dozens of ultra-luxury hotels in the city, and it wasn’t a dreadful luncheon.

Setting for the Press Tasting

Setting for the Press Tasting

Ruffino Wines was holding their press tasting at Voda Spa in West Hollywood – complete with manicures and massages. Upon first glance of the invite, I marveled at the balls-out audacity of securing RSVPs by offering free spa services and thus guaranteeing a completely captive audience of press. And all of this with no obvious connection to wine – especially Chianti.

Upon further inspection of the materials, however, I was absolutely taken.  They had found a simple and luxurious way to work WITH the recession in order to market their wines.

HOW IT WORKED

In 2008, the New York Times ran two stories on The Lipstick Index – a term coined by Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder that described his experience of selling more lipstick in times of economic hardship. The theory behind this term is based on the idea that when times are tough and big luxuries – vacations, cars, even couture clothing – are no longer realistic expenses, people seek small indulgences, like nice lipstick, to see them through the times. Sound like a stretch? Check out the article for yourself.

The brains at NY-based Cornerstone PR, Ruffino’s public relation firm, read the article and decided that wine could be a similar small indulgence. Riffing off this idea, Ruffino soon had a press campaign called “The Chianti Index” and set up tastings at Spas that featured wines in the $8-$25 range, along with Chianti-colored manicures.

SO WHAT?

So many companies in the wine industry seem to be putting on a brave face and pretending (at least in public) that either there is no recession, or that it’s not affecting them.  In the meantime, behind closed doors these same companies are panicking about dropping prices, decreasing wine club membership, and the uncertainty of sales this holiday season.  For marketing wine, behaving as though nothing has changed DOES NOT WORK.

Marketing a product to the masses as “the ultimate in luxury” will not be effective when the masses are not comfortable spending money on true luxury items right now.  HOWEVER… Being able market that same product as a small indulgence – the flexibility of adapting to the mental state of the times, the idea of The Lipstick Index and Recessionistas – can mean the difference between a rise in sales, or a drop.

Imagine: Let’s say a particular winery has a $50 bottle of wine that is marketed as the absolute top-tier, ultimate in luxury, single vineyard, special lot, 18 months in new French Oak, yaddah-yaddah of it’s class. The current branding says “When you want the absolute best wine, this is the wine you get.”  Now let’s look at a consumer. Doesn’t matter if they are 45 and lost 40% of their kids’ college fund in the stock market, or if they are 25 and making $30k a year, we’re looking at the average consumer that is feeling the pressure to cut back. Think about your own spending. About the conversations you’ve had with friends.  The first cut-backs are on things we don’t need. The Ultimate in Luxuries. The nice-to-haves. The new german cars. The big vacations. The best new gadgets.

By continuing with the branding of “Ultimate in Luxury,” our example wine has placed itself squarely in the Should-Not-Buy category of products. The odds of our consumer purchasing this wine are pretty slim.

HOWEVER.  If that same $50 wine adjusts it’s brand message from “Best of the Best” to “Small Indulgence,” it’s chances increase dramatically. If the message says “This is how you can pamper yourself – no vacation needed,” then that wine no longer resides in the Should-Not-Buy zone for our consumer, but rather the We-Deserve-This zone. The Stay-cation zone. The I-Can-Share-This-With-Friends zone.

What wine needs to do is take a tip from the Lipstick Index. By sticking to traditional branding, companies are making it more difficult for consumers to qualify spending their money.  By adjusting their branding, companies are making it easier for consumers to make the decision to buy. I know it sounds simple. That’s because it is.

Don’t look at this as a magic bullet. Think of it as the bullet that wine companies can save by NOT shooting themselves in the foot.

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Filed under Basics, Marketing, 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

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

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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Wine’s Facebook Debate

fb-question

Here’s the question: Is it worth it for wine businesses to invest the time and effort into working with Facebook?

Short answer: If you care about the Millennial Generation, YES IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME.  Every argument that I have heard to the contrary seems to be lacking some crucial and basic knowledge about the use of the social networking site.  Let me fill in the blanks.

A (VERY) BRIEF HISTORY

Facebook was created in a Harvard dorm room as a student directory for the school.  This was in 2004 and was originally called “The Facebook.”  Within 4 months they had expanded out to 40 colleges.  Mark was roughly 20 years old when he moved the company to Palo Alto the following summer and you can pretty much guess the rest.

Take a good look at the picture.  This is the founder and CEO of facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

SO WHAT?

Facebook was created specifically for the Millennial generation by one of our own.  This is very important to keep in mind.  In reading and listening to wine industry social media-types rail on the uselessness of this network, I hear a basic lack of understanding in how my generation specifically uses facebook.  From all that I’ve heard from these conversations, those with strong opinions tend to dismiss facebook as simply a way for old high school acquaintances to re-connect and play goofy vampire/mob/zombie games online.  Which in all fairness may be exactly how they use the site.

For millennials, however, it is much more.  I’ll only speak for myself and my friends here, but to us facebook is a lifeblood of communication.  We get to work in the morning, log into our email then log into facebook.  This networking site is how we know who broke up with whom, who’s birthday it is, where people are going on Saturday night, and who just got engaged.

someecards.com

someecards.com

It’s also a very effective way to communicate privately via the “Send A Message” (which is an in-system email).  Carol Phillips, a Marketing Instructor at the University of Notre Dame, clearly gets it.  She is the president and owner of Brand Amplitude, LLC  and the mother of two millennials.  On her excellent blog, Millennial Marketing, she states “I completely change my habits when communicating with Millennials. To reach my daughter and son quickly, text is the only way to go. My teaching assistants? Facebook messages. I once sent my TA’s Amazon gift certificates to their email address. It took a suggestion to their Facebook account to look for it before they even noticed.” You can leverage this effectively by tagging your fans in your notes & posts.

HOW TO

When you create a page for your winery or business on facebook, you allow others out there to become your “fan.”  Let’s say we’re facebook friends and you just created a page for your winery, FB WINES.  I’ll see on my newsfeed that you’re a fan of FB WINES and I click on the icon.  I’ll be taken to the page, where I can add myself as a fan.  Done.  You can also post it to your status or publish it as a note tagging basically everyone you know.  It’s very simple to get your page out to your network, then THEIR networks will see on your friends’ profiles or in their own Newsfeeds that people are fans of FB WINES and so on and so forth.

Creating a page  facebook is INCREDIBLY easy.  Just go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php a great guide on the new pages format is here.  You can also reach a link to create a page right at the bottom of the login page at http://www.facebook.com .

GOT IT?

There’s some initial set-up time – anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour if you’re a type-A like myself – but it’s completely offset by the benefits.  Of all the Pages that I’m a fan of, 95% of them I added because I saw it on my Newsfeed from a friend or on their profiles.  Once you get your page out there, let it work for itself.

Now, once you’ve got some fans you can have as much or as little fun as you want, but remember, the more you update it, the more your name will be out there in the facebook community and the higher your chances of gaining more fans.  You can add events and invite people, upload photos of new products, even just updating your status message will bring people to your page.

This isn’t just for wineries, by the way.  A great example of a retailer taking full example of a facebook page is Silverlake Wines.  This is a local LA wine store that embraces the younger generations (millennial and x) of their neighborhood and greater LA.  Customers are rabid fans and jumped all over their page.  Next time you are on facebook, I encourage you to check it out, become a fan and see just how they’ve mastered the medium.  You can link directly from their page.

OK, GO!

Now that we’ve de-bunked some of those myths, get out there and create your page. If you’re having trouble with decisions on what to include, do a quick search and see what else is out there.  Or you can grab the nearest millennial – odds are they can offer some valuable insight.

And feel free to comment with a link to your shiny new facebook page so I can help you get the word out and become a fan.  Best of luck and have fun!

Thanks to WineDiverGirl for her great post on this topic to which I responded with a comment that was FAR too long and realized I needed to write my own.

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Filed under Marketing, Social Networking