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Mixing it Up With Millennials

The millennials are coming. What are they drinking and why?

After listening to a lecture on how to talk wine to millennials by Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications, I thought this might be a good subject to delve into, over a glass of wine. I decided to do a little more research and retrieved information from Restaurant Hospitality, Nielson Research, Wine Business.com, and Brand Amplitude.

Here are some top line insights observed from a media point-of-view. So let’s stick to wine and millennials to keep it somewhat focused.

millennial drinkers

A few statements of fact:

Sales are increasing because the population is growing; a new generation of drinkers is arriving on the scene.

39% of the population doesn’t drink at all;
17.8% are core wine drinkers,
25.8% beer and spirits,
17.3% are marginal drinkers.

So it’s important to take note as to the aspirations of the millennials’ drinking habits.

Ask any bartenders and they will tell you customers ages 21-34, labeled as the millennial demographic, “are what pump life and profits into a restaurant’s bar scene” according to Restaurant Hospitality. They have the time, like to stay out late, and possess enough disposable income to buy lots of drinks.

But back to wine, coast to coast millennials are social in nature. “Wine is social and social media is hot,” observes Jessica Altieri, Sommelier. Millennial marketing describes millennials as more sophisticated, aggressive, adventurous, experimental, and skeptical than other age groups. As a retailer, supplier, or advertiser, we need to recognize their need to share and influence others, on a social level.

Some of the trends of millennials should be taken into consideration. We need to recognize their comfort with technology, which falls into line with their social nature.

Millennials view drinking wine as an experience, which may explain their newfound interest in imported wines from Spain, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and even South Africa.

Millennials say they spend about $10 more per bottle than older adults do, across a wide variety of wine buying occasions. They will spend $40 a bottle for a special occasion on average, compared to just $24 for all adults.

The millennials are open-minded, willing to experiment, and less likely to get stuck in a wine rut. In contrast to their adventurous nature for imported wines, they also favor products that are locally grown and produced.

They tend to plan their purchases rather than indulge in impulse buys, which makes the job of marketing easier. Most importantly for the future, they are “more likely to equate cost with quality,” and “more likely to trade back up to more expensive alcoholic beverage brands as the economy improves.” Presumably, Nielsen is comparing them to the Baby Boom generation in these respects.

Marketing to the millennials obviously centers on social and alternative media of all sorts. The most famous example is Gary Vaynerchuk, the idiosyncratic New Jersey wine shop owner who created a revolution with Wine Library TV. Wine websites are becoming more interactive, from established forums such as Snooth to mobile apps such as Hello Vino. Wineries, retailers, and distributors are scrambling to get onboard–more than 80% of people in the industry are on Facebook and nearly 65% use Twitter.

Technology moves rapidly, and many wineries are already way past Facebook and Twitter. Some are going directly to the consumer in the form of digital tags on wine labels; these tags allow consumers to download information and videos to their smartphones. Others are working directly with restaurants that use iPad wine lists to deliver content, and are providing videos to sommeliers for use in staff training.

When it comes to communicating with millennials, remember that they are less about the chemistry, geology, botany, and enology, and more about hearing a story about the wine that gives them a reason to try it.

As a final note, while social media is key, marketing to millennials has to be honest and genuine. It must be a sincere attempt to be interactive, to involve them in a conversation and solicit their opinions, rather than delivering an advertising slogan.

About the author

Don Billings

Don Billings

Don Billings is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of "in the Mix" Magazine. He is also President and CEO of iMi Agency for the past 20 years.