Long read: chasing formats is not enough for the Instagram generation


Through Harper Editorial

Posted: November 15, 2021

Over the past decade, regular wine consumption among 18-34 year olds has decreased by 10% (Wine intelligence), which could indicate problems for the industry in the future. Alex Green, co-founded wine distributor Beyond wines after working with his business partner Matt Johnson at Copestick Murray where they worked on i heart and Freixenet. Here, he explores why wine brands fail to engage the younger demographic and where they stand to make the biggest gains.

Wine is serious business, but it’s also supposed to be fun. This is often overlooked by producers and traders who tend to focus on complex production terminology and tasting cues when marketing a product, but it can make all the difference between engaging consumers and alienating them. . The traditional drinker constitutes the majority of wine buyers rather than connoisseurs. Knowledge of wine would also be in decline, so if wine brands continue to bury themselves in claims, they will confuse consumers, miss sales and fail to engage new buyers. This could prove to be devastating from a market sustainability point of view; without recruiting young buyers, the number of consumers of mainstream wine will decrease and lead to lower demand.

Box, box or bottle?

The format is wrongly presented as the great savior of the market and the only way to maintain the interest of young consumers. As a sector, we have followed the trend of wine cans seen in the United States and collectively invested in developing the range and strategies to make the category as big as it had promised. However, it did not explode, far from it. This movement was ‘industry led’, meaning we saw what was going on in other markets and we had the technology, so we jumped in without asking if consumers were getting away with it. cared.

Aside from the first players in the category, it did not bear fruit and young consumers did not turn to her. en masse. Top 100 brands BWS Freixenet (+ 51% MAT May 2021), 19 Crimes (+ 158%) and Most Wanted (+ 64%) have seen fantastic growth, but the vast majority of their collective sales come from sizes and formats. established products. . Instead, these brands also focused on the points of difference and communicated with consumers in a different way than the competition. This proves that while there is certainly a place for alternative formats in growing portfolios, communicating how your brand fits into a consumer’s lifestyle is far more important than the packaging.

Selling wine to the wider market

Meanwhile, the category’s natural bed companions in supermarket aisles have done an incredible job over the past decade responding to consumer trends and attracting new customers. When we think of brands and industries at the forefront of innovation in flavor, perfect service and visual cues, the craft beer, gin and vodka world and markets are ahead of the game. about who we are as a collective wine industry. Millennials (like me) and Gen Z are used to a life of instant gratification, and these brands have learned to successfully harness that behavior with instantly engaging imagery and language that can be understood at a glance.

Part of this achievement depends on available budgets, but there have been some notable exceptions in recent years such as the Provence rosé and premium Prosecco markets. Overall, however, the wine industry has become sleepwalking in a place where we fail to recruit young consumers.

Clear message

Let’s face it, wine is made by wine people for wine people, rather than the vast majority of consumers who love to drink wine but lack in-depth knowledge. Compared to the flavored cider market, which greets customers with easy-to-understand language, branding, and visuals, wine almost proudly stands in the way of those not already familiar with the specialist language on the label. The wall of wine in stores intimidates the vast majority of non-insider wine consumers, and shoppers often struggle to choose “a nice bottle” in the supermarket aisles. It is our duty to facilitate the purchase of our products.

The success of i heart wines demonstrates the market value of this audience. Ten years ago she sold her first bottle to an avant-garde buyer working for Budgens. Today it is one of the top 10 wine brands in the UK with a turnover of over £ 140million. Combining a recognizable logo with familiar types of grapes has proven popular with less educated drinkers, who are grateful that they can identify something they like. The successful brand was probably the first to shamelessly defend the consumer and recognize what was, and was not, important to the large non-retail consumer. The country of origin, for example, was much less important than everyone thought in buyers’ decision-making. And terroir? Forget.

Taking this idea further, Prosecco launches Liquid diamond was created to revolutionize the way the wine market sells to this audience to make quality wine accessible. The use of emojis to convey tasting notes is aimed at the smartphone generation in an instantly familiar language. At the same time, a modern bottle design without excessive messaging helps consumers identify at a glance the information that is important to them. It also allows them to recognize and redeem in the future.

Connect with popular culture

While famous ambassadors have been visible in the alcohol industry for years, the wine industry remains largely reluctant to follow suit. Yet for a generation that specializes in famous people, reality TV, and social media, celebrity endorsement is an obvious way to woo that audience.

This could be due to snobbery within the industry. However, when celebrities have been widely used across the spectrum of luxury and premium goods, from watches to perfumes, the benefits to sales obviously outweigh the risks to the brand. Where the industry has been slow, new emerging brands will benefit, and we’ve seen celebrities like Gary Barlow, Cameron Diaz and Kylie Minogue take on the task of launching their own lines. For innovative brands, it is possible to look beyond what is traditionally famous and do something different. Social media is a great leveler, empowering ordinary people to become powerful influencers, spawning a new kind of celebrity who can shape trends and influence consumer behavior – something that has yet to be harnessed in the world. beverage industry.

This generation can spot gadgets within a mile and a half, so authenticity is key. The chosen ambassadors should like and buy your product, as a quick internet search can reveal if they really are a wine drinker. It’s also important to choose an Ambassador who they relate to, respect and trust, but who also aligns with your brand values ​​at large.

It’s too late?

So, is the wine industry in difficulty? No. Are young consumers pushing and demanding the change to different formats? Not really, although the bag-in-box is getting stronger with great innovations, we should still look at what’s going on outside of wine and listen to what consumers really want.

Commercially, there are so many giant subcategories in wine that benefit young consumers who have the cash on hand, so why do we need to change our approach? Niche growth is great, but it overlooks larger market opportunities. Success will come from brands that sell good wine and go directly to consumers. Wine is so much fun, let’s make it exciting for everyone.

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