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Tips to Market Wine to Millennials--An Emphasis on Wine 2.0

by Liz Thach, Ph.D.
June 29, 2009

Even during this recession, we've heard how the Millennial generation has continued to drive wine sales--albeit at slightly lower purchase prices. They are credited with a 46% increase in wine consumption for 2008, as well as positive wine bar patronage and new wine club sign-ups at a time when most wine clubs are losing members (Wine Market Council). With more than 50% currently under the age of 21 and an estimated population size of 81 million, they are a formidable consumer group. Because of this, most wineries are now paying attention to the older end of the generation--ages 21 to 32.

At the same time, Millennials can be challenging to reach from a marketing perspective. They are known for their distaste of slick advertising and possess a very acute "SPAM"o'meter. They seek authenticity in products--trusting friends and word of mouth over traditional promotion techniques. According to Genesys, a global survey firm, when making purchasing decisions Millennials prefer: fast and reliable service; frictionless interaction; a tailored approach; honesty and trust; and are more concerned with convenience than price.

Exhibit 1: Millennial Recommended Wine Promotion Methods (click to view larger)

These attributes correspond to a recent survey conducted at Sonoma State University with forty Millennials who drink wine. More than 65% said their preferred method to make a purchase decision is based on "word of mouth." So where does the "word" emanate from? In most cases it is with friends in either face to face settings; online social networking forums; or via texting. When asked what type of wine advertising and promotion works best, the Millennials cited online marketing in first place and wine events as second (see Exhibit 1 below).

Specific suggestions regarding online marketing included: wine ads on Facebook; online wine commercials; interesting blog articles; and online discounts, coupons, and invitations to winery events. Most likely due to their desire for interaction, Millennials enjoy wine events at the winery where they can go with friends in a group to taste, and enjoy music, wine, games, or other fun entertainment. They also believe that tastings should expand outside the winery to new venues such as grocery stores, restaurants, farmer's markets, sporting events, and other locations where allowed. Being younger, they are still strongly attracted to wine coupons, free tastings, bring-a-friend-for-free to an event, or other discounts. They would like to see more online and TV wine commercials, and some continue to read magazine ads and enjoy educational seminars on wine.

Online Marketing & Wine 2.0

With online marketing coming in at first place with Millennials, it is worthwhile for wineries to spend more time researching and implementing appropriate components of Wine 2.0. In general, Wine 2.0 is a term that refers to using the Internet to engage with wine consumers on their terms, in a time and manner of their choosing. Tools usually include social networking sites, blogs, vlogs, message boards, and other methods that leverage user-generated content. Wine 3.0, which is not here yet, includes unique ways of integrating wine data on the Internet. This may eventually include the ability to "smell" wine online; virtual reality, and avatar wine retailers.

When examining how much time Millennials spend online and with technology, the results are telling. A 2007 study by Junco & Mastrodicasa unearthed some of the following statistics:

• Social Networking--Millennials of wine drinking age prefer Facebook (21.4 million Millennials currently) and update it at least twice a day. Teenage Millennials prefer My Space. Though Millennial do use Twitter, they seem to prefer texting for short messages. Very few Millennials are yet on Linked In, but growing.
• Texting--90% of all Millennials own a cell phone. They text continually throughout the day, including connecting with parents 1.5 times per day, with a current average of 453 texts per month (and growing). They say texting makes them feel connected to others. Texting has replaced emails and Instant Message (IM) for Millennials. Many say emails are outdated and a communication form of older generations.
• Blogs--28% report owning a blog; and 44% read blogs.
• Vlogs (online video)--Millennials watch an average of 273 minutes per month of online videos, with YouTube being the favorite (97 million viewers watched 5.1 billion videos on YouTube in 2007). Most are quite skilled at creating their own online videos, and will forward videos they enjoy to friends.
• Internet--Millennials use their cell phones to consult the Internet almost as much as computers. Currently they spend an average of 33 hours per week online. Interestingly, they spend less time watching TV than their parents (17.4 vs. 22.4 hours), but will watch TV shows online.

In conclusion, based on this short SSU survey of Millennial wine marketing preferences and the statistics highlighting how Millennials have embraced technology, there appear to be new opportunities for wineries to expand their online marketing, as well as to continue to reach out to Millennials in face to face settings at events and other tasting venues. Of key importance, is maintaining an authentic and honest brand message which highlights how your winery and wine is different from others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Thach, Ph.D. is a management and wine business professor at Sonoma State University in California. She can be reached at

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