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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.




Millennial Wine Buying Behavior Mirrors High End Consumer

Data from Wine Market Council

Today is a very special day for a wine marketing nerd like me, and it comes but once a year. I eagerly anticipate it for months and it shapes what I do for the year to come. It’s the day the Wine Market Council and Nielsen yearly report comes out. And today’s the day for me. Hooray!

I should say, before I jump into my favorite bits (like I said: nerd), that there are some very interesting data in general and I highly recommend anyone interested check out the presentation once it is publicly available on the WMC site. Because I focus on millennials and wine, that’s what I’m covering here.


Let’s get to the fun stuff.

This year, I’m guessing due to the sheer numbers and varying life-stages of the group, they have split the millennial demographic into two parts: Younger Millennials – ages 21 – 25 in the year 2011, and Older Millennials – current ages 26 – 34 in the year 2011 (of which I am a member). This makes it more difficult to compare the demo as a group to other generations in terms of numbers or buying power. However, most of the data is in terms of percentages – I suppose we can be thankful for bringing to light the different consumer behaviors of millennials at different times of their lives. It also makes things a bit less dramatic (and anyone who has seen me speak knows that I love the dramatic). Sigh.

But I did find some drama, so let’s start with that:

Data from Wine Market Council

Millennials, and particularly the older millennials, are most likely to experiment with a brand they’ve never heard of. Many wineries like to complain about this – these complaints can be summed up by the following quote from John Gillespie of the Wine Market Council in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s blog: “So much for brand loyalty.” I will say, however, that these numbers are specifically referencing trying MORE wines. Being brand loyal and trying new wines aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?

This information should give hope to every winery out there thinking about putting a new product on the market. It’s exciting information and it’s the reason why I spend most of my time now on brand development and launches. It should also give hope to smaller wineries without the multi-million dollar budgets of the big guns: if you can capture our interest, we’re likely to give you a shot. And whether we like it or we hate it, we’re likely to tell our 900 closest friends on Facebook about it. If you want millennials to drink your wine, put a little effort into it and it may well pay off.

Here’s another fun fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone:

Importance of wine labels by demographic

Wine labels matter. Period. Now, attempting to define “fun and contemporary” is nigh on impossible, but I think it would be safe to assume that this could mean “non-traditional.” Let’s face it. Design matters to millennial consumers. Apple, Ace Hotels, Dwell Magazine – these brands are not ONLY for millennials by any means (well, maybe Ace), but design is top priority for these brands, and these brands have top priority for millennials.  Feel free to do the math. If we spend money on something, we expect it to be beautiful and often times we expect social purchases like wine to act as a public reflection of our tastes and personality. This latter expectation is no different than any other generation (if arguably more intense due to our intrinsic personal branding tendencies); however, our personalities and what we are reflecting out to our peers IS different.

Here’s an interesting piece of information that may surprise you:

Importance of wine reviews for millennials

Well, looky here. Wine reviews are important to millennials. I’d be VERY interested to see what the definition of “wine review” was – whether it meant a traditional review from a published expert, a peer review, or a user generated review. In any case, let’s assume this means published expert reviews. Isn’t it interesting that the wine-specific publications that print these reviews seem to have no interest whatsoever in making their media more appealing to the millennial demographic? I mean, I’m sure they’re interested in taking millennials’ money, but the publications with the “most respected” reviewers are also some of the worst offenders in the stodgy-old-boys-blazer-and-ascot-wine-is-for-fancy-people category I can think of. Seems like based on this info and millennials’ ever-growing disposable income, they could be making bank with a few simple changes.

I wonder who these millennials see as industry experts, anyway. Is it Gary V.? Saveur Mag? Real Simple? Robert Parker? Steve Heimoff?  I don’t think people will ever stop looking to experts for recommendations on wine; however, it’s my personal prediction that if magazines like Spectator, Advocate, and Enthusiast don’t attempt to reach this demo, that we’ll see new “experts” pop up to take their place in publications that millennials consider more “relevant” to their lives. You can keep the two cents.

Here’s another juicy tidbit:

Wine consumed by millennials per sitting

Oh, you’re not surprised that people in their 20s and early 30s consume more wine per sitting than other demos? Yeah, me neither. And this is a good thing. They purchase more wine per occasion.

I swear, the next winemaker/owner/marketer, etc. that complains to me about how they don’t like millennials in their winery because we drink too much gets an honorary title of Asshat from me. THEY ARE BUYING MORE OF YOUR WINE PER SITTING. Oh, that’s good, but you would prefer them to buy more of your wine per sitting in a restaurant or in your tasting room and NOT get drunk? Well, I suppose they’ll just buy 3 glasses and NOT drink them. YOU SELL WINE. WINE HAS ALCOHOL. ALCOHOL MAKES PEOPLE DRUNK. It’s true. Google it.

Anyway, now that that’s off my chest (phew), this is obviously good news for purveyors of wine.

So I’d like you to take a minute and look at 3 out of the last 4 slides. The ones with the bottom category that says “High End.” Go ahead, take a look.

Notice anything interesting about the overall numbers? Look again.

According to this data, the consumer behaviors of millennials, specifically older millennials, correspond to the consumer behaviors of the “High End” group. (“High End” being people that purchase $20+ wines monthly or more often.) Here’s some more data to illustrate this correlation:

Wine drinkers' Facebook membership


Wine drinkers' Twitter membership


Going to wine bars


Visiting wine websites

They all correlate. So does this mean that it’s the millennials that are the high end buyers? Not necessarily.

HOWEVER, it DOES tell us that millennials and high end buyers have many of the same consumer traits.  High end buyers seem to behave much the way millennials do as consumers.


By targeting these traits in millennials through your outreach and marketing, you are also targeting these traits in high end buyers.

Well isn’t that interesting?

Millennial Buying Habits: New Data

Screen Shot 2012-01-31 at 1.06.10 PM

New data on millennial buying habits by the folks at BazaarVoice focuses on social influence between generations. They are specifically focusing on User Generated Content (UGC), which essentially means user reviews in this case. I’ll be sure to publish any juicy info from the report, but in the meantime, feast your eyes on their infographic.


New Millennial Friendly Brands To Watch

omg - so beautiful.

When I’m out speaking about marketing, especially millennial marketing, I often get asked the question “Who is doing it right?” For a long while there, I would answer by telling people to look outside of the wine industry. Sure, there have been brands (albeit few and far between) that attempt to reach out to this demographic… that doesn’t mean that they’re doing it right.  I certainly have my LEAST favorites – the one dimensional, the condescending, the identity-challenged, and the ever-present corporate mistakes – but this week is a week of thanks and celebration, right? So I’ll focus on a couple positives that have JUST surfaced.

I became aware of these two brands within a week of each other, and after a long summer and quiet fall, I’m thrilled to say that hope springs anew for you, wine industry. Now, I can’t say that I’m the adorable, rat-tailed, 27-year-old neophyte I once was when I started this blog, breathlessly waiting for the wine industry to understand the value of millennials and catch-the-eff-up. Nope. Now I’m 30, married, and jaded enough to understand that this is an industry that will resist change on pretty much every level and damn the torpedoes. (You don’t agree? Really? Then tell me about it in the comments.)

Here is what I’m so excited about. Amazingly, one of these is a new brand of Rutherford Wine Co. (omg – change!) – makers of design-competition favorite Predator. I initially came across this on the (wonderful) package design blog The Dieline on November 14th, and it has since made the rounds on some of the most exciting design blogs out there.

Cuboid Photo

Sexy boxed wine! Yeah! This seems to be a one-off type brand exclusively available at Total Wines & More – I was unable to find any serious information from their almost-completely-bare facebook page. They also don’t seem to own up to it on their own website. But hey, it’s a start. And it’s GORGEOUS.

The other brand I’m ridiculously tickled by is LA Bubbly. Developed by Charleston, SC wine bar owner Brad Ball and one Harry Root, it makes me swoon. Apparently only available in his bar and some Southeast Whole Foods, this is a very exciting new brand – many many thanks to the illustrious Dale Cruse for bringing these guys to my attention. From site design to labels to copy and attitude, I can’t remember when I’ve been more excited about a brand. Well, a brand that I haven’t worked with, anyway.

Think these are stupid? Destined to fail?  Inspiring? Well, I have a feeling you’ll tell me in the comments.

Speaking Publicly: Wine Bloggers Conference Millennials and Wine Panel

For those folks who are heading to the Wine Bloggers’ Conference this year in Virginia, swing by the Millennials and Wine panel on Friday for some honest education on this “hot topic.” I’ll be speaking on the panel, led by Joe Roberts of 1WineDude, along with Pia Mara Finkell and Hunter Smith.

After speaking with everyone on a call last week, I can honestly say that I’m super psyched to speaking with these guys (I sense zero bullshit), and I’m looking forward to hearing their opinions on some of the tougher questions that are bound to pop up. Most importantly, we will be probably the handsomest panel at WBC. Reason enough to stop by.

We will be focusing on questions during our hour and fifteen minutes. I’m constantly impressed by the insights and opinions I read in the comments on this blog, and I wanted to open the floor up to you all.

Do you have questions that you’d like the panel and I to cover on Friday?  Bring it! Just leave it in the comments below.

Wine Industry: Please Try Harder

I thought long and hard before I put up my last post. It’s a little harsh (surprise) – but it’s honest. And it’s important for me to support that POV with some more information. Typed information. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free take the 30 seconds or so to get caught up.

Now do me a favor. Think about who your competitors are in the market place. Go ahead. Have a name or two in mind? Good. Now think again.

Image from the 6/27 Ad Age article, Bottom's Up! A Look at America's Drinking Habits

Your competitor isn’t that winery that’s doing better than you in sales, it’s not the winery down the road or the segment leader you get reports on. Your competition is beer. It’s liquor. Sure everyone’s striving for a bigger piece of the pie, but how about this: How about we get more pies? With the staggering number of millennials open to wine, the time to do it is NOW.

Sounds great, right? Sure. But it’s not going to be easy. We’ve dug ourselves into a lame little hole, wine industry. I’d like to use a little tech analogy to illustrate the competitive gap here: If beer is google, wine is the lost and found box in the local YMCA.

The wine industry as a whole must take a good, long look at itself as compared to other industries. We lack reach. We lack creativity. We CERTAINLY lack drive. We’re just floating around in our own juices, happy that no one has ever once demanded that we change. Do you know why no one has questioned the dismal way in which wine is marketed and generally “put out there?” Neither do I, but I have a few guesses.

1) People don’t care – they like wine and they’ll keep buying it regardless of how lazy the industry is. DAMN STRAIGHT. Why do you think wine has been skating along for years without making one major shift in marketing approach? It’s certainly not because our core consumers are energized by seeing another freaking vineyard with a photoshopped bottle or two in your Wine Spectator ads. Don’t you think that maybe – JUST MAYBE – that if we actually try as an industry to authentically reach our consumers (and potential consumers) that it MIGHT just pay off in the form of cash money?

2) Consumers have basically zero in the form of expectations for the wine industry. So we as an industry could either keep coasting along and pulling paychecks thanking the Good Lord that we’ve got this thing down blindfolded, OR we could actually try something different – something active – and blow everyone’s mind.

Now, you may be thinking “Leah, we ARE innovating. We’re using social media and making QR code hangtags.” And to you I say: starting facebook and twitter accounts and slapping QR codes on your bottles is not innovating. I’m talking about shifting the way in which we talk about wine. Changing the way we communicate. I’m talking about QUALITY people, not about “new outlets.”

Need some inspiration? Think about some of the most boring industries or products out there. Perhaps insurance comes to mind. Or maybe soap? Hell, carpet cleaning is so boring, I bet it never would have even popped into your mind. Now look at what these folks are doing:


Allstate “Mayhem”

Geico “Could Switching To Geico Really Save You…”



Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”



Stanley Steemer “Carpet Guys”


I think you get what I mean. The product that we are selling is, I don’t know, about A BAJILLION times cooler than insurance. And carpet cleaning. And definitely more awesome than soap. Why is no one treating it that way? That has to change.

Get hungry people. Or thirsty.

Wine Focusing on Millennials: The Beast Awakens

millennials constellation article

A very interesting article came out this month on millennials and wine. It came out on my birthday, in fact, and I do consider it a bit of a gift. I think this signals an important time in the wine industry and wanted to share it on the blog.


I am incredibly impressed by the fact that – according to the article – the enormous corporation that is Constellation has somehow decided to focus on the millennial demographic AND create an effective way to track their results. I can’t say that Constellation is doing it right or wrong based on what I’ve read*, but I’m thrilled to see they’re trying.

And to make things a bit more interesting, I hear they’re not the only ones getting serious about Millennials on a scale this big.

It has begun. (Finally.)


*though I do find it hilarious that they did a tweet-up for the Mondavi brand and are saying that it affected millennial sales – bit of a stretch guys. Unless they are led by Lady Gaga, tweet ups aren’t the best way to reach us – especially with a brand like Mondavi.

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?

Dear Wine Industry: Thought You Should Know

Dear Wine Industry: There's a rumor going around that says...

Dear Wine Industry: There's a rumor going around that says...

Dear Wine Industry…Another tough love letter