Browsing Tag


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




Unified Wine & Grape Symposium: Apparently Millennials Are Now A Big Deal!

Standing room only at the Unified "What Matters To Millennials" panel last week.

After a pretty amazing week at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, things in LA are pretty tame in comparison – even with all the catch-up to be done. I want to thank everyone who attended the panel that I led on Tuesday (What Matters To Millennials) – I was blown away at the turn out! I also want to extend my apologies for not having a longer Q & A (my favorite part) – I totally would have gone over our allotted time with more Q & A  if I wasn’t too preoccupied with prep to check the schedule beforehand and realize we were the last presentation in the room. Oh well, next time. I’m sorry.

For readers and attendees not following the hashtag on twitter, here’s a quick pic that I took from the stage:

Standing room only at the Unified "What Matters To Millennials" panel last week.

I learned so much from the feedback that I received – I’m certainly looking forward to doing this again. (I’ll be sure to post future speaking engagements on this blog from now on.) My fellow panel members Adam Beaugh of Jackson Family Wines and Meagan Callahan of The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (both millennials) and I have been getting several requests for the presentation. Here’s the deal:

A link to download the presentation is available at

I’ve made the decision to make it available as a .pdf download rather than a slideshare because, well, it was carefully created by the three of us to be presented face to face, and not as a stand-alone show. If you did not attend and really want to hear the audio that went with it, the fine folks at All Star Media have made an mp3 audio recording available for us, and is available for download at the link above (warning: the file is quite large).

So, now that I know the (surprising) demand for material like this, I’ve decided to create a few more distance-friendly decks available throughout the year. For free. I’ll be sure to post the links on this blog when I do so.

Additionally, I always felt that online seminars were kind of douche-y, but if there’s actually a demand for more panels like this (that don’t cost hundreds of $$ and a plane ride to attend), I’ll cough up the cash for a go-to-meeting seminar-thing and host one online. And do my best to make it NOT douche-y (but it would be an online seminar and it would cost SOMETHING to attend, so that might be kind of difficult…). Please let me know in the comments or by email if this is something that ANYONE would care about – if it is, I’ll work on putting one together.

Back to the grind now – getting ready for some serious posts. Looking forward to answering some questions in the weeks ahead. If anyone has something they would like me to magnanimously donate my two cents on, please feel free to leave a question in the comments.

Dear Wine Industry: 70 Million Millennials Aren’t Going To Just Disappear So Deal With It

"Dear Wine Industry" handwritten letter

"Dear Wine Industry" handwritten letter

Nielsen Urges Alcohol Beverage Industry: Pay Attention to Millennials

A New Landscape.
A New Landscape.

Millennials will redefine the landscape of the alcohol beverage industries. The original illustration in this design was created by

Yesterday, the Nielsen blog published an article that featured some findings from its Q2 2010 research initiative on Millennials. The title of this article? So glad you asked.

Millennials Redefine The Alcohol Beverage Landscape.

“Without a doubt, millennials are a large and influential generation and alcohol beverage companies need to know their taste and buying preferences in order to take advantage of the trends that can greatly impact business.” – Nielsen, Jan 11, 2011

Snark aside, this little teaser is packed full of valuable info on millennials as alcohol beverage consumers. Some of my favorite findings and exerpts (quoted directly from the article) are:

  • Compared to the general population, millennials are more likely to trade back up to more expensive alcohol beverage brands as the economy improves.
  • Millennials are more likely to explore new and different alcohol beverage products and will be even more likely to buy a locally-made or produced product knowing it may help the local economy.
  • An added boost for marketers employing social or traditional media to influence behavior, millennials are slightly more likely to plan their purchases versus purchase on impulse in today’s down economy.
  • Leveraging social media will be a critical marketing strategy for alcohol beverage companies to communicate with Millennial consumers and make their brands relevant with this generation.

Personally, I’m quite happy to see Nielsen making a serious and more formal commitment to studying this age group. No doubt they felt the swift kick in the ass that Pew Research dealt them with their excellent Millennial Portrait resource compiled last year.

**For those that get REALLY into this stuff like I do, Nielsen tops out the Millennial age range with those currently aged 34, while Pew began at those currently aged 31. It will be an interesting data comparison when the full reports are released.**

follow Millennier on twitter at @millennier or on facebook at /

A Note To Readers


Dear Readers,

Welcome back! I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and that you’re all having fun accidentally writing “2010” on important documents. Before the shine and sparkle of the New Year wears off completely, I wanted to take the opportunity to touch base and bask in its retreating glow for just a second by mentioning a few exciting updates:

New Agency: Millennier, Inc.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve launched a new online marketing agency named (surprise) Millennier, Inc. that focuses on reaching millennials (surprise again). I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assemble a team of incredibly talented and creative individuals with whom I’m expanding the work I’ve been doing solo for the last couple years. Every member of our creative team is a working professional in the fields in which they specialize. They are also millennials. Our main focus is online content & strategy – what a brand says and how – which will also continue to be a topic on this blog.

The website is for those interested – if you or your company is serious about reaching millennials and would like to work together, just drop me a line and be sure to mention you’re a reader of this blog.

New Gig: Unified Wine & Grape Symposium

I have been asked to lead a marketing panel at this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium called What Matters To Millennials. Joining me onstage will be Adam Beaugh, Social Media Director of Jackson Family Wines, and Meagan Callahan, Communications Coordinator for Paso Robles Wine Alliance and CRAVE – both millennials. If you will be at Unified this year, be sure to stop by the panel and say hi. More on this in the weeks leading up to the Symposium.

New Approach: More Frequency

Beginning this month, I will be posting to with a wider range of topics and more frequency. In my day to day life, I mainline millennial and marketing news – much of this is news that readers of this blog would find quite valuable, or at least interesting.  Starting in the next couple weeks, in addition to the highly opinionated theory & application pieces you’re used to seeing on this blog, you’ll see some smaller, more frequent posts relating to news, trends, etc.

New Priority: You

Without getting too schmaltzy about it, I think it’s appropriate to mention that I’ve come to realize this blog is not just an outlet or a soapbox – it’s a relationship between you, the reader, and me, the blogger. Ok, a strange one, but a relationship nonetheless. Over the last couple years I’ve found that I no longer write posts because I want to say something, I write them because I hope to communicate what I have learned on to a savvy group of readers for their own use. I write here because I hope these posts are of value to YOU. For this reason, I hope to hear from you – especially with the addition of the new posts – with your feedback. If you like a post – let me know. If you hate one – let me know. I’ve found these discussions to be more energizing and enlightening than any article or case study one can read. Your comments tend to stick with me – I talk about them over dinner and discuss your POVs on weekends with friends.  In return, I’m making a commitment to be more active in responding to your comments.

Thank you very much for being a reader. I wish you much professional badassery in the New Year.


-Leah Hennessy

twitter: @millennier

facebook: /

WHY SO SERIOUS? Brands Today Need To Grow A Sense Of Humor

Why So Serious Joker

Why So Serious Joker

Stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s some advice that almost any brand could (and should) use. That being said, I don’t know if I can think of an entire industry that is in such dire need of a playful shot in the arm as wine is right now.

For decades, it has been an industry built on luxury, discerning tastes, and taking everything – even the scent of cat pee – seriously. And for decades that’s what consumers wanted and expected of the wine industry. That has changed.

Let me repeat myself. That HAS changed. Already. Past tense. This is because there’s already a valuable group of consumers out there – millennials – that have little interest in this serious attitude. Other industries have already recognized this, from car batteries to anti-virus software, but wine is playing catch-up.

Smart, creative humor is one of the quickest paths to millennial consumer’s hearts (and facebook news feeds). Don’t believe me? Then take it from MTV’s head of research, Nick Shore, whose mantra of late has been “smart and funny is the new rock ‘n’ roll.” Amen.

Fortunately, humor and wine make a fantastic pairing. We celebrate with wine. We share it with friends. We enjoy it. How can humor NOT factor in? Wine brands that are looking to reach millennials today must rethink their traditional approach and attitude and start having some fun.

If you want to reach millennials and you don’t have a funny bone, I suggest you find someone that does. Fast.

CRAVE: Is This The New Wine Event Trend For 2011?

CRAVE crowd

I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a very unique wine event, thanks to the folks at the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

This is what it looked like:

CRAVE crowd

photo credit Ballesteros Photography

and this:

CRAVE group 1

photo credit Ballesteros Photography

And it was awesome.

CRAVE is a wine event specifically designed by the non-profit Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance to reach out to millennials and introduce them – glass in hand – to Paso Robles producers. At its core, it is a marketing event – the proceeds from each $45 dollar ticket go towards the event itself, which was built to generate exposure among this important demographic, not turn a profit. “Our producers understand that this event is an investment,” Says Meagan Callahan, 26, of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “These are their future customers. They know that its important to reach out to them now.” And that future may not be too far off. According to some participating producers this year, the event yielded tasting room visits and sales the very next day.

So what makes CRAVE different from any other event, aside from a desire to reach 20-somethings? Located in San Luis Obispo, CRAVE chooses a venue convenient to the local university. The design inside is sleek and the lighting is sexy. During their first 2 years they had a DJ spinning, while this year they opted for a unique downtempo band complete with vocoder, violin, and laptops. The 40 or so participating Paso Robles wineries are grouped into areas called “wine bars” according to what they will be pouring with a food pairing featured at each bar.

Oh. And then there’s the sold-out crowd of mostly 20-somethings in their finest club attire. According to this year’s numbers, 81% of the 500 guests in attendance were between the ages of 21-29, with over half of these in the 21-25 age range.

According to Meagan Callahan, the priority among the CRAVE organizers is to create an atmosphere where millennials are comfortable. “We wanted wine tasting to come across as something fun to do with friends, not something intimidating or stuffy.” In my opinion, they completely succeeded. Though many of the attendees were shy and rather quiet when approaching wineries with their glasses, they were no less than ebullient when they returned to their friends. Groups of 3-7 people would gather after getting wine, and each of them would taste and compare favorites and flops in the same way they discussed what their other friends were wearing and who came with whom. Sometimes in the same breath.

CRAVE group 2

photo credit Ballesteros Photography

Young wine drinkers talking about wine with such ease and confidence is an incredibly rare occurrence at a wine-specific event. I saw this countless times. All night long.

After completing its third sold-out year, CRAVE is going stronger than ever. Will this event approach and in-person millennial focus this prove to be a trend in 2011? I hope so. I think it’s time that other organizations & wineries take notice.

And then invite me, because that s— was fun.

Follow Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance on Twitter: @PasoRoblesWine
Follow Millennier on Twitter: @Millennier


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.

Good Wine, Ugly Sweater: Why Branding Matters

ugly sweater party

Now that the world is wrapped up in the latest iPhone consumption epidemic it’s a perfect moment to discuss branding. I will not discuss Apple’s branding. You’re welcome.

What I WILL talk about is Barefoot. But first, a story:

A couple of weeks ago, as seen in the photos I posted last week, I participated in the Next Gen Wine Competition. After hours of tasting and despite the political ramifications of millennial judges choosing a sweet wine as Best in Show, the group overwhelmingly chose the dessert wine as the winner.

We were overall very confident in this decision. The atmosphere was relaxed and pretty jovial – until the name of the winning wine was announced.

This is the wine that won Best in Show:

Barefoot Moscato

Yep. Barefoot Moscato.

Barefoot Moscato. Personally I was MORTIFIED. And I knew I wasn’t alone. The room had EXPLODED in sound. Bitter laughter. Curses. Anguished cries of “oh my God.” Some were stricken silent with the news.

A thought flew into my head: “I will never tell anyone about this.” I was absolutely ashamed. As the minutes dragged on, however, I realized (duh) that although I’m a wine professional I am ALSO a millennial. And if I and the other millennial judges in the room were having such an emotional reaction to hearing the name of one brand, that it was THIS MOMENT that I needed to pay attention to in order to learn more about millennials and wine. The moment when I was least comfortable.

There were really two factors in play in the room’s reaction, in my opinion. 1) These are young professionals looking to prove their taste and worth in the industry, and they were embarrassed that they had chosen a $6 bottle. 2) It was a Barefoot wine.

I’m not so interested in #1, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor. What fascinates me is that we were all confident in the choice, until the brand was announced. What fascinates me is #2: Barefoot’s branding.

Barefoot’s Branding

The Barefoot brand is notoriously huge, corporate, tacky and “cheap” – at least to most young wine drinkers. But why? Millennials certainly don’t have these issues with other “value-based” brands – Yellowtail and 2 Buck Chuck are perennial 20-something faves from the bargain section. What’s the difference? Branding.

From its placement in the grocery store aisles (bottom shelves) to the 80’s elegance glamour portrait label, there’s nothing about the Barefoot brand that is appealing to young wine drinkers – not even in an ironic way. If I personally had a choice between bringing a bottle of Barefoot and a jug of Carlo Rossi White Zin to a party, I’d go with the jug of CR because at least that’s funny. Why is that, when Barefoot (Moscato, at least) is actually a good wine?

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: in these situations, I URGE wineries to look at their brand as an accessory or an article of clothing. Wine is a SOCIAL ACCESSORY. When we talk about wine, bring it to a party, open a bottle at our own table or order a glass at a restaurant, we are effectively showing off. We are telling the people around us a little bit about who we are just by what wine we choose. This is what I mean by a social accessory.

Now let’s look at sweaters (bear with me). The Carlo Rossi jug of White Zinfandel that I mentioned before would be a phenomenally terrible holiday sweater from the late 80s. This sweater is something that our target demographic would wear with irony because it is a perfect storm of ugly, tradition, poor taste and social courage. In fact, our target demo likes wearing these sweaters so much, they create holiday parties specifically for these sweaters.

ugly sweater party

Hideous Holiday Sweater Party

They are almost always awesome. But I digress.

If the jug of Carlo Rossi is a hideous holiday sweater, then in this situation our bottle of Barefoot Moscato would be a simple ugly sweater from the mid-90s. Nothing phenomenal, nothing over-the-top about it, just dated.  A sweater that was well-made and would have been pretty pimp in ’96 but today is just sad to see on a person.

If we were to throw Yellowtail into the mix, we’d be talking about an $8-$16 sweater just purchased from Old Navy or Forever 21. It’s not well made and it will fall apart in a month or two, but it’s in fashion, it fits well, and it looks good.

What do these sweaters say about the young person wearing them in public?

Hideous Holiday Sweater: I have a sense of humor, am very confident, and am creative enough to find this rare gem of an ugly sweater.

Old Navy/Fovever 21 Sweater: I may not have a lot of cash, but I’m in style and I look good.

Ugly Dated Sweater: I’m either completely clueless when it comes to fashion or I’m trying to do something and failing. Perhaps this is my favorite sweater and I really don’t care about fashion or what you think.

The same could be said of young people bringing the associated wines to a party. This is why wine is a social accessory. This is what branding does for a wine – it tells us what a wine says about us. Carlo Rossi’s jug branding is so bizarre and over-the-top that it’s funny at certain times. Yellow Tail is hip and always a safe bet. Barefoot is… dated?

Barefoot Moscato is a solid wine, and I’m pretty sure that Barefoot’s sales aren’t hurting too much; however, it’s interesting to think about what this brand would be capable of with interesting branding. It’s proven that millennials like it (and other demos too, it always seems to place well in competitions) – the product is solid. What would happen if Barefoot became a “hip and always a safe bet” social accessory for millennials instead of an embarrassing budget purchase?

The world may never know.

But not for lack of trying. Interestingly, Barefoot is trying to change this branding online with a blog, charitable works, and highlighting their young team-members. Unfortunately all of this work is foot-themed. Yes. Foot-themed. Also, despite having arguably the most successful facebook page in the wine industry, Barefoot does not take any of this offline to their labels – the one place where they can instantaneously affect a consumer’s decision to purchase. All this work looks to be for nothing since the most visible part of Barefoot’s branding (the actual bottles) run counter to all the work they are putting into the name.

Learn from this brand’s mistakes. Your most visible and vocal branding should make it easier for a person to purchase your bottle, not the other way around.

Millennial-Focused Next Gen Wine Competition in Pictures

I was very thankful to be a judge at the millennial-focused Next Gen Wine Competition. I honestly feel that this could be a very important moment in wine – and not just because I was a part of it.

It could also be a blip on the screen. We shall see.

By now you may have heard about the upset that occurred on Monday – one of the coveted Best In Show spots being taken by Barefoot Moscato.  Not kidding. Barefoot Moscato. The result itself is juicy enough, but what happened in the room when the judging was finished and the name of the winning wine was announced as a Barefoot bottle was completely fascinating to me.

I’ll be writing a full post on this moment in the coming week, but in the meantime here are some slices of the experience from my point of view.

To press-types and bloggers: please feel free to use these photos as a part of your own content. I simply ask that you credit the photos to with a link. If you would like print-ready files, just email me at

Wine Entries

Just a fraction of the wines entered into the competition.

The judging grid for Panel 1, which consisted of Head Judge Kevin Boyer, myself, John Slamon and Mariana Gil Juncal

Set up

Set up for the final flight of around 26 wines tasted as a group.

Waiting Room

While waiting for the final tasting to begin, we (the judges) eschewed the reception area for some air on the sidewalk.

Final Tasting

The final tasting begins. The entire group tastes through together for Best in Class and Best in Show winners.

Millennial Judges at Next Gen Wine Competition

Millennial Judges at the final tasting portion of the Next Gen Wine Competition. Left to Right: David Vicini, Marketing & Sales Director: Trecini Cellars; Tyler Balliet, Co-Founder: The Second Glass; Mariana Gil Juncal, Head Sommelier & Publishing Director: Baco Club, Argentina; Leah Hennessy, Owner & Head Business Strategist: Millennier; Ian Burrows, Advanced Certified Sommelier & Consultant Wine Director: Boot & Shoe Service, San Francisco.

Room of Millennial Judges at Next Gen Wine Competition

All the millennial judges assembled for the final tastings of the day.

Millennial Judges at Next Gen Wine Competition

The future of the wine industry: the full group of millennial judges poses for a photo.