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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Vino 2011 Recap Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …


At the 6th annual presentation of U.S. wine consumer trends given by the Wine Market Council (WMC) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on January 25, 2011, President John Gillespie said everything and said nothing when pressed about “What should wineries do” in regards to Millenials and marketing.  Gillespie noted in response to the query, “It’s so complicated.  But, you can’t ignore it.  Or, you ignore it at your own peril.”

With that, wineries everywhere heaved a labored sigh.  “Complicated” is right and “Ignore” is exactly what I think is happening.

“Twenty something’s.”  “Generation Y.”  “Millenials.” “Social media.”  By now, these are titular reference points that I suspect most people are sick of hearing about, joining me in phraseology weariness.


It’s nothing personal; I grow weary of other phrases that collapse under the weight of cultural overuse, too.  The next time I hear somebody say, “Thrown under the bus” I’m going to gather them up by the shirt collar and throw them in front of, well, the next passing bus…  In addition, the irony is that for all of the so-called, “Sense of entitlement” that Millennial’s possess, our information culture has done a good job of making this generation feel like they are special by constantly keeping them in the headlines, particularly with the use of social media as some sort of marketing elixir (note:  I didn’t use the overused phrase, “Silver bullet”).

Despite the omnipresent awareness of Millenials and social media, after having spent a couple of days in New York City this week at the Vino 2011 conference, I can’t help but point out that my sense of Millenial marketing, social media and the wine business writ large is that people have tuned out—just as I’ve reasonably tuned out, as well. 

I sense that most producers in the global industry played out in the U.S. know that Millenials are important to the future of wine; they know that Millenials have taken to wine, yet they don’t sense the imperative and they really don’t know what to do to appeal to this youngest generation.  And, of course, my sense of the situation is compounded by the fact that producers have been beaten to a bloody nub with the importance of Millenial marketing from the braying pundits who don’t have proverbial, “Skin in the game.”

In this case, it feels almost like a reverse case of the Preacher’s Kid – or “PK” in a Midwestern abbreviated colloquialism.  As a strict parent if you tell the PK over and over that drinking, smoking and screwing is awful and horrible, the kids are going to do it out of defiance.  Played out in the wine industry, a placid lull seems to have taken place whereby a non-focus on Millenials is manifest almost as a narcoleptic rebellion against conventional wisdom.

While I have the luxury of selective attention because I work in digital marketing by profession and can select what’s important to me based on what project I’m working on, the wine business has no such luxury regarding this key demographic.

Two elements brought this topic of Millenials, social media and the wine business back to front and center for me, giving me a, pardon the indelicacy, a “Holy shit” moment.

First, I was doing research in advance of my participation on a panel about Millenials and digital marketing when I ran across some astounding statistics from the Pew Research Center.

If reading through the technology adoption habits of the generations in the Generations 2010 research report released in December of last year doesn’t shake a wine marketer into a moment of despair when compared against their slate marketing plan tactics then I don’t know what will.


To wit, according to Pew, 95% of Millenials are online (the greatest percentage of any generation), 83% use a social network, and they lead in every category related to online usage.

As internet analyst Charlene Li has noted, “Social networks will be like air.”


Read the entire report here.

The other key moment was information presented by Gillespie at the aforementioned Wine Market Council annual research review, co-presented with Danny Brager from Nielsen. 

Unfortunately, in their finite discretion, the WMC chose not to provide a copy of the entire presentation, instead offering a peculiar abbreviated hard copy, leaving the meaty elements out of the distribution at the invitation only event.  Despite the Three Stooges eye poke to the attendee’s,  I did scribe some really critical statistics that should make any wine marketer sit up straight in their chair and adjust their somnambulistic gaze into focus with alacrity.

1) In 2010, wine represented the 3rd fastest growing consumer packaged good

2) Throughout the recession, Millenials have demonstrated the most consumer confidence of any generation

3) 91% of wine by volume is drunk by core wine drinkers

4) 51% of Millenials are core wine drinkers!!

5) 25% of wine consumed by Millenials costs $20 +

6) Of a total population of 71 million, 16M Millenials have yet to come of age

So, taken together, the fact that Millenials, essentially, live online, 1 in 2 is a “core” wine drinker, 1 in 4 bottles they purchase is over $20 and about 23% of them have yet to become 21, I would say that the implications are clear.

Get ye online, and get yourself in front of Millenials or, as Gillespie says with a paucity of detail, “Ignore it at your own peril.”


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (6) |


On 01/30, Adam Japko wrote:


First, I really like what you say about entitlement being fueled by the ability to star in social media headlines.  That’s a pretty darn good insight, I never thought of it that way…more and more trophies for simple achievements define a big part of the millenial generation…I know from my kids. 

A second thought is that there have been 20 somethings as long as wine has been made and sold, for generations upon generations.  There is one good lesson to take from history….make good wine at a good price point and lots of people will buy it.  Don’t ignore social media because there are important new tools to leverage the internet with, but forget about millenial marketing mania and focus on wine making and keeping costs in line.

On 01/31, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Good post.  MUCH more thoughtful analysis of the WMC presentation than Heimoff’s wild-eyed attack on beer drinkers, to be sure!

Two criticisms:

As the old saying goes, “To a carpenter, everything looks like a nail.”  I don’t think the PEW or the sparse WMC/Nielsen data gives the “invest in social media or die” dictum you suggest.  The Pew data indicates the older age groups are using social media a surprising amount, too.  It does NOT indicate social media are causing Millennials to buy—much less to buy certain brands.  I know of no data which has made that point.  Moreover, the analysis I’ve seen indicates the greatest influence on Millennials is other Millennials.  How effectively commercial firms can affect their buying decisions via social media seems very much in doubt.

You’re certainly correct that the 21-33 year olds are the most sophisticated and independent-minded wine consumers in history.  They’re going to be great for the industry.  But the data also indicates a Boomer spends twice as much on wine as a Millennial—even in these hard times.  As of yet, Millennials’ impact on actual sales is relatively small. 

Social media are useful secondary marketing tools (p.r. and sales support vehicles).  Its ACTUAL ability to drive sales is very much over-rated.  If you want to build wine sales for 2016-2020, social media are great.  If you want to sell wine today, don’t build your hopes on social media.

Just one humble DTC guy’s opinion.

Greg Brumley
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On 01/31, Jeff wrote:

thanks for the comments, guys.

Greg—you do raise an astute point in that neither the PEW or WMC data indicate that social media is the holy grail.

however, taken together, as I did, the two independent research studies suggest that in order to reach this group of wine enthusiasts you need to be where they are at.

Of course, from a DTC perspective, there is a difference in between mindshare and sales—social media being equivalent to PR and not necessarily marketing activation that drives revenue.

thanks again for the comments, gents.

On 02/03, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

My observation, from the viewpoint of a small wine shop in small town Virginia, is that the Millenials, a very good part of my regular customer base, are also very likely to have broken away from their prior generation’s food habits. They do not participate in the salt, sugar, preservatives, rinse, repeat cycle of many of their parents. Water instead of soft drinks, often a vegetarian diet. It is, therefore, natural for them to take to and enjoy wine and craft beer.

On 07/22, fotowoltaika wrote:

The very interesting article!

On 09/12, cheap cars insurance wrote:



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