Big Lessons In Marketing Wine To The Ys

Big Lessons In Marketing Wine To The Ys

B&T’s resident favourite Millennial experts, Brian Mitchell and Evan Mitchell – Directors of Love & Wine, and co-founders of Gen Y brand specialists HOW&Y – go behind the winning of the Australian Business Awards “New Product Innovation” with Australian Vintage’s YOU Wines.

Baden Parker-Brown
Posted by Baden Parker-Brown

The term “craft beverage” is tossed around with casual abandon. Yet surely there is only one craft beverage par excellence. Wine.

Wine not only possesses virtues, it inspires them. Discernment and judgement. Maturation of taste. Patience and restraint. Ritual and ceremony…celebration, hospitality, conviviality and camaraderie. These qualities have been acknowledged for millennia. They’re integral to wine’s history and tradition. They comprise its legacy.

How frustrating then that almost overnight this priceless consumer mindspace was surrendered to “craft” beers and ciders. These grabbed youth appeal with a message of old style, hand-crafted artisanship (more hype than reality) – and spruiked youth relevance on top by wrapping it all up in a hipster beard.

The wine industry for too long banked on the generations-old chestnut that people’s tastes would eventually just “grow into” wine. That truism, for Gen Y at least, is increasingly less true. Novelty, peer appeal, palate-and-packaging bling, these have been allowed to trump the wine ideals of taste, knowledge, and appreciation. Wine has been gazumped on its most precious defining heritage.

The wine industry’s current battle for the Millennial market has now been made more challenging, by the ground given up to aggressive competitors. But all industries, in their own ways, face the dilemma of how to engage with a new consumer generation that refuses to play by the old marketing rules.

As we’ve pointed out in earlier articles, engagement with this generation can come only by building a brand on the defining characteristics of the Millennial mindset. In essence, ensuring that the brand’s DNA matches the Gen Y worldview:

  • lifestyle priorities of image and identity
  • celebritization and its fame-fascination spinoffs
  • abandonment of authority for peer influences
  • relationship dominance as the social currency
  • technological saturation – tech as both means and end.

When our marketing company Love & Wine began a collaboration with Australian Vintage on the creation of a Millennial focused wine brand, this overriding strategy was dominant.

A critically important area, and a general weakness for companies marketing to Gen Y, is the selection of brand message. Research shows that Gen Y consumers are more attracted to brands that fit who they are, what they like, and how they do things. This makes the combination of brand name and accompanying slogan or theme crucially important.

The ideal is to achieve a synergy. But many brand message combinations fail even to achieve compatibility between name and theme.

Based on research findings, three criteria were established in theme selection, for what became the YOU Wines brand:

  • inventiveness
  • emotional appeal – legitimate not forced, and
  • synergy with the brand name.

The themes settled on were:

  • “YOU – wines with personality”
  • “YOU know how to make an impression”
  • “YOU – find the wine to match your mood.”

The wine industry internationally has been slow to establish effective digital connections with Millennials. Websites have tended to reflect the alienating flaws of traditional Gen X and Boomer-directed wine sales and marketing literature. And as transparent E-commerce sites, they attempt to push a sales message on Millennial consumers whom they’ve failed to connect with emotionally. A fatal mistake with this generation, and one that keeps being repeated.

So the overriding focus of the YOU Wines website was to establish which variety is a personality match, and why – in as interactive and engaging a way as possible.

A website quiz is designed to

  • play up the interactivity of the site and the user experience it provides
  • give a genuine baseline of taste, for an accurate personality match
  • ensure each quiz-taker feels a genuine affinity with their nominated variety, and
  • be fun, insightful, and possessed of that necessary dimension of generational “irreverence”.

The range of questions asked in the quiz evaluate participants in terms of 20 Aspirational Values that underlie the relationships Gen Y has with brands.

This is a generation notoriously dismissive of traditional experts – a major obstacle for the wine industry whose culture has long been steeped in this. With Gen Y the pendulum swung from “vertical” modelling (of parents and other authority figures) to “horizontal” modelling, with peers and social media identities as the dominant sources of lifestyle recommendations.

Millennials value the experience of discovery, of sharing, and being shared with. YOU Wines focused on identifying appropriately aged social media influencers to fit with the brand’s sense of generational authenticity and lifestyle appeal. Influencers are of four distinct identified types – fashion and style (largely female), general lifestyle, food and dining (mixed), and indie/arty/hipster (mixed) – to provide engaging Instagram visual content.

Youth-themed events and festivals, with the right demographic mix, also offered an ideal opportunity to expose the brand to influencers among Gen Y. These influencers are the “connectors, salespeople and mavens” identified by Malcolm Gladwell in his influential book The Tipping Point. For a generation who reject traditional authorities, it’s essential to position a brand where it can resonate with the new tastemakers. Situating the YOU brand as an integral part of the style dialogue between influencers and the Gen Y consumers who value their lifestyle messages, was a key priority.

Amongst the 20 aspirational values that influence Gen Y consumer decision making, “Creation & Discovery” and “Innovation” are two that rank highly. These attributes were at the heart of the creation and design of the YOU Wines brand.

All the more reason why winning the Australian Business Awards’ “New Product Innovation” in its inaugural year, is so rewarding for the YOU Wines design team from Australian Vintage and Love & Wine.