Marketing to Millennials: will wine writers still matter?
“One important current area of focus for marketing research is the next generation of consumers – the group known as Millennials, Echo Boomers or Generation Y (the term used here),” they say, in an obvious nod to tens of millions of potential buyers. Their definition of Gen Y? “Generation Y comprises those born roughly between 1977 and 1999 (the precise dates are subject to discussion), and for the next 40 years this generational group will become increasingly important as wine consumers.”
Their call for papers [love that phrase] lists these “suggested themes”:
- Motivational perspectives relating to Generation Y and wine consumption.
- Consumption and purchase behaviour, consumption occasions.
- Marketing to Generation Y, particularly contemporary marketing techniques (E-commerce, buzz marketing etc.)
- Gen Y and their relationships with wine brands.
- Gen Y and wine involvement.
- Generation Y and wine tourism.
- Generation Y and wine in relation to other alcoholic drinks.
- Issues relating to health, abuse, safe consumption and social problems.
- Gen Y and how they differ from older generations.
- Social Networking, communication usage.
- Segmentation issues.
- Methodological Issues.
Folks, this is the down-in-the-tall-grass neighborhood of the wine industry, a dark, dangerous, MEGO place where you don’t want to go unless you are heavy duty into the mosh pit of marketing and sales. I’ve always divided the wine industry into two segments: production and business. Production people have dirt on their boots. They’re the winemakers and cellar rats, and I get along fine with them because they’re generally happy folks, and why wouldn’t they be? They work out in Nature and drink a lot.
Then there’s the business side, which includes everybody who has to get dressed up to go to work. They drink a lot too, bless their souls. My closest relationships on the business side are with P.R. people, for obvious reasons; but I also know and like a lot of people in sales and marketing. They’re generally super-smart, and I like talking about the inner workings of the wine industry, which is really complicated and interesting. (I also include merchants and sommeliers on the business side.)
Winemakers historically didn’t have to know much about the business side. There was a pretty good firewall between production and business, and both sides respected each other’s turf. That started to change in the 1990s; today, winemakers have to know a lot about business, because it’s gotten a lot harder. Winemakers don’t have the luxury of saying, “Oh, I could care less about networking and segmentation issues, I’d rather walk my vineyard.” If they’re employed winemakers, they’d get fired if they took that lazy attitude. If they own their own business, then not caring is a good way to find yourself in the poorhouse.
A lot of winemakers realize that understanding Gen Y is pretty important. But a lot of them don’t. The ones that do are getting a heads-up on the others; in the Darwinian struggle for existence that is a free market, they have the edge. I can understand why some winemakers and owners don’t “get it” right now. They’re still selling wine to Boomers, and why change something if it ain’t broken? But now really is the time for wineries to figure out how to sell to the population who, over the next 40 years, will become the biggest consumers in America.
I said that I divide the wine industry into two parts, production and business. There’s actually a third leg on the stool: writers. We’re obviously not on the production side, but we’re not on the business side either. We’re this weird appendage to the whole system, the Fourth Estate: journalism. Thomas Carlye introduced the term in 1787, when he wrote, “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” Much later, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three.” I am proud to call myself a reporter. We wine critics certainly have absorbed more than our share of power; I freely admit it, but it troubles me much more in the political sphere than in wine writing, which ultimately is pretty piss ant. However this blog is not the place for politics. I have these questions: Will social media now eat up the old Fourth Estate and make it — us — irrelevant? Or will the Fourth Estate simply adapt itself to a new medium? The latter, I suspect. Reporting, and with it its expertise, is not going away.