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Although the conclusion implied in the title of today’s post probably seems obvious to many (i.e., a company/brand has to eventually court younger customers because older customers will not be able to buy their products forever), it’s worth providing some background (and a pertinent example), because otherwise this post would be really, really short (and god knows I’m not a fan of that – pithy, yes, but succinct, no).
Aaaaaand… I’ve got Millennial wine interaction on my mind, given the topic of this weekend’s panel discussion at the upcoming 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference…
Below is an embed of a podcast created and originally posted by the guys over at (the excellent) Wine Biz Radio, which in part covers the Nomacorc-sponsored “Marketing to the Next Generation of Wine Consumers” conference held at the CIA in Napa (here’s some of my vid from the same event – and yes, this is probably the last time I’m gonna talk about it, okay?). Listening to the WBR episode reminded me that some (probably most) wine producers and/or their PR folks still aren’t talking to Millennials in a serious way, and if they are, they likely aren’t doing it in the way that Millennials themselves would prefer.
I’m not a Millennial, so don’t take my word for it – listen to the podcast: at about the 56-minute mark, WBR host Randy and I talk to Kayla Koroush, a twenty-something Millennial who more-or-less told the entire audience during my panel at the event that she was age-profiled when visiting a winery tasting room in California. I.e., no one wanted to talk to her, take her seriously, or treat her as an educated consumer (and, therefore, a likely potential customer).
The trouble with that approach, aside from it being economically stupid prima facie, is that this particular young woman was actually a very educated consumer – she works at a winery. And she was willing to stand up and talk about her experience at an industry event attended by a few hundred people, who in turn went on to tweet, facebook-post and write about it…
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We wine geeks review wines in all manner of differing ways. There’s nearly as much variety in those review systems as there are in wine styles. Points. Stars. In my case, grades and badges.
And we’re social about it, too – CellarTracker.com is pretty much the world’s largest wine review repository at this point (closing in on 2 million reviews at the time of this post), and for the most part it’s populated with ratings penned by people who are not professional wine critics; they just want to catalog – and share – their thoughts on their encounters with world’s most awesome beverage.
Seems to me the most social and dead-simplest wine review, though – one that even makes 140-character twitter reviews seem overly-verbose by comparison – would be the Like button.
Yes, I’m serious. I think.
Of course, I’m talking about the thing that publicly alerts other Facebook users to the fact that enjoyed a post/status/photo/brand/etc. It might actually be more accurate to say that the Like button click means that you took a few seconds out of your busy day to tap on a button because other people also clicked on it, but that’s not the Like button’s fault (it’s more human nature’s fault). You can lump Google’s recent foray into the social approval space – the +1 button – into the same camp, and feel free to use that interchangeably here whenever I mention the Like button (the concepts are, from what I can discern, pretty much identical – let people know publicly what you like in a social setting on-line). And the concept is now ubiquitous on the ‘global interwebs’: even blog comment systems have them for individual comments. The Like button also refers people who buy, and when it does they buy more stuff. Only a matter of time before it takes over the wine world, right?
No points, ratings, or even words. You dig the wine, you +1 it; you enjoy sipping that vino, you ‘Like’ it. Done and dusted, end of discussion.
Or is it?…
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Several days ago, a lively discussion took place here in the comments on a post (okay, “rant”) that challenged wineries in emerging wine regions to focus on fewer, higher-quality bottlings, and not to pawn off poorly-made (or not-quite-ready-for-prime-time experimental) wines onto customers at their tasting rooms (a scenario which I’ve experienced first-hand).
In those comments, frequent-visitor and formidable-wine-blogger-in-his-own-right Thomas Pellechia raised a couple of fascinating related questions, about which he, in turn, challenged me to write:
“…is there or should there be a relationship between what the wine ‘press’ prefers and what the wine ‘tourists’ buy? And who’s got the upper hand when it comes to establishing the success of a winery?”
Put another way, if critics say a wine really sucks, how relative of a measure is it? Do people act on that assessment when it comes to buying wine? And if they do, should they? Could a winery still manage to pawn off its crappy stuff to newbie consumers in the tasting room, even if critics pan the bejeezus out of it?
Not easy questions to tackle. In fact, they’re like trying to tackle Jerome Bettis in his heyday. If I’d have had any clue just how deep a rabbit hole I’d be diving into after promising Thom I’d take on the topic, I would have told him (politely) to get bent and stop leaving such profound comments on my blog.
And this rabbit hole goes pretty deep, boy. What I found in my quick-and-dirty investigation reveals a lot about how we buy wine, calls into question the future relevance of wine criticism generally (including my own modest contribution to that sphere), and tells us why it still might be possible for wineries to close many a tasting room sale on their crappiest offerings.
So take the red pill, if you dare, and I’ll show you just how deep the rabbit-hole goes…
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