A New Generation of Wine Marketing

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.

A modern design for millennials, the "InZinerator"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.

- http://hk.linkedin.com/in/ssaul

6 thoughts on “A New Generation of Wine Marketing

  1. Brett

    I agree with Todd above, but you have to realize that there is a lot of value to selling “that first bottle of wine”. But it’s do or die when you go with a really bold label, so maker sure your wine is good before you go after the Milenials.

  2. Todd Trzaskos - Vermont Wine Media

    interesting idea, but the millenials are just as discerning as previous generations. A cool label concept will still only sell the first bottle of wine…what’s inside will determine future sales, if it’s no good, the word will spread, and the packaging will eventually stand out as a warning.

  3. ravi singh

    New fads are no doubt interesting. There are however two apects that I usually ask clients to consider. Firstly why have some brands & labels lasted hundreds of years and does the label match the quality of your wine.

    Food for thought!!

  4. Regina M. Lutz

    Ha, ha! Pretty funny…these aren’t “niche” wines…these are “attitude” labels. Gee, folks…doncha know there’s a difference??!

  5. Wine-Know

    I’m not a Millennial, but I like this. It’s pure marketing, unlike the marketing jargon on back labels that is intended to pass as “information” or “education.” There’s a lot that wine consumers, especially novices, don’t know that they don’t know about wine and wine marketing. This type of labeling here is fun and doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.

  6. Alan Baker

    Really, you publish a story about how you must go to the website to find more info and don’t include a link?

    However, there is no information about that wine when you go to the page. And they don’t link to the twitter account or the Youtube video.
    I wouldn’t really say this is a wine label that works. I can’t find a single link to any social media channels anywhere on their site.

    I don’t think you can just talk about your media strategy and connect with millennials. You have to deliver, and make it easy to connect via various electronic methods.

    Just my two cents.
    Alan Baker


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