Wake Up, Wine People: Boomers Won’t Be Buying Your Wine Forever

Vinted on July 20, 2011 binned in best of, commentary, going pro, wine industry events

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…

Now, if we’d been naming names, that kind of publicity would have been pretty negative for the winery that she visited, don’t you think?  E.g., “Damn, didn’t know Winery X thought everyone under 30 was a wine moron…” (in case you’re wondering, that status update fits comfortably into twitter’s 140 character limit, with room to spare).

On top of that, it’s potentially negative publicity directly within a passionate community of wine peeps (and all of their on-line friends – basically, potential customers).

Does anyone out there still think that the wine industry is somehow so special that it’s immune to the knock-on impacts of social media communication within such a tightly-knit, passionate community? That it is impervious to how younger generations use platforms like social media to talk about brands, effectively taking the control of a brand’s message away from the company that owns it?

‘Cause if you do, I’ve got a bridge (or two) to sell you.

I feel like I’m dancing on the edge of the waters of preachiness here, then actually slipping and doing a full-on belly-flop right into the chilly brine of preachiness.  But I’m really stumped as to why the the attitude in the wine biz that what worked in the past will continue to work forever is still so prevalent.  The “it’s just a fad” argument is totally bogus.  You can bet on the tools (twitter, facebook, etc.) changing and losing/gaining relevance, but you can’t bet on the conversations themselves losing relevance, and you certainly can’t bet on wine not being impacted by those conversations – especially when little things things like, say, national governments aren’t immune to their effects. That‘s not a bet that I’d be taking anytime soon, anyway.

Of course, not all wine producers are missing this, but plenty still are. For those who view younger people as somehow irrelevant when it comes to their core consumer base: Wake up! You cannot ignore this younger generation forever.  Boomers and Gen Xers will some day have to stop buying your wine because they have a terminal condition that will eventually kill them all (it’s called being human), and unfortunately mortality adversely impacts customer loyalty. From the viewpoint of the younger wine-drinking generation, you’re getting lazy, because what makes wine cool when marketing to Boomers doesn’t make it cool when marketing it to them.

I’m not trying to sound flippant (it comes naturally), and I don’t mean to downplay the effort involved in engaging different customer bases, especially for the people who are incredibly busy trying to make the best wine that they can.  BUT… ignoring an entire generation is probably not the answer.

Ok, you’re right – it’s definitely not the answer.  Because those crazy kids drink a lot of product when it comes to vino.

I have nothing against Boomers, and count many of them as dear friends, mentors, and confidants. And I’m reasonably confident that most of the Boomers that I know would tell you that what I am about to write (warning: gross oversimplification to follow) isn’t too far off the mark:

Those making and selling wine might not have to worry too much about my generation (Gen X), because our numbers are small and likely the engagement tactics used for Boomers and Millennials will work for us relative to our respective ages.  But you sure-as-sh*t need to be worried about Millennials, because their numbers are massive in comparison.  As for being worried about having to worry about Boomers and Millennials at the same time: last time I checked, it was, in fact, possible to simultaneously engage different customers of different ages in different ways.  Sure it’s a bit of a pain in the ass and all, but it beats the alternative, which is the pain in the ass of eventually not having any more customers, doesn’t it?

There’s at least one wine-related company that gets it, is actively trying to make wine seem cool to a younger generation, and is seeing return on their efforts: Constellation (that’s a development that probably doesn’t put a warm and fuzzy into the hearts of most family-owned wineries).

I’d love to end this on a positive note, and hear stories of wineries / producers / brands that are getting this right – so please, fire away if you’ve got ’em!






  • CathyG

    One thing that's common to selling to all age groups is this: No one likes to feel stupid, and a successful sales strategy will never make a customer feel that way. In a tasting room or retail environment, that means a few non-threatening opening questions to give the customer the chance to say how much they do or don't know, if they have preferences, etc. Everyone making a sale in that environment also needs a basic sentence or two to offer education to the customer without it being a judgment. (We love talking about our wine. Would you be interested in hearing about what wines we make and their taste profile?)

    I think this is especially important with Boomers and Millennials who not only don't want to be thought stupid, but don't want to get hit with a double whammy: OLD and stupid (we'll be in denial about our age even in senility) or YOUNG and stupid.

    One other comment: Please tell me you mean "under 30" in your post where you say "under 20"! No one should be trying to sell wine to minors!

    • 1WineDude

      Hi CathyG – thanks for the correction (you are correct and I did mean under 30… sadly, I did edit this piece a few times so I cannot claim the excuse as being lack of editing time… lack of *sleep* maybe, but not lack of editing time! :).

      Great point about not wanting to feel stupid – it's why I often don't visit clothing stores (and instead ship on-line) and NEVER visit Apple resellers (sorry, but the local people in my neck of the woods who man those stores hawking Macs and iPads all have a tendency to act like they're super-cool and I'm not worth their time, etc.).


  • @MillennialWineE

    Well put. Boomers are out, the hot Millennial Wine Market is in.

    • 1WineDude

      @MillennialWineE – I'm not saying Boomers are totally out now – they aren't and the drive a lot of the market! But Millennials certainly are in, and producers ignore that, I think, at their peril.

  • RichardPF

    The Millennials have potential, but there is still the possibilty that they will not embrace wine as prior generations have done. A Nielsen study showed that for Millennials (age 21-34), only 18% drink wine as opposed to 34% that drink beer, and 32% spirits. In comparison, as for Boomers/Seniors (age 55+), 40% of them drink wine and only 22% drink beer and 28% spirits. If we consider all the craft beers and high-end spirits now available, why will the Millennials suddenly change their current drinking patterns and embrace more wine? It is certainly not a given that it will occur.

    Another Nielsen study analyzed the shopping habits of four key generations – greatest generation (aged 64+), boomers (45-63), gen x (33-44) and millennials (15-32) – and gave a rundown on what marketers should expect when targeting these groups. Interestingly, wine is one of the largest spending categories for seniors at $124 per year. Boomers spend $125 per year on wine, while gen x spends $78 and millennials spend $61 annually.

    • 1WineDude

      Richard – good point, and it also shows that wine has steep competition for those taste buds *across* drink segments, and that competition is probably only going to get more difficult and larger in volume in the near term. We need to be cautious about percentages I think, because unless they are normalized somehow then we might not be comparing apples to apples – e.g., 18 percent of Gen X is a lot smaller of a number than the same for Millennials.

    • @UCBeau

      Take a snapshot of the development of the Gen X or Baby Boomer generation at a similar moment in time and I think you'll realize that the Millennials are still finding their way, just as those generations did. To expect them to currently consume equal or similar amounts of wine to other generations is the flaw in winery (and everyone else's) logic. The Baby Boomer, at 26 years old, probably drank less wine than today's Millennial, same with the Gen-X'er.

      • Zoe Geddes-Soltess

        You make a great point, Beau. Even if wine isn't the preferred drink among millenials now, that isn't to say it won't be a few years down the road. As well, the approach of "wait and see" disregards the millenials who currently enjoy and have an appreciation for wine and want to be taken seriously as customers. I think wineries that are currently making the effort to connect with my generation and make that impression will have the advantage later on.

        Zoe Geddes-Soltess
        Community Engagement, Radian6

  • @fatcork

    My Wife and I just visited some sparkling producers in Sonoma. I am 32 (on the high end of the Millennials) and my wife is 28 (yay for me :). We visited without appointments and did not announce our business. Gloria Ferrer was awesome to us, as was Domaine Carneros, and Artesa. These are three wineries who are doing it right, in my opinion. The tasting rooms were filled with many different generations, and all were treated with equal respect from what we observed.

    • 1WineDude

      @fatcork – Thanks, nice shout out to some Napa producers there. Cheers!

  • Mark Cochard

    For RichardPF
    The wine market council alson has some research http://www.winemarketcouncil.com/research_slide_i

    Don't have the time to analyze their data from yours, but is interensting nonetheless.

    There are many wineries that don't get it. And sometimes they do but do a pour job of training their staff on what a tasting room is really all about HOSPITALITY

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Mark! "Pour" research? That's my kind of research :).

    • 1WineDude

      Just looking quickly at that data, the % jumps for Millennials (increases in consumption between the two years in the study in the "Core" group) are potentially pretty significant…

      • @SVBWine

        Statistics and damn statistics. If you are a winery, would you rather get $2 from a $1 base, or $40 from a $40 base. That's either a 50% increase (sounds great) or no increase at all (sounds bad). Its a difference between talking nominal dollars spent on the category, versus growth rates.

        Millennials have the highest growth rate because they have the lowest base. They are the least meaningful CURRENT segment and the most meaningful FUTURE segment, when the are all of drinking age.

  • Larry Chandler

    Wineries that sell primarily to Boomers aren't dissing Millennials. They aren't marketing to Boomers either, it's just that Boomers are more sure of themselves and are buying more wine from them. In so many cases, people start wineries because they have a passion for making wine. Selling it is just not their concern or interest. And they certainly can't afford to hire a marketing staff. They may not even think they need to hire a marketing firm to help them. These wineries may make good wine, but all they do is hope people buy it.

    That said, of course it's important to treat all your customers well. To ignore someone for any reason whatsoever is stupid. And it applies to so many industries, not just wine.

    What might help is a continuing series of cheap or free seminars, newsletters, and blog posts and try to get wineries to pay attention. Some will, some won't. And if they don't, well, so be it. They'll be gone and someone else will come in. You can lead a winemaker to the water fountain of knowledge, but you can't make him drink.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Larry – I think we are starting to see those seminars and the like take place; certainly I have been involved in several already and we have one coming up Friday at the Wine Bloggers Conf. in VA. I did try to note in my post today that smaller producers are surely going to be more worried about making wine, because they don’t have the resources as you mentioned, to focus more on sales, etc. But plenty of the bigger wine-producing fish out there do, and most of them probably are not focusing enough effort on the Millennial set. And I think part of that is laziness – because focusing on Boomers has worked for *decades*. But the time for that strategy is running out.

    • Mike W.

      I agree with Larry here. And after reading through the post (yes, I came in and skipped to the comments the first time) I think the problem faced by the young woman visiting a wine tasting room is awful. It's one thing to market to a specific demographic or another; it's entirely another to disrespect someone who has CHOSEN to come into YOUR tasting room. You have to give every single person who walks through that door the benefit of the doubt (party buses excluded – up to you).

      • 1WineDude

        Mike W – you skipped to the Comments *first*?!??

        OK, I've only done that myself like, I dunno, a hundred times. :-)

  • Larry Chandler

    The word "laziness" is really unfair and wrong. "Cluelessness" might be a better word. People in the wine business do work hard and not realizing that your market may be changing is something that also happens to many in other industries and retail businesses. If you have been successful marketing to a particular group, it really isn't easy to change focus. And convincing people they need to change focus requires more than statements that just say they need to. Anecdotal tales aren't very convincing. They need hard data and statistics and proof that they need to do so.

    Of course, if a winery is forward thinking enough, they can discover this on their own, but how many really are? And what a winery needs to do will vary from one to another. If you make wine to sell for $10, your approach will be different and your target audience is different from wineries that make wine to sell for $100.

    Now that wine writing and blogging is available and being done by everyone and his grandmother, knowledgeable voices (like yours) can get drowned out by so much nonsense that also spews forth. Who should be listened to?

    • 1WineDude

      Larry – fair points, and of course generalizing is required for the sake of brevity in these posts (well, my version of brevity anyway which is still >1K words! :) but the danger's that too broad of a brush stroke is used. Maybe that's the case here, but I do think there are plenty of producers, PR folks, marketing depts., etc. in the wine biz (and of course outside of it) who are, in fact lazy. They don't really care about what customers think, haven't had to for some time and have ridden a wave of numeric scores and one-way marketing tactics that work for Boomers but won't for Millennials. And when Millennials talk about the fact that it isn't working, they can get ignored as was the sort of 'case study' presented in today's post.

      In terms of who should be listened to, I don't think it's me in this case – it's the customers, Boomer, Gen Xer, Millenial, whatever; they will tell producers what works and what doesn't. But they should expect to hear conflicting results from those different customers, and be okay with that.

  • Jo Diaz

    Funny… That's the way it was when I entered the wine business, now almost 20 years ago. The only thing that's changed is the graying of my hair.

    Let me help you with why this is, as I've discovered the answer by working with all these dudes and dudettes for the last 20 years. (Some day, you'll be able to offer the same advice, Joe.)

    It's because the wine business is basically – FARMING. How many farmers does it take to invent a tractor? None of them. They don't invent. They follow tried and true paths of tilling, sowing, caring, and reaping. It's the tractor salesman who must make the sale of the tractor…and how many tractors does the farmer need, and how often is he or she going to buy a new one?

    It's a very slow business, and only those of us in marketing try to move the wheel forward, but now you know why it's so slow. It begins in the vineyards, just like wine does.

    This is why it's so much fun to put out quantum physics theories and relate it all to wine… Shakin' it up, baby, twist and shout!

    • 1WineDude

      Your hair and mine, Jo! :)

  • Rob McMillan

    This is a debate about current sales versus future sales. Current sales are not going to Millennials in a meaningful way especially for wines priced over $25 a bottle. Future sales will go to this demographic.

    Today, wineries sell to those who can afford their wines. Talk to wineries on the West Coast and they will tell you their main clients are Gen X and the Boomers; not the Millennials. But its less about age as a demographic and more about a consumer's ability to pay for a $25+ wine. While wealth happens across all age segments, wealth is created more typically in the 30's and beyond, and Millennials today have almost NONE of the net worth and earning capacity of their older cohorts.

  • Rob McMillan

    Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing coins the phrase "Window of Affluence" to describe that time period when people have sufficient resources to be a serious consumer of luxury goods. That window is the 34-54 year old demographic. So to your point – Leading edge Boomers are moving out of that window because they are past 55. But they aren't yet being replaced by Millennials at all. They are being replaced by Gen X'ers. Thats where the real opportunity is being missed today because of the over-hype of the CURRENT impact of Millennials in luxury goods.

    A little more focus: According to Nielsen, 82.4% of total wine consumers are age 34 and above while 17.6% of consumers are below that mark. The Boomers are still fully responsible for 44% of present volume consumption and a much higher percentage of dollar sales.

  • Rob McMillan

    Devoting significant time and money to chasing Millennials is suited to the major players in the business who sell entry level wines that are affordable to the under 34 crowd. Millennials will be a critical component of wine sales over time, but probably not until about 2020 when they fall firmly into the Window of Affluence. Until then, the they will grow in their ability to afford wines … moving through entry level wines, spirits and beer – and eventually into wines that suit their pocket book and individual palates. Thats when wine producers will wake up and notice the Millennials; when they significant in their ability and willingness to buy their wine.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks Rob – GREAT comments there.

      "Thats when wine producers will wake up and notice the Millennials; when they significant in their ability and willingness to buy their wine."

      I agree, and I also think for some producers (maybe many, maybe most) that will be *too late*. Because the more savvy among them will have realized that the Millennials, when they hit the affluence window, will have already been wooed by those we started taking the time now to engage them and build their loyalty…

      • @SVBWine

        It’s a mistake to believe loyalty is engendered by marketing to those who won't buy your product in the future. What? Entry level wines are just thatIt’s a mistake to believe loyalty is engendered by marketing to those who won't buy your product in the future. What? Entry level wines are just that; replaced later. People aspire to more. Millennials like all before, are buying what they can afford, but will move up in their tastes. Kia's are replaced by Audi's. Ross is replaced by The Gap. Generic unauthentic wines made from bulk suppliers will also be replaced in Millennial’s baskets by a different winery. They won't connect and have loyalty to the entry level brand. That’s a total fallacy.

        • 1WineDude

          @SVBWine – Maybe.. but maybe not. It depends on the entry-level wine brand, and its quality, I think.

          • Mike W.

            What about a wine brand that has an entry level point but still has a high ceiling? Such as a Woodbridge to Mondavi Reserve…

        • pmabray

          I think it is also a mistake for a winery to believe in loyalty in general at certain luxury price points ($20+). The US wine consumer is inherently promiscuous. Part of the magic of wine for that level of oenophile is the exploration of experience. Rarely do you drink the same brand of wine over and over again. If you are chosen one every 25 times, you have loyalty. Expecting to hold onto loyalty for decades is insane. The key is learning the communication channels that these new generations are adopting (online, social, mobile, etc) and then intersecting with them to become part of their exploration and if you do a great job, holding onto them as long as possible through WOW customer service and great product.

          • 1WineDude

            Mike / Paul – I think part of that equation is that a quality product can still engender loyalty; but as you say it's not necessarily going to be for as long as in other Gens, or in the same limited spaces in the market (Chardonnay vs. Cab vs… – more like Your Wine vs. vodka vs. coktails vs. beer vs. other wines!). Cheers!

          • @SVBWine

            Agree: Loyalty = "exclusivity" is absent in wine. Its both the bane and the beauty of the product for marketers. But loyalty equating to a second try is important in building a brand. The only way to hold on to loyalty of an entry level consumer, is by providing better quality wines to enjoy as palates evolve. The problem is few wineries are cost efficient making a $10 wine, then in the same breath, make a $50 wine. Consumers too aren't normally able to accept a "Wall-Mart" brand wine at entry prices, and a luxury wine at the same time. The chanels don't even line up.

            • Mike W.

              So with the promiscuous consumer (I'm one in wine – hardly ever buy the same bottle twice in the store) you really want to wow the consumer into telling their friends so they can try it for the first time – really amp up the word of mouth / recommendation marketing.

        • Jason

          Not only that, but Millenials are known to be far less brand loyal than Gen X or Boomers. The whole capturing them with your brand thing is a complete fallacy.

          • 1WineDude

            Jason – according to MIllennials themselves (and would love to have more of them chime in here), they are fiercely loyal to variety :) – and therefore very disloyal to brands. Having said that, they *will* reward quality, and *will* buy again, but need a reason to be reminded to buy again, maybe a new angle on the experience, a new story from the producer… they are high maintenance when it comes to needing to be continually wooed in that way, but it can build some loyalty (again, this is coming from them… it would be interesting to see if the data undermines that in any studies, similar to U.S. consumers saying they don't want sweet wines but then buying wines that have higher R.S…).

            • @SVBWine

              Its not possible to draw effective conclusions from single data points (I was rudely treated in a tasting room) or from a vote (have more Millennials chime in.). The data from Nielsen demonstrate Millennials are not currently material in buying fine wine by dollar or by volume today. The data show more than age as a demographic, wealth/income (and college graduates) are strong indicators of willingness/ability to buy wine. (some Millennials fall into that class). So marketers instead of markering to Millennials, instead need to get their acts together with CRM and understand their own customer demographics. (The penetration rate of CRM is 8% in wine producers.) Secondarily, regardless of age – all producers have to come to grips with the changing way people communicate and determine metrics for success. (Are you selling wine by using SM?) That again is not an age issue. Its a revolution.

  • @TLColson

    Jo's point is dead on – and in my experience talking and working with those in the retail end, the wineries aren't the only ones facing this problem. I've seen millennials sneered at when they've walked into a wine bar or shop. It's as if some owners just can't believe these folks have money or palates.

    If we change the idea of "must have a marketing plan" to "Where are your customers, how can you convince them you have good wine to sell, and how do they want to be treated in regard to buying your product" – the differences between the generations are in the answers to those questions.

    @rob – I've experienced many millenials that have much more disposable income than I have had available as a single parent. They are mostly the double income, no kids crowd, and becoming well versed in the world of wine, and how to spend their money on it. If the wine producers don't notice them, they are more than happy to spend $100 on a bottle of craft vodka instead.

    The time to notice our customers is when they start showing up in our retail establishments with their wallets. Not all millenials are "into" wine – but I meet more GenX'er that aren't.

    Gen X

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Tammy!

    • @SVBWine

      @TL – Your point is the same one I am making in part. Its less about age and more about disposable income. Some Gen Y do have wealth – but the correct demographic to target are affluents of any age.

      Marketing is evolving in terms of the paths to deliver the message, but hospitality hasn't changed. Clearly treating anyone rudely won't win converts. Even if they are not today clients, today they are the son/daughter/friend/significant other of an actual customer. Further – its not to dismiss new communication channels at all. Millennials aren't the only ones using SM. The adoption rate among all cohorts is higher OUTSIDE of the Millennials. So mastering Web 2.0 and CRM is critical for success in any age group.

  • Marcia M

    My two cents: Mark and Larry have it spot on: It doesn't matter the age, perceived demographic, etc. of your tasting room guest; it's bad hospitality and bad manners to ignore anyone who has done your winery the courtesy of visiting.

    The tasting room manager would do well to send staff to the WISE Academy: http://wineindustrysaleseducation.com/ for additional training (no affiliation whatsoever!)

    And, yes, each generation has different hot buttons and marketing language they will (and won't) respond to. Target messages accordingly for greatest success!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Marcia – and thanks for sharing the link.

  • Julie Brosterman

    Hi Joe – always enjoy your provocative posts and this is a topic that I've debated with several top winery owners in the $100+ bottle space who believe that millenials are still whipping out their Black AmEx cards at fine restaurants daily and who are seeking to capture a large percentage of that market.

    Most of the people I know in that age group have moved back in with mom and dad and have had the 'card' repossessed.

    Let's face it – the real disconnect is that most wineries are owned by boomers who have made money in other professions and are now living their dream by making wine. A large percentage are still unsure about the use of social media to build new relationships but certainly should be experts on giving great customer service and building relationships with those loyal to their brand.

    The young people who work at wineries are few – mostly because they are not high paying jobs with a direct career path to the CEO's office – so there's probably not a lot of input happening from them on how to connect with their peers. And we know that the traditional PR route is probably not going to draw them in either.

    The wine biz isn't like the fashion or beauty industry where there are young faces that they can relate to – stories of people who have made it – that are inspiring young people to seek out a wine. And branding activities need to target this audience or they will be missed completely.

    Wineries get a perspective on the size of this market from reporting services who mostly track sales through skus at larger outlets like grocery and box stores.

    This probably isn't where a millenial customer is buying or experiencing wine – it's at a wine bar or at a friend's house.

    And without good information on the label of the bottle – or a broad selection of choices on a wine list – how do you engage the young and curious consumer?

    I know that as a seasoned wine drinker, I'm frankly bored by a server rattling off BTG choices as "we have a Cab, a Merlot, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Grigio…" without names or vintage info.

    How do we expect a consumer born in the all-knowing digital age to grow their interest if we can't engage them at the point of purchase or give them brands they can identify with?

    I applaud Constellation and their ability – in spite of being a large company – to realize the time to move is now.

    Julie Brosterman
    [email protected]

    If you're talking about wine – talk to us!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Julie!

      "How do we expect a consumer born in the all-knowing digital age to grow their interest if we can't engage them at the point of purchase or give them brands they can identify with?"

      There is a way.

      They are talking all about it plain as day and louder than bombs on-line. But lots of companies (including wine producers) think the online versions of those conversations are somehow "fake" and don't really count, despite the fact that real people are having the conversations about real products in the real world.

      It's a pain in the ass, because it's not en masse and has to be done one on one. But it can, in fact, be done by joining in those conversations.


  • Nick

    This is a big topic and could maybe use spread out over several posts.

    W/r/t the stats on Gen Y drinkers, consider the details. Prior WMC reports show that Gen Y members aka Millennials ARE moving into wine as a category even faster than prior generations. This is contradicted above in the comments. I'm not sure we have reliable data from when Gen X and certainly not from when the Boomer generation was in their 20's as to how fast they took to wine.

    So let's assume the WMC consumer tracking data is reliable, and Gen Y members ARE DRINKING WINE MORE than prior generations. They ARE drinking wine more and more, that's not in debate. It's only debatable whether they are more so or less so than prior generations at that age. Therefor, I wouldn't position this whole discussion as "there's something broken about the way the industry is approaching Gen Y" Nope, I'm not sold on that idea. It's contradicted by the data.

    Perhaps another way to position this discussion is as an opportunity to engage Gen Y differently where and how they like to be targeted. Listen to the data: what is being done now is working. Maybe it could work better. I like to think so. I think everyone likes to think so.

    And let me just say, a lot of this Gen Y targeting discussion sounds a little condescending toward them and more than a little out of touch with the reality of who is actually using social media and why (increasingly older Americans). http://mashable.com/2010/01/28/baby-boomers-socia

    The INTERNET is changing how people get info, choose products, place value, etc. That effect is applying to all generations at the same time.

    • 1WineDude

      Nick – thought-provoking comment, thanks for that!

      "Prior WMC reports show that Gen Y members aka Millennials ARE moving into wine as a category even faster than prior generations." – I think there are links in the comments from RichardPF to study data that support that statement. I agree that the Internet is changing things, but I also can tell you form personal experience that Millennials and their worldview is influencing other generations, particularly people like me who are in the latter-half of Gen X.

      I LOVE the point that some things must be working or we wouldn't be seeing the jumps in wine consumption in Gen Y – but would only caution that what's being done probably needs to be done better and more often than the data might suggest, because while the percentages are growing, they are still relatively small. Small % of a large group is still a good story overall, but the market is a LOT bigger than that.


    • @SVBWine

      It’s absurd to say Millennials are driving the growth in wine consumption. It’s contradicted by the facts. There's no doubt the current generation has more access to wine and information than any other. And its reasonable to conclude they are drinking better wine than Boomers because the craft CA. wine industry was nascent when the prior gens were developing an interest in wine. It’s a good assumption, but we need to recognize even that's an assumption because no data exist to compare consumption by generation side by side.

      So despite the raft of authors suggesting Millennials are responsible now for the growth in wine consumption, Nielsen data and winery surveys suggest the opposite. It’s an absolute fallacy. It’s one thing to say Gen Y has the highest growth rate of consumption (true), but an entirely different thing to say they are responsible for the growth TODAY (false). Tomorrow however, they will be.

    • @SVBWine

      The growth in SM may have started with college students and pre-pubescent teenagers, but this isn't about generations anymore. Main stream media is being radically changed and smart phones, SM, and the web are largely replacing traditional radio, TV, newspaper and magazines. That's forcing a move to understand this change by all generations, and it’s a good reason why wineries need to start to engage their customers – regardless of age – through these new media.

      • pmabray


      • 1WineDude

        double #amen !

  • BCD

    In my experience working in a tasting room, I feel like Milennials are visiting to have a good time and typically not interested in making a purchase. But what the tasting room staff needs to understand is that those same people will probably purchase your wine in the future if they have an enjoyable experience. They may not make a purchase, but they're probably posting pictures of their experience on Facebook and telling their friends how much fun they had at your winery. That might be just as good as that $200 sale you got from 60 year-old couple.

    • Mike W.

      Agreed. Have to treat everyone as a potential customer. Now I definitely understand the "party bus" problem – those who are just looking to get drunk and have a good time probably aren't going to be great customers but you also can't afford the negative experience (as it too will be shared).

      But if you have a younger consumer enter your tasting room and they've CHOSEN to visit your tasting room out of all those available – you have to give them the benefit of the doubt – and a great experience can definitely pay dividends beyond the person present with accelerated word of mouth driven by digital tools.

      • 1WineDude

        BCD / Mike – The party bus issue affects every Gen… I've seen a bus of people who were on the early side of senior citizens who were HAMMERED take over a series of tasting rooms on a wine trail in PA, and it was NOT pretty!

        One of the frustrating aspects of courting Gen Y (and Gen X to some extent) is that when you combine it with social media it's not at all clear when/if/how the effort pays off. No sales, but great exposure… is that worth $200? Maybe… IF the people who saw the exposure on social media pass it on and someone, somewhere buys…

        • Mike W.

          But if you disrespect them because you're unsure… that can only hurt you.

          Plus, this brings up another thing… pretty much every tasting room charges $10-15 to taste. Not like it's free anymore… not sure if you can expect every person who comes in to buy – regardless of generation.

        • BCD

          But you're still possibly creating a fan for life. When they have the money to spend on wine there's a good chance they buy your brand. Yeah, the older couple is probably buying your wine too, but long term I feel the relationship with the younger consumer will better benefit the brand.

          Just to make it clear, I don't mean to downplay the significance of the older generation or make it sound as if they don't matter as much, because they do. What I'm trying to say is that the younger crowd deserves the same respect given to the older crowd, even if they likely won't be making a significant purchase.

          • 1WineDude

            Hey BCD – "Just to make it clear, I don't mean to downplay the significance of the older generation or make it sound as if they don't matter as much, because they do. What I'm trying to say is that the younger crowd deserves the same respect given to the older crowd, even if they likely won't be making a significant purchase." That's a perfect way of summarizing one of the points I had in mind when writing this post (though my expression was less PC for sure :). I think the bet has to be that Millennials will eventually make up for the small purchase amounts in the overall volume of people buying wine, *if* they're courted correctly. Cheers!

  • Leah Hennessy


    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Leah. So what you're saying is, you like the article? ;-)

  • @timelliott

    Like Rob McMillan said above it's a matter of time. Right now Boomers pay the bills for wineries while Millenials are bottle buyers for the most part (generally speaking). The same was true in the early 1980's when I started out. I could not afford many of the wines I tasted in Napa Valley (for free) but the education got me on the road to wine geekdom and I still buy from some of the old brands who were kind to me back then.

    Most wineries that truly understand their customers are treating Millenials the same way I was treated 30 years ago. Those who don't will not be around very long. But there is nothing wrong with continuing to focus on the customers who are currently supporting the operations fo the winery.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Tim!

  • David Rossi

    I think we need to separate out marketing from selling. In selling we should never "prejudge" a customer. Regardless of age a consumer needs to feel important and not be over looked. And spending a bit of time with a consumer who may not buy now isn't a horrible thing. You just might make a sale.

    Marketing however is about deploying scarce funds to target that consumer that will yield the best return. Smallish wineries have very scarce resources and will focus more directly on people who can buy in the near and immediate term. It makes sense. Big wineries that have lower priced brands can target millenials and have the cash for the investment longer term.

    If a small winery with +$25 bottle prices came to me and said "I want to spend 80% of my tiny budget on millenials" I would try to steer them in another direction. Take care of the short term or you don't have a long term.

    • 1WineDude

      Good point, David – so you're saying, market for the short term but sell for the long term? For medium and larger sized clients, with more marketing moolah, shouldn't they spend some effort/money on reaching out to a younger base of potential customers?

      • David Rossi

        You can't "sell" for the longer term by definition, but just be polite and never judge someone as "not a buyer". Sorry if it came out wrong.

        Some time and effort? Sure if you have some low cost options and, most importantly, a brand that can appeal to a younger crowd. Most wineries however are very small companies(less than $5 million in sales) and have brands at price points that just don't make sense to many younger consumers. They can't spend precious cash on a consumer that won't buy.

        If you have Coca Cola kind of money then you can spend big bucks on very long term plays. Heck you can market yourself in utero to fetuses and try to set them up to buy Coke at birth. If you are a $2 million per year Oregon winery selling $30 Pinot there are better ways to spend your money that keep you in the game.

        It's all about scarce resources. Not what you want to do, but what you can and should do.

  • Wine Curmudgeon

    Nicely done, Joe. I have pondered this for years — the wine business sells wine to everyone on the Baby Boomer model, which is that consumers want to be told what to drink from mostly white middle class men who give wine scores. And what will happen to the industry when the Baby Boomers die off and the business hasn't changed? It won't be pretty.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Curmudgeon!

  • CathyG

    The distinction between marketing and selling is a good one. Marketing presents some knotty issues, but selling should be a slam-dunk. People of all ages respond to being treated like valued visitors – it makes them want to buy. And while you should never be rude to anyone, being rued to Millennials is really, really stupid. The information will get shared on Facebook. And it won't be with just their friends; it will be with their boomer parents, who won't forgive you either.

    • 1WineDude

      "People of all ages respond to being treated like valued visitors" – Amen to that. Thanks, CathyG!

  • Beth

    Generational marketing couldn't be more top of mind for us at JT Wines. Since launching FLASQ Wines (first domestic wine packaged in aluminum bottles) in January, we've come to some conclusions regarding this "on the go" wine concept. No matter the generation, if you lead an active lifestyle, are green-minded and enjoy wine, FLASQ is a solid option. However, the interest in FLASQ from Millennials has far surpassed our expectations. GenYs have praised the innovative, convenient and portable packaging; 100% recyclable bottles; and quality of the wine. Thanks for drawing attention to this topic. What's a more relevant sales topic than "know your audience?"

  • Herzog Wine Clubs

    Fantastic post. Now of course for all involved in the wine industry is the hardest part… actually putting your money where your mouth is and DOING what is preached and not just reading about it.

    • 1WineDude

      THanks, Herzog – yes… there's always the taking action part! :)

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from Terroirist » Millennials Aren’t Special
    Thursday, 28 July, 2011

    […] a recent blog post about Millennial wine consumers, Joe Roberts highlighted Kayla Koroush, a twenty-something who […]

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