A Millennial, a Marketer, and a Wine Blogger Walk Into a Bar

"Do you work in the wine industry?" is the question that people ask me most on my social channels. So often that I recently added a few words to my bios to clarify that I do not in fact work in wine. And I don't have any plans to any time soon. (In short: I live in Pittsburgh. Not exactly a wine Mecca.)

So, how do I spend my days? I'm a marketing director at a major health care corporation, which has zero to do with wine and zero responsibility for my views or thoughts on wine. At 32 years old, I'm also a millennial, and as you know, I'm a wine blogger.

A millennial, a marketer, and a wine blogger walk into a bar. The punchline: They're one person. They're me.

I'm the embodiment of two frenemies of the wine industry: a millennial and what some might call an "influencer," but I prefer "blogger" or "communicator." At the same time, I'm a seasoned marketing professional who understands sales and marketing strategies. Why all this information about me? To establish the fact that when it comes to wine marketing to millennials, I might know a thing or two or ten, despite the fact that my business card doesn't say "wine marketer." I know about marketing and I know about wine, cool? (Would a man have bothered to lay this foundation?) Which brings me to...

Wine and millennial-centric decor co-existing in the wild.

How Do We Solve a Problem Like a Millennial?

"Millennials Are Changing the Wine Industry"
"Millennials and Wine: They Like It—But Not So Much Anymore"
"How Millennials Are Changing the Wine-Selling Game"
"Millennials to Blame for Expected Shrink of Wine Sales in 2019"

These are the top headlines that pop up when you Google "millennials and wine." All of these articles are from 2019. If you weren't aware of the fact that wine has a major millennial problem on its hands, welcome to the fun! Here's some more information:

What Wine Is Getting Wrong—and Needs to Get Right

In a word: value. As Amber LeBeau points out on her blog, SpitBucket, Millennials are spending money. They just aren't spending it on wine because they aren't convinced of its value.

Why spend your money on something that you have to go out to buy (sometimes at a specific store like in PA), is gone once consumed, offers little to no immediate information, can't be customized, and doesn't ignite emotions? That's not a valuable experience; it's an annoying one. And even if you do prefer wine, why buy a $25 bottle over a $10 one? What's the $25 bottle providing that the $10 one isn't? After all, they are both alcohol right?

A Singular Key to Value Doesn't Exist

Many, many wine writers have prescribed countless solutions, including variations of the below. Believe me, I know the list itself isn't earth-shattering. What I'm proposing though is that value isn't communicated by any one of these things on their own, nor is it from a handful of them.

Rather, value is a perception created by a combination of drivers within an integrated marketing strategy. It's much larger and more complicated than quality. It's how elements fuse together to create a cohesive, exciting experience. Value isn't a part or parts. It's the sticky points where the hinges meet in a machine. It can exist at any price point, and it can be marketed.

Merge Ahead to Convey Value

In addition to the obvious—making and/or selling quality wine—there are many marketing attributes and assets that I believe wine businesses (wineries, distributors, importers, shops, etc.) should hone and combine to win a greater share of the millennial market segment. Too many marketing strategies (in all industries) lean too heavily on only one or two, and it's really more of a system. That said, obviously no business can tackle everything at once. (Hence short-term and long-term strategic plans.)

Messaging Attributes to Nail

EMOTIONAL: With any good or service, a business can evoke an emotional benefit via marketing. Even in the B2B world that I work in, there are emotional reasons to buy. Rewarding, celebratory, uplifting, inspiring, and interpersonal are just a few positive, emotion-evoking adjectives that can be tied to wine, incorporated into a value proposition, and woven into messaging.

PERSONAL: Millennials respond to personal marketing both about themselves and about products. Let's use wine origin stories as an example. All the stories don't have to be about organic farming (although that likely helps) or the great-great-grandfather who planted the grapes or whatever. But all wines have an origin story in some form or another. Right now the best case scenario is that the story is buried on a website that no one is ever going to visit. The worst is that the story isn't anywhere to be found. People don't want to work to find the story! There are a few good examples though, like Vallone di Cecione whose origin story takes the form of photos on their labels.

CONVENIENT: Millennials want practical, convenient options that make sense. That's why 375ml bottles, cans, tumblers, boxes, etc. are gaining popularity. But with 28% of young millennials preferring to drink at home, a traditional bottle still has a convenient spot on the couch. What's fitting for Netflix with your cat? A $20 Chianti Classico and some delivery pizza sounds perfect to me. Wineries can market themselves as the most convenient option for these scenarios. They can paint relatable scenes and frame them with convenience, reliability, and practicality. Not every wine should be canned, but every wine should seem convenient for a common use case.

Marketing Assets to Leverage

INFORMATION: "Wine people" are very quick to assume if they know something, then consumers do, too. False. For example, most of my friends don't know what natural wine is. They don't have a stance on natural vs. conventional, nor do they care. They don't even know it exists. (FWIW: I drink both natural and conventional. Here I'm merely illustrating the fact that a lot of people don't know about things that we discuss at length.) You can't excite people about something if you don't tell them anything about it. There should be more information about wine regions, types of wine, varieties, etc. available both during the consideration phase and at the point of purchase. I'm talking more wine articles on out-of-industry websites, more detailed wine labels, and more innovative resources like infographics hanging in wine stores. (With evocative, emotional messaging.)

VISUALS: We are the generation that turned pastel pink into Millennial Pink. We own that shit. Because we are visual people! We like beautiful palettes! And tasteful designs! "Don't judge a book by its cover" does not fly in marketing, sorry. Especially when it comes to millennials. Design your label, website, and marketing materials for the audience you want. Why do you think canned wines are doing so well? (Spoiler alert: It isn't because they taste great.)

ACCESSIBILITY: "I'll try it if I can find it!" is one of the statements I hear most often about wine. "If I can find it." Guys, that's sad. The U.S.'s shipping laws have improved but remain antiquated. Even if they weren't, the cost to ship is high, especially for cost-conscious millennials. Most of my friends would never entertain paying wine shipment costs. These are people who buy everything they need on Amazon Prime sans shipping costs. Personally, I think this is the toughest thing to crack. What can wineries, importers, and distributors do? At minimum they can list the stores/states where people can find their wine. It's a start.

CHANNEL: Print's death was yesterday. Traditional digital's decline is today. Millennials are consuming information through social media (but not Facebook), smart speakers, videos, and text messaging, while email is hurting. Influencer marketing as a channel deserves its own post someday. The point is: there are new and innovative channels popping up constantly and the wine industry has historically been a slow adapter. Once a winery figures out a legit value proposition, they need to communicate on the channels people actually use.

CONNECTION: The crème de la crème: personal recommendations. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful tool in every single industry and likely will be forever. I wouldn't group influencers into this bucket because word-of-mouth marketing is built on trust, and not all have that with their audiences. That's the hard part: businesses can't buy authentic recommendations. However they can facilitate them by optimizing for personal channels like text, video chat, review apps, email, social media, and in-person conversation. A winery could create a hang tag that doubles as a recommendation card to give a friend. Or a QR code on their label that opens a sharable webpage to email to a friend. Auto-pop subject line: "I enjoyed this and thought you might, too." Or imagine a world where you can buy a pack of two wines to give one to a friend.

I can think of many brands doing one of these and some doing a combination. But I honestly haven't seen any effectively implement all of these aspects. If you do know of any, please send them my way! I would love to do a future post featuring examples of great wine marketing.


For anyone reading this who is like, "But I just want some good wines for my BBQ." Don't worry, I've got you. Thank you for letting me go off on this little rant about two things I genuinely love: marketing and wine. And millennials, too. We're actually pretty awesome.

For any industry folks who actually read this, I hope this strategy helps your business. Unfortunately though I doubt many will read it. After all, who am I but a millennial, a marketer, and a wine blogger?

Recommended reading: "Millennial Math, Where's the value in wine?" and really everything on SpitBucket!