Since the 1970s, American wine drinkers have had access to an increasing array of choices. Wine is now made everywhere, from California to New Zealand, including “old world” wine regions defined by their long history of viticulture.
In such a cluttered category, how does a legacy brand, such as Bordeaux, remain relevant and accessible to today’s consumer?
Bordeaux’s tradition of wine-making and historical system of appellations may seem disconnected from the lifestyle of today’s Millennials (20- to 35-year-olds). It’s easy to surmise that those who came of age on Facebook, travel in “digital packs,” and consider hour-old information ancient history won’t engage with a brand that embodies timeless traditions, craft, and heritage. But that is a mistake.
In the world of Facebook and Instagram, Millennials photograph and share experiences with friends and peers–from daily meals to dream vacations–often soliciting advice, feedback, and validation. This pattern of interaction has become so knit into the fabric of Millennials’ lives that at this year’s South by Southwest festival, Jennifer Hyman, co-founder of Rent the Runway, argued that we’re now entering an economy driven by experience rather than ownership. And as occasion and experience increase in value, the importance of owning a particular brand or item may diminish.
For legacy brands, the question becomes: How can we create experiences and occasions that speak to Millennials, yet respect brand history and heritage?
By emphasizing education and focusing on the experience of wine drinking and “art de vivre,” Bordeaux transformed its image from the domain of expensive wine cellars and Michelin-star restaurants to that of a region with much to offer to a new generation of wine drinkers. Artisanal values and craftsmanship comprise the building blocks of the experiences Bordeaux provided Millennials–and the authenticity that facilitated genuine engagement. For example:
1. Keep it digital–but also real: We created Bordeaux Wine Buffs, a community of digitally savvy wine educators and professionals who interact with our growing fan base through social media channels. We even offer opportunities for fans to meet Wine Buffs in person at wine tastings and events. Wine Buffs teach fans about appellations and grape varietals–without the jargon that can alienate most wine drinkers. Millennials have the opportunity to share their opinions and pose questions, creating an open dialogue that promotes education and engagement–one of the reasons we believe the Bordeaux Wine Council’s Facebook page retains the largest fan base of all wine regions on Facebook.
2. Make it personal: Wine and conversation go hand-in-hand with meeting new people, and Millennials are all about expanding their personal social networks. We started Bordeaux Matchmaking, a series of wine-tasting events that introduce attendees to like-minded people and great wine–connecting the target to our brand, literally and emotionally.
3. Bring them the world: At tastings, we use interactive photo booths and mobile and Web applications to take Millennials on their own personal journeys through the Bordeaux region–all without leaving home. Helping Millennials discover their palate even before they step inside a château strengthens their emotional relationship with Bordeaux–and hopefully encourages them to visit the region in person at some point in the future.
Millennials are beginning to embrace affordable and accessible classifications of Bordeaux along with their new world counterparts. They also are developing their own personal loyalty toward the region, its appellations, and châteaux.
The lesson for all legacy brands is we don’t need to change the elements of our identities that give us authenticity and personality to connect with Millennials–but we must demonstrate how we fit into our target’s twenty-first century lifestyle. The key to ensuring this connection lies in creating curated, authentic experiences–the true currency of the new experience economy.