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Millennier Returns! More Wine Marketing Sassiness Imminent

Millennier is back

Coming back after a 2 1/2 year hiatus is a little daunting. Times have changed, technology has changed, millennials have changed, and I have changed. Amazingly, the wine industry has changed as well! Unfortunately, it’s still embarrassingly behind the times.

Am I even relevant anymore now that people know about millennials? Do people even remember me? If they do, am I just the 20-something that taught them to make a facebook page? What can I bring to the table that’s of value to the wine industry RIGHT NOW?

After some soul searching, I realized that YES – there’s a LOT I can bring to wine after my hiatus. Here’s why I’m back:

In the fall of 2012 my business was growing but my brand new marriage was falling apart. For personal reasons, I chose to leave the ups and downs of the wine industry for a steady executive job in digital media. As a VP of Marketing at a digital media company, I had a phenomenal sandbox to work in – multi-million dollar ad budgets, an in-house studio for 20+ videos daily across 5 sites, and fantastic editorial teams of writers and designers for content work. I was the in-house liaison for our big-deal PR company, the pitch woman in external meetings, and responsible for the bottom line traffic to all sites, which I helped grow to millions of readers on each site each month.

So YEAH. Being on the cutting edge of content, referral, campaign, PR, and other digital marketing in Los Angeles for two years, I’d say I have something to offer an industry that is known for defining marketing as “printing brochures.”

These days I’ve left the hustle of Los Angeles and returned to Upstate NY to pursue my dream of… you’re going to laugh and that’s cool because it’s funny… goat farming*. Dead serious.

So I’m back. In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing websites, online stores, referral marketing, publisher partnerships, and more. If there is a specific subject you’d like me to tackle, just leave a note in the comments.

See you soon!


*If you’re interested in following my ridiculous farming adventures, hop over to Fiasco Creek, where I’m blogging about it because OF COURSE.


Unwritten Research: Understanding Behavior Driving Trends

Research: Ur Usin It Wrong

Despite my newfound love for international women’s water polo, this post will have absolutely no connection to the Olympics. (You’re welcome.) It will, however, focus on a little issue that is near and dear to my heart: Research. Or more specifically, how companies misuse it.

Anyone who has read this blog KNOWS that I do love me some research in my area of specialty. By the time the data has been gathered and shuffled into a presentable report form, I’m able to see the numbers and test the theories, developmental work, and campaigns from the last year to see if what I’ve observed in the millennial market via culture has been reflected in the research. (Turns out, I have a very good track record. Score.) Targeted research is incredibly important to my work as a marketing specialist – and as a sporadic blogger. It tells me what I’ve been on point about, what I’ve missed, what the trade is interested in measuring, and how the industry is reacting.

What I’m disappointed* to see, however, is how research – especially (but not limited to) millennial research – seems to be utilized in the beverage industry today.  There is an increasingly disturbing knee-jerk reactionary trend among companies developing for millennials. And what I mean is UR DOIN IT WRONG.

Here’s an example of what I see being done across the industry:

STEP ONE – Get the numbers.

STEP TWO – See that Product Type X is trending/gaining in sales among target demo.

STEP THREE – Develop a copy of Product Type X.

STEP FOUR – Profit$$$?

That is not innovation. That is embarrassing. This is not proactive. It’s reactive. And most importantly, as far as I can see, it’s not paying off.

Most consumer research tracks behavior: what is a specific region or demographic purchasing, what are the leading brands in a category, etc. OBVIOUSLY, this is valuable stuff, knowing consumer behavior trends.You know what’s even more valuable to know along with the data? WHY consumers are behaving in that way.

Think of it as Consumer Therapy and you’re the psychologist – sure, you can address the behavior and hope for the best, or you can dig down a bit to what is driving the behavior and address that. What do you think will be more successful?

This shouldn’t be news for anyone, it’s basic business. If you can fulfill a need or desire for your market that your competition hasn’t, you’ve got a sound – and most likely profitable – investment. But in order to know what needs or desires aren’t currently being filled, you’ve got to know what those needs and desires are. You’ve got to respect your consumers and take the time learn about them, not just make assumptions based on Column E.

IT’S LIKE WISHING FOR MORE WISHES, PEOPLE. Dig a little deeper, it will pay off.




Washington Post: Wine & Millennials (oh yeah, and me too)


A little over a month ago, a journalist named Jason Wilson reached out to me for an article he was writing. An article for the Washington Post on… wait for it… marketing wine to millennials.  The article is titled Hopes Of The Wine Industry Rest On Millennial Shoulders.

They times, they are a-changing.

Jason had done a blind tasting and label reveal with some millennial-aged students of his and was creating a piece based on the results. We spoke for a while on statistics, theories, and execution in both branding and marketing, and I was alternately thrilled and terrified to see the final piece. When it was printed, I was immediately a fan – and not just because I’m featured in it, though OBVIOUSLY it’s a big reason.

He focuses on a wine brand put out by TXT Cellars – which in my opinion is an invaluable study in underestimating one’s consumer and operating without authenticity. I hope that anyone who has decided to take the leap and develop a brand with millennials in mind will take five minutes and read the article. And THEN take the time to truly learn about your target consumers before lobbing a product out to market.

The most valuable takeaway (I think) is one millennial’s reaction to a TXT cellar label:

In the [blind] tasting, I also included the TXT Cellars wines; [when revealed] they received the harshest criticism. “Ohhh noooo, I hate this so much,” said one 20-something named Kinsey. “I’m embarrassed that this is what they think people my age want.”

Me too, Kinsey. Me too.

The Secret To Using Pinterest As A Brand

Pinterest Grid

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Pinterest lately, and it’s become a big topic of conversation as the fastest growing social media platform at the moment. Everyone wants to know THE SECRET. I figured I’d post my advice and feel free to use or discard as you see fit.

Oh. And it’s probably not what you want to hear.

The “secret” to using Pinterest effectively as a brand is first using it personally. THAT’S IT. This goes for any social media platform. So many companies are going in backwards and jumping in blind as a brand. That’s a great way to look corporate/douchey/completely disconnected.

Use it first yourself, as a consumer. See what you like about it, how things are received, the pins you respond to. Do this for a couple weeks BEFORE doing anything with your brand. Don’t be concerned about getting in “late.” You must first have an understanding of WHY your future customers are even using Pinterest – by using it personally yourself – in order to get any use out of Pinterest at all. Next, sit down and create a strategy for your brand using the platform that you know – how can you contribute to the Pinterest community? Or SHOULD you? THEN start your brand page.

After your personal trial (at least 2 weeks), you’ll know if the platform is right for your brand and how best to use it. If you choose to do a brand page then, you’ll be way ahead of the competition because you’ll have a better understanding of WHY consumers use Pinterest. You’ll be able to actively communicate and engage them naturally – ideally converting them into customers. And isn’t that what using social media as a brand is all about?

That was a trick question. That’s exactly what using social media as a brand is all about.


ps: Personally, I love Pinterest. You can find me all up in it HERE (


The Missing Link Revealed

Winery Business Plan


Wine Marketing Missing Link




Here’s Your Sense Of Entitlement

Not Great Expectations

Not Great Expectations

Welcome to my world. I’m not going to lie – overall it’s pretty awesome. It’s fun, weird, creative, but also at times incredibly annoying. For example, do you want to know what I hear ALL DAY LONG? No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.

“Millennials have an unrealistic sense of entitlement”

“Millennials feel entitled to anything and everything”

“Trophy kids”

So admittedly I hear more than this all day, like how we don’t spend money on wine (bull) and how we’re just not “mature” enough to understand how wine is marketed (I throw up a little everytime I hear variations on this theme) – but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about entitlement and expectations.

Now, if you are the parent of a millennial and you want to wax poetic to me about how your kids have a sense of entitlement, go for it. If you are in HR and want to vent to me about the generation’s unrealistic expectations in our careers, have at it.

It’s fine. You’re talking about your children or your employees.


If you are marketing wine and you are talking about this demographic, you are talking about potential consumers. Potential CUSTOMERS. You are not talking about the fruit of your loins or an employee. You’re talking about a person whose money you would like to have in your pocket. We are no longer talking about ENTITLEMENT. We are talking about EXPECTATIONS.

Which brings me to my next point.

EVERYBODY is talking about how millennials expect special treatment. Let me break this down for you, wine industry. In two easy to digest layers.

1) Go find the person that’s in charge of your wine club. Seriously. Find ’em? Good. Now ask them if your wine club members expect special treatment. They will either a) laugh in your face b) dismiss you with a quick yes and get back to that newsletter they’ve been working on or c) they will think that you are asking them a trick question. If you are their boss, it will almost certainly be c). The reason I’ve asked you to do this little experiment is to show you that EVERY customer you have expects special treatment. You are not a diner in Queens – people do not expect to give you their money and be treated poorly – or vice versa. This goes for any customer of any age.


2) Let’s say that millennials are  NOT your customers – they aren’t in your wine club. You WANT them, but if they expect special treatment from you is it really worth all the extra effort just to get them in the door? I won’t answer that for you in this post (read the rest of the blog for the answer), but what I CAN say is this:

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, millennials do not expect special treatment from you, wine industry. In fact, millennials don’t really expect much. In my experience, millennials expect you to be dismissive of them, they expect you to be somewhat snobbish, they expect you to pretty much act like every other US winery, in other words. And congratulations, you’re doing a great job so far.

Just like any consumer, if millennials don’t like you, we just won’t by your stuff. We’re not begging for you to change and we CERTAINLY don’t expect you to. There’s plenty of other wine out there to purchase. And we’re buying it. The person that’s begging you to change is ME. Personally myself, Leah Hennessy of Millennier, who also happens to be a millennial, I EXPECT YOU TO CHANGE if you want to make some cash off of this generation. Learn about us. Respect us as consumers and as wine drinkers. Learn to communicate with us. I, personally, expect you to give millennials special treatment because consumers deserve special treatment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you don’t want us as consumers, then don’t worry about changing.

The expectations that we SHOULD be talking about are those of the wine industry. Marketers EXPECT the same old marketing tactics that have been in use for the last 40 years to still be effective on a new generation of wine drinkers. They EXPECT that simply by starting a facebook page that every millennial will crawl out of the woodwork to buy their wine. They EXPECT that 70 million people with a proven dislike for wine’s “attitude” will just “grow into it.” And finally (and my favorite) they EXPECT to not change a thing, not change the way they communicate, not change the way they view an entire generation and they EXPECT to make money off of millennials in return.

Let’s think about that. Whose expectations really need to change?

New: Short Presentation on US Millennials & Wine

French Wine & Spirits Connection

Aaand it’s been a whole month since I last posted – shame on me.

Things have been fast and furious in the world of Millennier including international jet-setting and a speaking engagement in February for UBIFRANCE and the French Trade Commission for the French Wine Connection 2011 in Los Angeles. I was asked to speak to roughly 30 French wine producers about millennials in the US marketplace.

French Wine & Spirits Connection

Logo & Flyer for the French Wine & Spirits Connection this year.

It is a very simple overview with some foundation data on the generation and consumption designed to introduce non marketing-types to the demographic. If you feel you have a good working knowledge on the generation (and if you’re a reader of this blog, then I’ll bet that you do), then this presentation may not be for you. However, if you’re looking to educate someone who’s just learning about the generation (a boss, an employee, etc.) you may find it helpful.

The video of last year’s UBIFRANCE event.

UBIFRANCE will have a video of the presentation at some point, but the deck is available at



Newsflash Millennials: Spending, “Selfishness,” and Social Currency

Millennial Stats from QSR and Pew Research

Pulled from QSR's article mentioned below, some great visualization of some crucial Pew data out earlier this year

So you want to know about millennials, eh? Well, don’t take my word for it – take a look at some of the latest headlines and get some important insights – as well as a bit of myth-busting – on this mysterious generation.

Restaurants Should Cater to the Millennial GenerationQSR Magazine – Despite a few trite and opinionated generalizations early in the piece, a very good article on how one industry is taking spending habits and trends among younger millennials into account.

Millennials Are Less Likely to Cut Spending During Recession press release & Accompanying Report – A press release and accompanying report summary put out by a research organization de-bunking the “buy cheap” myth of two segments of adult millennials.

Me Generation Actually the Us GenerationMiller-McCune – Another myth busted: the research-based Miller-McCune shows that the “tropy-kids” are showing an overwhelming sense of social responsibility.

How Millennials Measure GreedDallas Morning News – Though I’m sure this piece in the Dallas Morning News was supposed to be a cute and timely comment on the buzz of the new Wall Street movie, it’s actually a surprisingly insightful peek into the millennial generation’s concept of social currency.


Why Bother?
Why Bother?

The question of the moment.

Summer’s over, September’s here, and it’s time for me to address something head on.

As Millennials become more of a focus in the wine industry, I’ve been getting more and more blowback both online and in person regarding the value of this demographic. Now if I’m getting this feedback – a person openly dedicated to establishing the value of this demographic within the wine industry – one can only imagine the general opinion at the moment. I feel it’s timely and appropriate to address this.

Most of the opposing feedback I’ve gotten can be summed up by the following question:


Great question.

Here’s the answer:


That’s it folks. If you want to make more money, cultivating millennial consumers is a no brainer.  The concept is basic – it’s a huge group of people that spends a lot of money on wine that you don’t currently have access to. Period. It’s the same reason folks are reaching out to the Chinese market – same reason, different scale.


If you WANT to cultivate millennial consumers, you’re going to have to change the way you reach out to this group (marketing, advertising, branding, etc.), because we don’t respond to the same outreach tactics that our parents did.

Think about it: is this really surprising? Do you – personally – respond the same way to ads, marketing, branding , etc. that your parents did? Why would millennials be any different? This is a basic concept, but one that’s important to understand in an industry that’s been utilizing the same outreach tactics for the last 40 years.

If this is too much of a pain, or perhaps better said, too painful for companies to realize, then it’s a waste for these folks to go for millennials.

There are still SEVERAL companies and individuals out there who dismiss the 70 million millennial consumers as kids, as buying cheap, or in some other way completely irrelevant to the wine industry. To those people I say thanks for reading the blog and best of luck – clearly our money is no good to you, so I and my 70 million friends will buy someone else’s wine.

HOWEVER: If a company DOES want to reach the millennial market effectively, that company MUST change its tactics. The purpose of this blog is to help people do just that.

Building a Brand: What Makes You Unique?

You work in wine right? Ok.

Pop Quiz

Pop quiz, hotshotWhat makes your brand unique?

Seriously. Think about it.

Have your answer?


Is your answer “our wines”?

You just failed.

Is your answer a variation on “our hands-on approach/small lot fermentation/unique vineyard location/new French oak/anti-mechanical pumpovers/hand harvesting/etc.”?


Is your answer a variation on your “passion for winemaking/wine”?

Not good enough, people.

What makes my brand unique? This is the first question you’ll want to ask yourself when you are re-working or creating a brand. It’s the foundation upon which all of your marketing and pr work will sit.

Ok, so let’s take a look at these three answers.

Though the middle answer would work for the question “what makes your wines special,” it has nothing to do with your BRAND.

The last answer is entirely NOT unique, being that most people get into wine/winemaking because of their passion for it (as evidenced in the old chestnut: Q: How do you make a little money in the wine business? A: Start out with a lot).

And now for my favorite answer. When I ask winery folk (including marketing-types, btw) what makes their brand unique, the overwhelming response is “our wines.” There is a special place in Branding Hell for this answer.

It’s not that your wines aren’t unique or a part of your brand, it’s just that it’s a terrible answer. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but it’s true. It’s as if you were to ask me what makes ME unique and I answer with “my fingerprints.” TECHNICALLY I’m not wrong, but by choosing this boring and obvious answer I’m missing the opportunity to tell you:

That I almost became a Hollywood agent


That I started a guerilla film production company in NYC when I was 20


That I name my pets after action movie characters


That I once dyed a teeny part of my hair purple in high school because my parents told me I couldn’t, but then wore a baseball hat everyday until it turned back to its normal color.


Basically anything.

But no. I told you that my fingerprints make me unique, so you don’t know anything about me except that I apparently am boring and like to state the obvious. Every winery has wines, and every wine is unique. Kind of like finger prints. Your wines might be incredible – I bet they are – but hundreds or thousands of wineries claiming that they are entirely unique because of the same reason is counter-productive for all of those businesses. At the moment, I can’t think of another industry that gets away with this approach.

Think about it. Imagine that I just started a soda company and you asked me what makes me special and my answer is “My soda is really good.” Are you getting your checkbook out? I don’t think so.

When you are creating or recreating your brand, focus on what REALLY makes you unique.  There are probably lots of reasons. Now pick the most interesting (and appropriate). This will most likely take a while. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. It’s worth it.

Building a Brand is a new series on Millennier where Leah breaks down today’s process and pitfalls for brands in the wine industry.