Marketing wine to minorities: Part 2
I blogged the other day about that new census data showing that more minority babies than white babies are being born in the U.S. for the first time in our history.
I said that IMHO the wine industry needs to take this very seriously, especially family wineries that hope to be around for generations as well as large corporate wine companies with responsibilities to investors. “They need to stop being complacent. And let there be no doubt, there is a lot of complacency in California,” is what I wrote.
Well, that post got a lot of comments, and many of them were highly critical of my statement. People wrote in and said I should get out of Oakland more often and up to wine country to see the diversity of humankind that comes through tasting rooms. I thought this criticism was a little severe, given that (1) Oakland is the most diverse city in America and (2) I’m in wine country plenty, believe me, including tasting rooms. Now, I’m not in tasting rooms as much as tasting room employees, but I can tell you that whenever I’m in a tasting room–be it Santa Ynez Valley, Monterey County, Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, or wherever–most of the people I see are white.
Anyway, I’m not writing to rehash that whole thing. Instead I want to cite this article, from the Wharton School of Business at U. Penn, that strengthens my argument. Although it doesn’t specifically address the U.S. wine industry, it does make very strong and, I think, irrefutable points, which are direct quotes:
– this demographic trend creates a need [for businesses] to recast their products and strategies to reach non-whites.
– [wineries should] design products for different ethnicities and produc[e] marketing materials in the languages and media channels [that different demographic groups] favor
– [the changes] could mean new product opportunities for companies, and require them to adopt different segmentation strategies.
– the most effective advertising messages and media channels could be very different for minorities and companies have to tailor their marketing strategies accordingly, from marketing campaigns to probably the product itself.
Several people who commented on my blog noted that they believe the industry is rising to these challenges, and they cited Moscato as the example. My reaction to that was, it’s fine, as far as it goes; but that’s a pretty weak premise to build a strategy on. Yes, Moscato arose out of the hip-hop community, which was great in that it was truly a bottom-up (as opposed to a top-down) phenomenon, fueled by music and social media. But I have two questions: Does anyone believe that Moscato will stay on fire for even five years? I don’t. I suspect most of it will end up in blends when the trend dies. And number two, the Moscato craze doesn’t prove that minorities are embracing wine. Far from it. All it proves is that a phenomenon like that is not replicable. Tomorrow’s hip-hop song could be about peach wine, and then that would be the new thing.
The most startling finding in the Wharton article is that “The percentage of Americans who are Caucasian continues to fall steadily, especially among the youngest generation.” What is the industry doing to promote wine to younger Asians, Blacks and Latinos? I see targeted ads for them, both in print, billboards and online, for beer and liquor, but aside from the Moscato thing, I don’t see young people embracing wine. The reason? Beer and liquor have simple messages. You get stoned–you have fun. Wine’s message is not, and never has been, that simple. I think that some wine companies, like Gallo, “get it” when it comes to selling wine to the street; but the very fact that so many people still, mistakenly, see Gallo as pandering means that the lesson hasn’t been learned by everyone.
Habits developed during youth, including preference of alcoholic beverage, persist into adulthood. The only thing that changes is that, when the person is older, she has more money and can drink up in quality. That’s why it’s important to get these younger minority folks interested in wine. The wine industry is going to have to do a lot more than it now does for that to happen.