by Saul Sugarman
The Millennium is here. Okay, maybe not – it was so ten years ago. But my generation, the millennials are a powerful demographic. Lady Gaga dominates popular music; Mark Zuckerberg changes how we interact; Paris Hilton, well who knows what she does? In any case, wine drinking is becoming another touchstone we share as part of coming of age in generation y. Getting that message to us, though, is a challenge for wine makers.
We don’t like television commercials, we’re not fans of online banners, and we can’t be bothered with most blatant promotions. So how do you reach us? We want to know you, intimately, or so the experts say. A recent Sonoma State University study said over half of millennials preferred hearing about good wine from friends or within their own networks. But what does that really mean?
For Jana Harvey, who runs marketing for Scott Harvey Wines, it’s all about new technology. If you can tweet about it or write something in a Facebook group, Jana is all over it. “Stories are what sell and it’s hard to write the whole story on the back label,” she said.
I met Jana at her home and base of operations in St. Helena, California, where I learned that along with tasting rooms, wine clubs, and event planning, wine marketing can now be as simple as getting out of bed and sending email blasts from your desk. “We have to send something informative and interesting. We always try and do something with a recipe and what’s happening with the vineyards this time of year,” Jana said. “We still have to get our customers to taste the wine, but if we’re not there ourselves, this is one way we can entice them to drink the story.”
And with more to say online, less is said on the bottle. Take recent creation of Scott Harvey Wines, the InZinerator, aimed directly at a younger crowd. One of its labels – a triangle-shaped purple and yellow graphic of the letter Z – invokes an image of Superman, which is what Jana and Scott wanted. Peter Parker would naturally pick up “Wine for the Super Hero” (printed on the back label) for Mary Jane after another daunting rescue. Without much else written on the bottle, customers have little choice but to read more on its website. A quick Google search reveals the bottle also has a Twitter account, Facebook page, even a YouTube video titled, “The case of the stolen InZinerator!”
With the burgeoning success of superhero franchises of late, a product this unique will undoubtedly spawn a following, but it isn’t for everyone. North Carolina banned it because the state felt the wine targeted an underage audience, which wasn’t Scott and Jana’s intention. Several younger friends of mine – and myself included – have also stated a preference for the more traditional label. But Jana probably sees a focused customer base as more of an advantage than a setback.
“None of our wines are going to appeal to everyone.” said Jana. “We really are niche wines.”
Saul Sugarman, a guest writer for winelabelsthatwork.com, is a freelance reporter and multimedia producer. Among many contributions, his work has appeared in Time Out, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News.