Lulie Halstead of Wine Intelligence gave an interesting talk on Millennials, and whether or not we make too much of them in marketing discussions. ‘It’s a topic we often get asked to speak about,’ she said. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1995, which means that they are currently 21-35 years old. The previous demographic groups are Gen X (1961-1980, aged 36-55) and Boomers (1945-1960, aged 56-71).
Are Millennials really all that different?
Lulie cited some research suggesting that when it comes to making travel decisions, Millennials prefer instant freebies to reward points – it’s about the now. That sounds pretty Millennial. When they are planning travel, 59% use online reviews (again, very Millennial), but 35% go to travel agent or specialist, which sounds much more Gen X or Boomer. Maybe they are not that different. And when Millennials were asked why would they recommend a hotel, the second most important factor was a comfy bed!
In terms of media consumption, we hear they don’t watch TV (they don’t even have one), and they never listen to radio or read newspapers. They are glued to their smartphones and digest media this way. Or do they?
In a recent study in the USA, it turns out that the average American watches 4 h 59 min TV a day (this sounds a scarily big number). Millennials watch 4 h 8 min of TV/day, and this rises when they get a family. So they aren’t all that different.
Lulie then switched gear and introduced four macro trends that have emerged from Wine Intelligence’s research. These are dubbed:
- Well being
- Express (all about me – how do I express myself?)
- Connect (how do we connect with others?)
Within each category of trends, they have identified a subset of individual trends, and these make for interesting reading.
There are three trends in well being:
- Exclude (mainly in food and drink) when we take stuff out that is naturally occurring such as calories or gluten – lots of snack products in particular are all about excluding stuff.
- Enhance – when extra stuff is added in. As an example, she gives ‘anti agin’ which is a gin enhanced with 90g of drinkable collagen.
- Mindfulness – this is about us as a culture understanding that our mental well being is really important. She gave the example of Tesco who are trialling quiet checkouts for people who find the whole process a bit intimidating. They have also been working with the autism society to get an understanding about what it must be like to go through the shopping experience if you are autistic.
Engage has three trends:
- Obsession – this is where producers, suppliers and brand owners dedicated and obsessive about the product they make. They typically have a dedication to being brilliant at one thing only. An example is a grab and go fast food restaurant in California that only sells 11 different types of bacon. There are egg restaurants, and lasagne restaurants. We want to find people or businesses who are are brilliant at one thing, in a world of massively confusing complication and choice.
- Fusion – this is about merging of product categories and services to bring types and styles together. For example, there is a white chocolate Kit Kat fused with sake that is sold in Japan. We love the idea of seeing new and trying new.
- Activate – this is a way of engaging and activating the target audience beyond the purchase experience, and an example would be something that the Colombia outdoor sporting goods company has done. They have added extra uses to the price tag, such as a metal tag that turns into a water purifier, or a fishing hook, or a mini tool.
Connect has three:
- Exchange – a good example of this is e neighbour, where for $2.50 your neighbour can take in your parcel. This creates mini hubs of individuals who, in being paid in exchange for a bit of their time and storage space, will take your parcel in.
- Reduce – reducing waste and packaging. Lulie described a Dutch fruit supplier whose sweet potatoes get their branding and packaging simply by being stamped with edible ink.
- Community – how we interact with those around us. In craft beer there was an initiative called ‘cream of the craft’ where for a week 50 breweries made beer using an identical recipe.
And Express has its own three also:
- Effortless – technology is helping us to do things with less effort. Amazon Go are trillaing a store in Seattle in which an app recognized your movements in the store, you pick your items and just walk out with them, and you are automatically billed without even having to self scan.
- Instant – in some ways, this is in opposition to ‘reduce’, and an example would be an instant ice tray with six pre filled sections and a foil top, for those who find filling an ice tray from the sink too much of a chore.
- Individual – this is having and making products ourselves, and an example would be a store where you can make your own individualized blended drink or food item.
How important are these trends to the different demographic groups?
It turns out that mindfulness and community are significantly less important for Millennials, while individual and activate are significantly more important to them.
But it could be that it is just that they are younger, and people in their 20s have different priorities in their lives? Younger people are more hedonistic. That’s the point of being younger and it’s why we grow up. Yes, the world has changed, but these changes are more to do with life stage than being a magic millennial. ‘Younger people behave more hedonistically,’ says Lulie. ‘It’s the way it works.’
How does this apply to wine?
Lulie cited two numbers:
- 27 million – the number of Millennial regular wine drinkers in the USA (out of 95 million overall)
- 24 million – the number of regular Millennial wine drinkers in China (out of 48 million)
What is important for these Millennials when it comes to wine?
- Mindfulness – they associate wine with relax, reward, authentic, genuine, special, treat
It isn’t about high energy, it’s about sharing, caring and expertise. Being authentic and natural matters.
- Obsession – devoted to you. They love it when retailers or sommeliers are brilliant at something, with a narrow focus. They love it when people say let me guide you here because I am really good at something
- Fusion. Mix it up. Put ice cubes in wine, add elderflower cordial – this is how real people think about wine. Millennials like a bit of a challenge and a point of difference
- Enhance. Add it in. Extra protein, a few minerals: who knows what supplements or enhancements you can put in
- Activate. Include me. How can you include me? What can you do to activate?
Wine Intelligence did a wine label study in Australia, with a range of stylised labels ranging from ‘Cartoon Retro’ through to ‘Prestigious’. The Millennials don’t find the most distinctive labels appealing. They want their wine to look like wine; they want to trust it. This is seen in in multiple markets with different age groups. ‘Maybe there is a myth that our Millennials love things that are cool funky and trendy,’ says Lulie.
Of course, these demographic groups are merely constructs. They aren’t real. But they are helpful because they organize our thinking, and enable us to make something that would otherwise be very nebulous and hard to pin down a lot easier to grapple with. But as Lulie explained, we have to be cautious that we don’t get too carried away by concepts such as Millennials.