Marketing to Millennials

Michael Donovan speaks to attendees at SoWine 2, June 14 in Central Point.

By Janet Eastman

Tech-savvy adults in their 20s and 30s have disovered a new playground: vineyards. Capturing their attention and dollars was one focus of the Southern Oregon Wine Marketing & Sales Conference held on June 14 in Central Point.

Although Gen-Xers and Millennials don’t have the spending power of older adults, they support the “buy local” philosophy, are willing to pay more than $20 for every fourth bottle of wine and, if well treated, will reward a winery by posting an endorsement that could be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

In the age of peer-to-peer review sites like Yelp and CellarTracker, “everyone’s a critic,” said Sheila Nicholas of Anam Cara Cellars in Newberg, speaking to 100 winery owners and tasting room managers attending the sold-out conference.

Using social media to build direct-to-consumer sales to all ages is now a crucial part of the promotional wheel. Think Facebook invitations. Live Tweets of events. YouTube videos that deliver information and fun.

“I don’t read anything,” said 24-year-old speaker Christine Collier, exaggerating to make a point. “But I watch everything.” At Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, she generates an event calendar through dotCal and recommends Living Social and Groupon giveaways.

Other advice offered at the daylong conference presented by the Southern Oregon Wine Institute:

• Michael Donovan of the Oregon Wine Board said Oregonians drink a lot of wine, but only 15 to 18 percent of the wine sold here is made here. “An additional 5 percent would have a huge impact.” He added that 70 percent of wine buyers use Facebook and Millennials over 21 are more likely than others to buy wine online.

• The key to reaching Millennials, if that is your goal, says Dixie Huey of Trellis Wine Consulting in Vancouver, Wash., is to be where they are. Research their preferences and seek responses about their experiences. “Every point of contact, from customer service and events, to e-mails and website presence, needs to appeal to them,” she said.

• Richard Roberts of Palazzo Creative in Seattle advised wineries to convey a consistent message through well-designed logos, labels, packaging, websites and social media platforms. His firm created a sophisticated new look for L’Ecole N° 41, updating the Walla Walla Valley winery’s logo of a schoolhouse. For others, he said edgy packaging “alienates some people,” but it also offers them something to remember. Printing words sideways on labels requires a shopper to take the bottle off the shelf to read it. “At that point, it’s halfway to the cart,” he said.

• A show of hands revealed that most of the conference-goers e-mail newsletters and event alerts. Terry Miller of CRM Group in Redmond, Wash., said that although e-mails have lost some of their cachet, each dollar spent to create an effective one reaps $43 in sales.

• Josh Bradley of Shop Dragon in Ashland recommended updating websites to make them more usable on mobile devices. Delete cumbersome drop-down menus; add “share” buttons to encourage reciprocal linking. Also, take a free lesson offered by to learn how to engage Twitter users.

• Jeffrey Kingman of Chalkboarder in Portland suggested shooting short, educational videos, uploading them, and then spreading the word on HootSuite. “Ten minutes of your time can result in thousands of impressions,” he said.

Information on the presentations, which also included Paula Caudill of Abacela speaking about advanced social media and Carole Stevens of Folin Cellars offering practical advice on maximizing wine clubs, is available at 

Janet Eastman is an Ashland-based journalist who covers Southern Oregon wine for and other media.

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