Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2015. It was updated in August 2020 with the latest tips to improve your winery's Millennial marketing strategy.
In the past five years, the audience for wine has changed dramatically along generational lines. Most in the industry got a big wake up call with a stat that made waves in 2015: millennials consumed 42% of all wine in the U.S.
The reality is, there's an enormous market of wine-enthused millennials out there, ready for new, engaging brands serving up delicious wines and well-crafted experiences that break from the traditional mold. The catch is reaching them in the right way with the right message, because the old tricks of the trade simply will not work with this audience.
How Millennials Consume Differently
Millennials are individuals currently anywhere from their mid-20s to early 40s, as defined by the Pew Research Center.
Some of the biggest names in premium wine have decried this generation as a lost cause for the industry: Wine Enthusiast says this attitude seems to "liken [millennials] to a plague."
75% of millennials would spend more money on wine if they had it
They're willing to spend more than $20 per bottle
Millennials actually consume more wine than their parents
Since 2016, wine has accounted for 65% of all online alcohol sales
Sales of canned wine grew almost 70% between 2019 and 2020
The key is that demand for wine hasn't gone away. It's simply changed. It's converted from select, expensive vintages to bargain (yet classy) buys, from old-world to sparkling sweets, from in-person experiences to the online sales that are more convenient to both today's demands and the 1/3 of young millennials who prefer to drink at home.
What This Means for Marketing to Millennials
With these insights in mind, wineries should consider the best ways to market their products to millennials.
Keep in mind that this term applies to an enormous swathe of people with a wide range of life experiences, motivations, situations and more. Major players like E. & J. Gallo Winery have seen success in pivoting their approach to millennial marketing precisely because they take into account the nuanced subsets of this category.
Nonetheless, there are a few major lessons to learn. Here are 5 strategies to consider:
1. Don't stop at "marketing."
The undertone of the demand trends highlighted above? It's not just how you market that you should consider for this audience, but your whole product cycle.
For instance, canned wine sales are up because millennials are interested in convenience, sustainability, one-person portions or even their visual parallels to beer and cider. The same can be said for boxed wines, single-serves, go-packs and other innovative or resurging formats. It's both a marketing choice and a packaging choice.
A word that is often tied to millennial marketing is "authenticity." Certainly, millennials tend to care about authentic engagements — which is exactly why curated engagements may not be enough. Your brand may have to pivot how your products are literally packaged, delivered and consumed to truly connect.
A great example is subscription boxes. They're a much more direct, personalized way for a customer to receive wine from you on a regular basis, they're a concept familiar to millennial consumers, and even if they're a new way for you to sell your product, they could be the key to connecting you to this audience.
2. Lean into their appreciation.
Millennials appreciate wine more than many wineries would expect. According to Direct Marketing News, millennials appreciate the following aspects when it comes to the wines they drink:
Quality and variety.
How the product is made.
The history of the winemakers.
Wineries' innovations, philosophies and techniques.
That covers an enormous range of unique brand qualities that you can highlight on your labels, your website, your social media and more.
Millennials also tend to be adventurous wine drinkers. They may have a fondness for rosé, but they're willing to try all sorts of wines and are less married to a particular grape, style or region. Put together, this means that you can guide them toward a phenomenal learning experience to help them find a great wine.
Understanding what millennials appreciate most about the wine drinking experience empowers wineries to engage with this demographic more effectively. Here are a few quick examples:
Promote a new wine on social media with the story of its conception, production & technique.
Use upsell tools like WineDirect's carrots to promote related wines, and introduce buyers to new varietals.
Highlight any social or environmental causes you're working toward on your website.
3. Engage with them on social media.
It's no surprise that if you want to be successful at marketing to millennials, you need to establish a social media presence.
Millennials are also far more eager to learn about and consume wine than you might think. That includes talking to waitstaff, going to tastings at local stores, enjoying a tasting room visit and more.
A few suggestions for engaging with and educating millennials on social media:
Proactively engage with users tweeting about wine on Twitter.
Share pairing tips and tasting guides on Facebook.
Suggest wines for occasions millennials can relate to, including ordering takeout, hosting a game night or a night in watching Netflix.
Leverage YouTube and Instagram as important channels for teaching millennials about winemakers and the winemaking process.
By engaging with them on social networks, you have the opportunity to create loyal customers among the millennial generation.
Millennials are inherently social, so wineries can market to them by tapping into their lifestyles. Wineries can foster a positive relationship with millennials by creating their own blogs.
With social distancing measures in place over the last few months, having a compelling online presence has become even more important.
Wineries that create original content on their social media properties — especially in the form of blog posts — are not only enhancing their inbound marketing efforts; they are more effectively engaging with millennials. According to an Elite Daily study, 33 percent of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase. Additionally, 43 percent of millennials value authenticity more than quantity when consuming news.
You can become top of mind with millennials by providing party planning guides, wine pairing guides and other group-oriented content that empowers them to engage with different types of wine.
Another powerful option is reviews. Reviews are an important resource to millennials. In fact, Bazaarvoice found in "Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands" that 73 percent of millennials said it was important to read others' opinions before making a purchase. Wineries can more effectively market to millennials by integrating reviews into their product pages and social media outlets.
5. Build your story.
All of the above strategies tie into the foundation that's essential for millennial marketing: your brand story. It's connected to the theme of authenticity, of engaging, of showing your priorities, history and roots.
As you work through each of these strategies, you'll be building your unique story and your own drinking style. You'll demonstrate to millennial consumers how they can approach and relate to you, what it means to drink your wine.
From there, you can leverage each of the tactics we suggested to put these strategies into play and activate them with your audience. That's how you get your unique brand story talking, moving and making waves with your audience.