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.