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Don’t Fear the Foursquare: Understanding Foursquare in 5 Links or Less

Does the word(s) “foursquare” make you break out in a cold sweat? Is a “check-in” what you do with your boss on your “sick days?” Do you think LBS is a gastrointestinal medical condition? Then take a look at the following links* for a diy primer.

Be My Mayor Valentine Heart

Some Foursquare Valentine's humor.

As a note, I know many, many, MANY people who have been dismissing things like Foursquare because they “don’t get it.” Read on, and you will. No excuses. I also know about as many people who are dismissing this as what I can only describe as “kid stuff.” In case anyone reading is unfamiliar with this blog, I will say this. Those “kids” (those of age, anyway) are your current and future consumers. They are the future of your career, of the wine industry, and countless others. Not in a “Heal the World” way, but in a “look at the numbers” way. Please keep this in mind.

LBSwikipedia – the basics on LBS: Location Based Service.

Foursquare: Why It May Be The Next TwitterMashable – A Mashable article from July 2009. A great primer on Foursquare as well as some background on other examples of LBS (at the time, anyway). Don’t skip this one.

Why You Should Care About FoursquareNPR’s Marketplace – Transcript (or broadcast file) from March 2010 with Kai Ryssdal and Caroline McCarthy from CNET discussing the most basic concepts.

If You Use Foursquare, You Are An Annoying JackassGawker – Some hate from the folks at Gawker. This and a caption on LATFH basically make Foursquare an institution. Still waiting for the latter.

Foursquare For Businessfoursquare – The breakdown from the folks at Foursquare on how to set your biz up on Foursquare, along with a few examples of how to make the most of it.

The best way to learn more about Foursquare, of course, is to join as a user. Based on your own experiences, likes, dislikes, wishes, aspirations, and habits, you will be more able to create a great experience through your business for other users.

*No, none of these links has been archived and pimped out for subscription money as was the case with the original link in my last post (now fixed, no thanks to AdAge).

Fearless First, Then Leaders: Lesson for the Wine Industry

A little over a month ago, AdAge published an article* on 10 marketing ideas that changed the world – at least in their opinion.  From the 1984 Apple commercial to a certain iconic hosiery packaging, it’s fascinating to see these 10 ideas juxtaposed. For you marketing types, it’s incredibly inspiring. And for the rest of us, there’s an important common theme to notice among all of the companies mentioned. Each idea highlighted in the article resulted in catapulting its company to industry leader status, at times when these companies were only just fighting for their market share.

Apple's 1984 ad

Old meets new: an update to Apple's original 1984 ad.

As nonsensical as it sounds, it seems like that’s the state of wine companies today: everyone’s just competing. There’s no definitive leader. Sure there are the big guys. Sure there are the big brands. But do you see the wine equivalent to the iPhone anywhere? WHY NOT? The brass ring is just hanging there, people.

I highly recommend taking the 5 minutes to read the article. More than one of these campaigns has shaped a generation. While you read, take notice of the one thing (two things?) each of these companies had in common when they made these marketing choices: Balls.

I don’t mean to be crude, but it’s absolutely true. Some of these companies had everything to lose and they STILL made risky choices. AND THEY WORKED. It’s important to note that these Fearless Leaders were fearless BEFORE they were leaders.

There WILL be more underdog upsets in the coming years. There WILL be companies that chang their consumers’ worlds as well as their own industry landscape.

The real question is will wine be a part of it this time? A girl can only hope.

*UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that AdAge has archived this story in the last few days and it is now available only to AdAge subscribers. This is very disappointing. I am in no way supporting or recommending that readers should subscribe to their services through the original link used in this post. The updated link that I have provided will take you to a blog that has reposted the article in its entirety. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Dear Wine Industry no. 3


Dear Wine Industry #3

Text:

Dear Wine Industry,

It shouldn’t be this hard to get people excited to buy wine. You’re not marketing a blanket with arms, here. IT’S WINE! One of the most celebrated “products” the world has ever seen. C’mon – wine is fun and delicous and exciting and sexy. Loosen up. Have some fun. See what happens.

hearts,

-Leah

millennier.com

Get in the Garage: Innovate by Embracing Limitations

Back in November of 2008 Wired magazine had a short but incredibly sweet article/essay on something they dubbed the “Garage Economy.” (Back to the Garage: How Economic Turmoil Breeds Innovation written by senior writer Daniel Roth – I highly recommend taking a look at it.)

In the article, Roth brings up an incredibly simple but overlooked point – tough economic times are the perfect breeding ground for fearless genius, but most industry leaders focus on cutting back rather than taking chances and moving forward.

In periods of economic turmoil, people are hungry and work cheap, and entrenched companies often concentrate on in-house cost-cutting instead of exploring new markets, which can explode with the next turn of the business cycle.

-Daniel Roth, “Back to the Garage…” Wired issue 16.12

For those that know me, my love affair with this concept is not surprising – it echoes one of my most firm beliefs: OUT OF STRUCTURE COMES GENIUS. Meaning that the more limitations one is given, the more creative that person must be to succeed. Structure forces us to take a look at what we want to accomplish, distill it down, take stock of all our resources, and find a more effective way to reach our goals. This “structure” can be anything from the number of hours in a day, budget limitations, non-traditional resources, or in this case, an international recession.

Welcome to Your New Office

Social media is a widespread example of this, both within the wine industry and beyond. Even as large companies cut back their advertising costs (sorry print & tv), they need brand awareness and sales more than ever. What’s the solution? Free social networks. Resources are re-directed to educate employees about social media (ideally, otherwise see this post), and instead of spending millions of dollars a year purchasing magazine ads, companies spend a fraction of that actually interacting directly with their target consumers. (One of the most incredible side effects of this is that the tiny 1200 case winery has the same chance of succeeding in this medium as the behemoth.) The question is, if all these companies weren’t being forced to cut back due to the economy, would they have made the same decisions to invest their energies in social media? Or would they have continued down the familiar path of traditional advertising?

Because of a seemingly perfect storm of economic restriction, there is a petri dish atmosphere for growing new ideas. For wineries, maybe it’s finding a way to boost direct sales when the Three-Tier System is failing them. Maybe it’s going out into the community and giving back and building a cult following. Maybe it’s forgoing glass bottles in favor of reusable metal containers/kegs for On-Site accounts. No matter what solutions companies come up with, it’s important to remember that these ideas are born out of structure and limitations. Companies that put their heads in the sand and ignore these conditions, or companies that are boarding up the windows to weather the storm, will never put themselves in the position of innovating.

Let’s admit it, the outlook is bleak when you maintain the status quo. Embrace all the limitations facing you – decrease in wine club membership, loss of a distributor, drooping sales, old-fashioned branding – gather them all up, find the smartest people you know, and GET IN THE GARAGE.

MIND THE GAP: "Phase 2" Proves Elusive For Wine Industry & Millennials

About a BILLION years ago (well, more like 6 months), Gary Moore, author of Vinotrip: A Maryland Wine Blog, put into type-written the words what EVERYONE looking to reach out to Millennials should hear. Everyone in the wine industry, anyway.

In a short and sweet post about the increasingly big deal being made about wine companies reaching the millennial consumer, he finished with the following invaluable question:

“You sell alcohol. How hard can it be to sell alcohol to college graduates in their mid-twenties?”

LISTEN TO THE MAN. He certainly has a point.

His words have been echoing through my busy little head ever since he wrote them. At first, I lol’d. A lot. Then I started thinking more and more about this. Why on EARTH does the wine industry need me to say all this stuff? It really should be simple. I shouldn’t have to constantly reverse engineer the needs, wants, desires, dislikes, etc. of myself, my friends, and others in my generation in order to re-format these things into easily digestible somewhat sporadic how-tos for the world to read (though I do enjoy it quite a bit).  So, really. Why?

Look familiar?

In the time I’ve had to clarify my thoughts on the matter, I’ve come up with an answer to Gary’s question: it’s HARD. And here’s why: Survival. (Tough love is incoming, people. Fair warning.) To clarify, it’s difficult because of the the attitude and image that the wine industry in the United States has carefully cultivated in order to emerge, survive, and thrive over the last 40 years. The inability for the wine industry to change the marketing tactics that it has been using for the last almost-half -century accounts for the failure to appeal to millennial consumers.

In the mid 1970′s, when US wine became an international contender on the wine scene, both wine producers and wine drinkers embraced their (well-deserved) status with evangelical enthusiasm. And as evangelicals do, they sought to prove that Americans could be just as knowledgeable, critical, and refined in taste as their European counterparts. And though I was not around for this incredible time, I believe this image and attitude is exactly what the US wine industry needed to survive.

This is the foundation upon which current wine culture in America is based. Throughout the decades, the industry has not lost the evangelical zeal to display its knowledge and refinement. Marketing campaigns embrace it, wine publications tout it, and wine drinkers from this era flaunt it.

It was effective to market wine in this way to generations 40 years ago – even 20 years ago – but it’s NOT WORKING NOW. For the next generation of wine drinkers, this attitude tends to turn us off. Some people are annoyed by it, some people are intimidated, some people don’t identify with it, the list goes on.

RANDOM STORY THAT THIS REMINDS ME OF: The story of my friend’s grandmother. This woman lived through the great depression as a child with a large family and went through unthinkable hardships: poverty, starvation, the death of young siblings. Though she didn’t speak of this much with my friend, this time weighed heavily on her throughout her long life. When she passed away, my friend and her father went to clean out her home to sell it. When they went into the basement, they found over 20 boxes of canned goods – some recent to some almost 50 years old. Because of her formative years in need, this woman had been buying and hoarding thousands of cans her entire life because she felt that she would someday need them; in reality, however, she had been spending her family’s hard earned money on a misappropriated sense of safety.

I find this very similar to what is happening with the wine industry today. Today’s attitude was created in a time of need – it helped the wine industry emerge, survive, and thrive for years. However, that’s not what it takes to survive today and certainly not tomorrow. Attempting to create new “brand ambassadors” using the same old tactics is proving to be a failure.

EXAMPLE: How many new brand ambassadors from the target millennial demographic did your company’s last full-page, full-color ad in Fill In The Blank Glossy Wine Publication get you?

Too far? Ok, my apologies. Snarkiness aside, clinging to the safety of what has worked in the past is exactly what will torpedo efforts now and in the future. By no means am I encouraging companies big or small to do away with what has gained them their current following. There is value to that approach, but only to one’s current customer base. In other words, to maintenance – not to growth. This is why I’m not suggesting  companies completely amputate this approach.

I do, however, highly recommend that if any company wants a NEW consumer group, that you create a NEW marketing plan for them – separate from your existing plan. This means a new attitude and image for this group. Put in the effort to find the aligned interests of the demographic and of your brand and work from there. If you personally don’t know what I’m talking about, find someone that does. This kind of work won’t be easy at first, but it WILL be worth it.

You’ll know it’s working when it’s no longer difficult to sell your alcoholic beverage to a twenty five year-old college graduate.

Let Your Sales Flag Fly: 5 Tips for Boosting Holiday Direct Sales

As the “O” of O,N,D draws to a close, there’s not a winery out there that’s not feeling the squeeze – or lack thereof.  It seems that smaller wineries and boutiques are hardest hit, with retailers and restaurants alike eschewing these lesser known bottles for product with recognizable names and brand affinity. This doesn’t hurt just businesses in the wine industry – consumers will only have a fraction of the choices they would normally have this season for gifts and special occasion wines. With small businesses losing ground in retail and restaurant environments and consumers looking for more variety, wineries have a chance to make up the loss this holiday season with two magical words: Direct Sales.

At one time taken for granted and simply relegated to the “Wine Club” list, direct sales will be many businesses bread and butter this season. The unprecedented access to new consumers via social media and the significantly higher profit margin of selling bottles at full retail give wineries both the platform and the flexibility they need to be creative and drive sales for the season.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is a tremendous amount of planning, logistics, creativity, outreach, time and effort involved in pulling together a successful direct sales campaign. But the payoff, for this season and for holidays to come, is well worth the effort. Below are a few tips on how to formulate the plan that’s right for YOU.

  1. Assemble a Team and Make the Commitment – Hand-pick a small group of people within the business to help create and execute the plan. These should be people with different skills and interests that you can draw from to build a solid direct sales plan. Once you’ve assembled your team, make the commitment to create a plan and see it through – and ask that they do the same.
  2. Take Stock of Your Resources – Take a good hard look at the resources you have at your disposal, and I mean everything. Take into account  the obvious like your mailing list, wine club, upcoming tasting events, etc., but also think outside the box a bit. Is there an artist in your midst? Is your young tasting room employee a social networking whiz? Have you earned a nickname from the locals? Get your team together and write up a list of these resources. Keep this list in full view while you are coming up with your plan.
  3. Give People a Reason to Buy – It’s not just enough to have the product, you must give your consumers a reason to purchase YOUR product. Is it great pricing? A special bottling? Are you donating some of your proceeds to charity? Is your winemaker signing the bottles? Look to your list of resources and come up with a reason or reasons why people must have your wine.
  4. Create a Full Campaign – Sales campaigns are not just for huge corporations. Gather your team, keep your list of resources in full view and let yourself be a marketing genius. Create a fun and catchy name for the plan, set your goals and timeline, create special pricing or shipping terms, and make sure you have the infrastructure to support everything on your website and in the tasting room. Aside from having all the logistics in place, it’s also important to have FUN while creating your campaign. Using humor is a great way to get people interested in your product and campaign.  The more fun it is for you, the more fun it will be for your potential consumers to be a part of it all.
  5. Use Social Media – If you could push a button and magically reach THOUSANDS of new consumers that you’ve never had access to before, would you use it? OF COURSE. That “magic button” is social media. It doesn’t matter if you’re not on facebook, or don’t understand twitter – find someone who does. There is no reason to deny your business of the successful season you need simply because you don’t “get” facebook. Social media is a tool that businesses must use to get the most out of any campaign. Choose someone intimately familiar with social networks to be on your team and utilize their knowledge and contacts.

It’s not too late to make the most of this of this season for any winery who has the drive. Incorporate these five tips while coming up with your direct sales plan, watch an episode of Mad Men for inspiration, get up, and take the season into your own hands.

Millennials: Mythical Beast or Wine's Last Frontier?

Tapping into the Millennial consumer market is a priority in ALL industries, not just in wine.  Wine should have it easier, since it is well documented that Millennials are already drinking wine in record numbers, and we are already having a positive financial impact on the industry as a whole. So why is it SO HARD for the wine industry to reach out to us?

Let’s take a quick look at how wine and Millennials seem to view each other.  From my own work with small businesses and huge companies alike, the Millennial consumer group tends to be viewed as some kind of mythical creature that has magical powers to bestow on whomever finds and befriends it, but is almost impossible to reach.  Sound familiar?

The Mysterious, Mythical Beast

The Mysterious, Mythical Beast

Yep, Unicorns. In most of my preliminary conversations with companies that want to tap into this consumer group, you could pretty much switch out the word “Millennial” for “Unicorn”  just about every time it’s mentioned.  As in “Unicorns have come of age in an era unlike any other,” “Unicorns are very savvy, they can sense when people are trying to pander to them, and they do not like it,” “Unicorns have the ability to communicate with thousands of people in just an instant” or “If we could just reach the Unicorns, we would make millions” and my personal favorite “Why do Unicorns drink wine?”

Now, this is not to say that all of the above statements are not true (at least as they pertain to Gen-Y), but what I take away from these conversations is that businesses still don’t understand us. At all.  Let’s take a step back – we are your neighbors, your kids, your co-workers, your interns, your baristas – not some mythical forest creature.  Yes, we stand to be the wealthiest generation in the world, and yes we grew up being marketed to and now the bar has been raised – but think about it: Why do Millennials drink wine?  Because it’s delicious, interesting and fun.  Why do you wine? I’m sure we’ll come up with some things in common, here.

If that’s how the wine industry views Millennials, then how do we view wine?  This is an easy one, folks:

Sorry, Members Only.

Sorry, Members Only.

In this case it’s just that simple – the wine world tends to be a private club to most of us.  And rather than hiking it to the top of the stairs with the rest of the plebeians, then going through the initiation rituals and membership fees, we’d much rather just sneak in with our friends after dark when the security guard is gone and enjoy the club OUR way.  It’s a thrill, it’s fun, and we don’t have to be someone we’re not.  Eventually, of course, this sneaking around loses it’s thrill, and rather than join the existing club, eventually we will build our own.

So what do these charming analogies teach us?  On some level, each party feels that the other is beyond reach. The irony, of course, is that despite this, Millennials want to drink wine (and are) and wine companies want to reach this powerful consumer group (and are trying).

Unfortunately, there is such a wide gap to bridge in this relationship before the wine industry will start benefiting from Gen-Y.  It’s tough to hear, but it’s true: the responsibility for changing both of these viewpoints lies with the wine industry.

Reaching Millennials: Don't Believe the Hype – YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES

In keeping up with blogs, research, and ideally all things Millennial, I generally tend to come across well-intentioned but TERRIBLE advice. The latest was on a staffing company’s website encouraging human resource departments to create new, Millennial-friendly corporate handbooks. A fine idea for corporations, but incredibly flawed in execution – which is why I’m pointing out an alternate solution that everyone can use.

To keep things short(ish) and sweet,  I’ve decided to summarize below (though if you REALLY wanted to see the original in all it’s glory, you MIGHT find it in my @millennier tweets, and it MIGHT be under TRAGIC MILLENNIAL ADVICE: PIMP MY CO.S HANDBOOK…).

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.

The information was found on the company’s website  from June 2009.  The title of the piece was Create a GenY-Friendly Employee Handbook, and like many of these pieces, it was fairly insulting in an odd, benign way.  In the How to Write a Handbook section, the writer suggests personalizing it with current events and fads in order to really get through to us.  It gives the following suggestion as an example:  “compare customers to stars competing for ‘American Idol’ stardom.” While I realize that we may be younger than the person giving this advice, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN.  We do not need a company to create a mascot and a “let’s pretend” example for every single situation we may encounter in the big, bad world.  While I have plenty to say on this topic, I’m going to stop because the point here is that this NOT GOOD ADVICE.

I do want to say in all seriousness GOOD FOR YOU, STAFFING COMPANY. Thank you for putting in the effort to encourage your clients to support their Millennial employees. Unfortunately, you COMPLETELY MISS THE BOAT.

Not on a boat

Is it a bad idea to want a handbook for a company that will resonate with Millennials and get them excited about the company that they work for?  No. In fact it just might work, if it’s done well.  What will that take?  American Idol allusions?  In depth research on gen Y?  Watching Family Guy reruns from the first season?  NO.  It simply takes a Millennial.  If these companies selected a couple employees in their target group to actually write the new handbook, it would be completely customized to their own tastes and interests while communicating all the information a handbook needs to get across.

I don’t understand this trend.  Business has realized what a powerful consumer group we Millennials are, enough to launch campaigns for millions of dollars just to win gen Y hearts – and yet most don’t even think to reach out to us to help shape these campaigns.

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.  Many businesses are creating their Facebook pages, holding events (hooray!), and thinking of new ways to reach out to gen Y.  Yes, research is great – I recommend that you check out the links on the side of the blog for some awesome resources. However, an invaluable tool that we all have ARE THE MILLENNIALS THEMSELVES.  Consult your gen Y children, your neighbor’s kid that’s back from college for the summer, your intern, your new tasting room employee – these people can give you valuable feedback and help to shape each of your projects.  Listen to their critiques, learn from their approach – it will save you time and energy and give you a direct line in to the consumer group you want to reach.

If you want to reach out to gen Y, don’t overlook the Millennials right in front of you – they could be the most valuable resources at your disposal.

How Millennials View YOU, Wine Industry

Everybody’s attempting to do the brand new dance now – it’s called TRY AND REACH OUT TO MILLENNIAL CONSUMERS.  Well, what do Millennials think of all this?  Granted, there aren’t nearly enough people attempting, but let’s look at the landscape.

dancefloor

It looks a lot like the dancefloor at the last wedding you went to.  Now, not everyone is out on the floor – it takes a certain amount of courage to get out there.  Of the people out on the floor, you observe a few different types.  First off, there’s the “kids.”  They’re looking pretty good – they know the music, know the moves, and they’re having fun.  Then there’s the “grandparents” – we love them just for getting out there and trying.  Then there’s the “parents” – they’re a bit older than the kids, but they’re out there.  They’re trying.  Some of them are attempting to bring back their own famous dance moves from back in the day – with little success.  Some are trying to copy the “kids” since they must know best, right?  This can be pretty embarassing to watch.  Some of them, however, know the music and know the scene and can get right down to business.

Welcome to the party that is the wine industry right now.  Good for everyone on that dance floor for just getting up and trying.  As an observer, though, you can see that not everyone is… let’s say effective.  Most of the “kids” look great.  You want to go up and hug the “grandparents” just for being awesome enough to try.  But it’s the main population of the dance floor, the “parents,” that are tough to watch.  The best people on the floor know the music and the scene – regardless of whether they are 14 or 62 – the rest are trying, bless their hearts, but they’re not really getting anywhere.

officedance

Let this be a warning…

So if the dance floor is made up of companies vying for the Millennial consumer, that would make the Millennial consumer… YOU. THE OBSERVER.

Millennials have had advertising campaigns shoved in our faces since we were propped up in front of our parents tvs.  It’s safe to say that we’re a pretty savvy group.  It’s not like we don’t KNOW that we’re being marketed to. We fully realize this – we’re used to it.  In fact, we get perturbed if we are NOT marketed to, and yet a company telling us that they are hip will not make us consumers.  We are innate experts at taking in and analyzing information in order to form opinions.  And we are REALLY good at forming opinions, as any Millennial parent will tell you.  And just as it’s crystal clear to anyone looking at that dancefloor that Uncle Billy is making an ass of himself, it’s just that easy for us to see which companies are wasting their time.

Possibly the most simple and powerful example of this comes from a recent post on FineArtsLA.com.  The post is a piece on a new wine tasting group in Los Angeles (WTF LA – yes, this is my group and apologies for the plug, but there is a reason for it…).  The freelance writer, Jenia Gorton, is a Millennial and has some VERY interesting things to say about how young people are treated as consumers in the wine industry.  I think the most interesting is this quote:

It seems like there is “good” wine, which young people are expected to know nothing about, and “cheap” wine, for us ignorant 20 and 30-somethings, bums, and broke alcoholics.

It speaks directly to what many companies and marketers think of young people consuming wine today: we aren’t educated and we won’t spend the money.  Yep, we hear you loud and clear, but maybe we don’t want some company’s version of 2 Buck Chuck.  Or the new Yellowtail.  It’s possible that we want to be respected as consumers and have a company or two reach out to us based on qualities other than our wallets.  Like our tastes, our sense of humor, our lifestyles, our shared experiences – but if a company is not connected to any of these things… that effort will still be a FAIL.

So what can marketers learn from Millennials like Ms. Gorton? If you’re going out on the floor, you better know how to DANCE.

Where Millennials Are Buying Wine: Some Tough Love For The Wine Industry

Millennials are wine’s next big consumer.  So why aren’t smaller business in the wine industry (boutique wineries, wine shops, wine bars, etc.) seeing much of the action?    There could be several factors at work, most of which business owners have direct control over.  These controllable factors include outreach, branding, marketing, social media presence, brand awareness, accessibility and plain old customer relations.  However, one factor that many people don’t think of – and one that business owners do not have direct control of -  is the current buying habits of this generation.

Somehow (Millennials) have gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we’ve never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s.  And there’s the issue.

Though there are some numbers out there that I have found useful for my own use, the details that small businesses need are not available from the huge (and expensive) research firms at this time.  Having all the tools, I decided to take matters into my own hands and conduct my own online survey for my company, Millennier Wine Sales.   This survey was conducted over the internet using direct email and social media tools.  The sample size consists of over 100 respondents within the age range of 21-32.  The percentages that you see are rounded to the nearest 100th of a percent.  The respondents were all located in states where it is legal to purchase wine grocery stores, and mainly resided in California.

Though this information was originally intended only for MWS, I’ve decided to publish my findings in the hopes that people will take notice of the trends and pass on the information so we as an industry can do something about it.  I’ll continue to post the other findings of this survey, but I find it extremely important to all aspects of the industry to focus on this first question:

Millennial wine buying habits as revealed by a recent Millennier Wine Sales online survey

Millennial buying habits as revealed by a recent Millennier Wine Sales online survey: Bars 1.91%, Grocery Stores 45.71%, Liquor Stores 25.71%, Mini Mart 1.91%, Restaurant 4.76%, Wine Shops 17.14%, Other 3.80%

The most important lesson we learn from this chart is that ALMOST HALF of Millennials are buying their wine in a grocery store.  An additional 25% are purchasing wine at liquor stores that include giants like BevMo and others.  With results like these, it is not hard to understand why small businesses in the wine industry are not feeling the positive effects of this Great New Hope called Millennials.

It makes sense really.  As a Millennial, I’ve walked the path than many of us have taken, and many more will continue to do so in the future:  We get our first apartment and realize that with 2 Buck Chuck, we can actually buy wine!  It’s kind of a big deal to even HAVE wine as a 21-22 year old, so I would (swear to God) not drink it myself, but save it for guests (I know, I know).  After we get used to buying wine for $2, we start in on the Yellowtail.  Now we’re experiencing a new varietal or 2 and guess what – this is why we love Syrah!  After some time with the YT, we now know we enjoy wine and are comfortable spending more than $10 on a bottle of wine.  Now we’re serious wine consumers, but the only place we really feel comfortable buying wine is in the super-market.  Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we have never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s.  And there’s the issue.

Less than 2% said that they purchase most of their wine from wineries or wine clubs (included in the “other” category).  How will smaller wineries that do not have placement or distribution in huge grocery store chains be able to reach this important group?  How will small businesses in all areas of the wine industry benefit from this generation if almost all the money is going through only 2 channels?

The answer is clear.  OUTREACH.  It’s a great sign to see over 17% of this group purchasing most frequently from wine shops.  This is a trend that everyone in the wine industry should encourage.  It could be the only way that non-supermarket brands can benefit from these consumers in the short- and long-run.  I strongly believe that WE as members of the wine industry need to be the ones to get Millennials out of the grocery store aisles and into wine shops & wineries.   Talk to your favorite wine shop, encourage them to reach out to this age group.  If you are a winery and the shop carries your brands, offer to hold a tasting there geared towards younger drinkers.  If you are a retailer,  look into social media – even if you’re intimidated, all it really takes is a Facebook page.  Throw events, reach out to younger social groups in your area, get creative.  I know of a young BOOK CLUB in LA that has all their meetings at a wine shop with a tasting bar.

Though this will be a difficult hurdle to overcome for smaller businesses in the wine industry, it is not insurmountable.  It will take a grassroots approach to create the paradigm shift that is needed, but the first step – identifying the issue – has already been taken.  Please pass this information on to others who are affected by it, even if it’s just something that is brought up in conversation.

If you are a small business in the wine industry and you have already taken steps to get young people out of the grocery store aisles and into wineries or wine shops, leave a comment, share what you’ve learned with others who are looking to start.  If you’re a Millennial, what do you think would regularly get you into a smaller wine retailer?   Share your thoughts and let’s get to work!