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win from around the worldMatt Brehony sure is bullish on the future of wine in the U.S. despite some evidence of lagging sales:

Millennials are changing the face of the wine world. And they’re doing a pretty kick-ass job of it.

Propelled by a thirst for authenticity and discovery, this new generation of drinkers is embracing both old-world traditions and experimental styles. They’re not just drinking more, they’re drinking better.

But he thinks wineries are not doing a great job of reaching millennials because they rely on antiquated tasting notes and stereotypes about lifestyle:

With a mass of curious new-comers on their doorstep, most of those trying to sell to them are doing so in the cryptic lingo of the wine aficionado—with promises of “bramble berries,” “old saddle leather” and “forest floor” as an attempt to start the conversation. While others, fueled by trends reports and superficial demographic data, are pursuing an opposite yet equally flawed strategy, of bending over backwards to show their audience how well their wine will fit into a mundane, millennial existence. (“You can pair it with pizza! You can take selfies with it!”)

Neither strategy is working all too well. While overall wine sales are growing, there is a concern about a lack of brand loyalty coming out of it. If you hang out with people in the booze business you’ll hear a lot of grumbling (sometimes with data to back it up) on how noncommittal many young consumers are.

His solution is for wineries and wine regions to improve the “brand experience”:

First you need a Story. A big, capital “S” Story that feeds all other stories. One that is unique, compelling and consistent. (If you have any doubts on how important this is, I urge you to check out THIS roundtable, where participants literally made comments like “Maybe if the story was more interesting I might have liked this wine more.”)

Once that Story is in place—be it in the form of a brand narrative, a purpose or positioning statement, or all of the above—you need an experience strategy that brings it to life for customers across a variety of touchpoints.

Hmm. I’m not sure what an “experience strategy” is. We’re told it’s “to translate the mystique of a place, its people and their passion into an all-encompassing experience”. It seems to me this is exactly what wineries already do if you visit their tasting room. Almost all have stories and they make sure you hear it when you saunter up to the bar. But of course you have to visit the winery or the wine region and talk to the people there to get a sense of the “mystique of a place”. It can’t be conveyed in the supermarket or wine shop and only inadequately on a website.

It seems to me this kind of advice is useless not only because it has already been implemented but because it is oblivious to the real attraction of wine.

The reason why people who get serious about wine don’t establish strong brand loyalties is because wine is inexhaustible. For every great wine you taste made by nice people with a compelling story, there is someone else around the corner who can offer you something different that is equally compelling. With wine regions and styles exploding around the world and experimentation upending traditions there is just no reason to keep drinking the same stuff.

Brand loyalties are for creatures of habit or for products showing rare quality for which straying from the familiar is often punished. Millennials are too young to have strong habits and quality wine is just no longer rare.

I’m way too old to be speaking for millennials, but if they really are “propelled by a thirst for authenticity and discovery” they’re probably not really going to be into brand loyalty no matter how hard you push it.

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