Marketing Wine to Millennials

How to Use Wine Marketing That Speaks to Millennials

In her recent article “How Millennials Are Changing the Wine Industry,” Kathryn Buschman Vasel stated that Millennials are drinking more wine than other generations did at the age of 21, and that this is rocking the wine industry as we know it.  Specifically, Millennials are rocking the wine marketing industry as we know it. This younger age group, born between 1980 and 2000 is pressing wineries to make a change in the way they present their wines, and restaurateurs and bar owners should ensure that they also understand what wine marketing is all about today. Here’s your cheat sheet for wine marketing that speaks to Millennials and more.

Who is your market?

Marketing 101 states that before you can sell anything, you need to know who you’re selling it to, and you need to know their desires. For wine marketing, the audience is so diverse now that it can be hard to determine exactly who you should focus your marketing budget on, and the groups that drink wine have such different desires that marketing to one means that you’re almost guaranteed to alienate the other.

The numbers are what makes wine marketing tricky. Millennials drink a lot of wine—in fact, they represent just over 25% of the wine drinkers in the US (as of 2012). That seems like a really big number until you consider their parents: people over the age of 55 represent a whopping 41% of the wine drinking market. With such a huge market share, clearly the most important wine market is found in the Baby Boomers.

But, Vasel’s article is quick to point out, Baby Boomers won’t live forever, and the wine industry must find a new market in order to survive. Millennials do represent 30% of the “core” wine market in the US as well; the core market drinks wine at least one night a week. Obviously, Millennials are worth the marketing budget dollars, but do they have their own dollars? To add more confusion to an already brain-melting issue, Baby Boomers have established incomes and have done well for themselves, whereas many Millennials are still in college, living in Ramen noodle mode. Is it a smart idea to market aggressively to an audience that can’t afford your product?

What do they want?

The main thing that Millennials want, Vasel’s article states, is more authenticity—and less pretentiousness. This is the exact opposite of what older wine drinkers demand from their wines, and the marketing conundrum that this raises is worth paying attention to. If Millennials balk at pretentious wine ads, and their parents flock to pretentious wine ads, how should you market your own wine list?

The first thing to do is to look at what each group wants.

Baby boomers want traditional labels, expert wine opinions, and high price tags, because they base the value of their wine on the price they paid for it. Millennials, on the other hand, want approachable wine labels, their friends’ opinions on specific wines, and brand engagement through social media.

While these desires are completely different, you might be able to market to both groups simultaneously.

Marketing wine to Millennials effectively?

That’s the million dollar question that everyone is asking. For large wineries, there seems to be no good answer, as their supply is limited to just what they produce. However, for a smaller establishment such as your bar or restaurant, you have the freedom to stock a wide variety of wines. You can market them separately as well.

The first thing to do is to train your servers to sell wine based on the customer’s interests. Your servers are all likely to be Millennials, so the Millennial-focused marketing should be natural for them. If you’re having trouble explaining effective wine marketing to your servers, have them read this article about enticing customers to purchase wine based on an in-depth wine story/description. When your servers offer wine to a Baby Boomer, they should highlight expert opinions instead.

You can, by the way, organize all this information easily just by using a digital wine menu and presenting the information in columns—one column for the Baby Boomers, one column for the Millennials.

Another important thing you can do is to make clear distinctions in your wine list. The likelihood of a Millennial ordering your few most expensive wines is low, so you can hedge your bets by making sure that your most expensive wines display traditional labels and are fully recommended in many wine magazines or sites. On the other end of the wine menu, you’ll be unlikely to find a Baby Boomer ordering the cheapest wine you have. Those lowest-prices wined should appeal to Millennials by displaying bold, modern labels, and in-depth back-stories, presented either by your server, your sommelier, or your digital wine menu.

To further engage Millennials, while keeping your marketing efforts under the radar of Baby Boomers, you can connect with your Millennials online on Twitter or Facebook. Since people over the age of 55 weren’t raised with the expectation that everything and everyone is accessible online, they aren’t likely to friend or follow you. Millennials, on the other hand, will, and you can nurture them by presenting unique tidbits of information about the wines your business offers.

No matter who you decide to market to, or how you decide to market to them, you should make sure to keep track of what’s working and what isn’t, and you should always notice who your main customers are. It may very well be that the issue of effective wine marketing is easy for you because your customers all fit into one of these demographics. If that’s the case, go you! For the rest of you, the ones who have people of all ages and walks of life coming into your establishment, just make sure to pay attention. Try testing a few new wine marketing tactics over the coming week and see what’s effective and what doesn’t seem to work. I’d love to hear how it’s going, so please check in and let me know what you did and how it went.

Photo licensed by James Palinsad