"You'll come running back, you'll come running back to me…"

by Katie Pizzuto on October 29, 2008

in marketing,Wine

So I’ve just had one of those “holy crap” moments (I mean that literally, and you’ll see why) and had to share, because I wrote about the idea here. In my rant about the sad state of wine marketing, I wrote that at a time when the younger generation is opting for wine instead of beer more than ever, so-called marketing gurus are missing the boat. And what I screamed was, “Forget beauty shots of vineyards in your ads—think concert sponsorships.” I’m not self-centered enough to think that someone actually listened to me, but alas, great minds think alike.

A few days ago, I received the promo shown here for Sacre Bleu wine. Obviously somebody gets it! In what could be a genius marketing move, they’ve partnered with Live Nation, probably the nation’s largest live events company. With the help of Live Nation, Sacre Bleu (which means Holy Crap in French) is now creating a brand alliance with the Fillmore Miami Beach (prime target market for a wine like this, no doubt) so that their wines will be sold at the venue during shows.

Hands down, the Millennial generation is not keen on traditional forms of advertising. Sacre Bleu knows this, and is pushing lifestyle rather than product. You want someone who’s 25 to like your product? Stick it in their hands when they are having the best time possible. Get them texting. Get them tweeting. Just get them! With over 100 million Millennials flooding cyberspace, emerging brands must consider this market when they start tossing advertising bucks here and there. The older guy with the receding hairline that has years of wine drinking under his belt is great—he’s a target—but he won’t be buying for as many years as the 20-something will because, let’s face it, time is not on his side!

The wines are being imported from the Languedoc of all places where, I mentioned not too long ago, Vin de Merde is made. These guys must really know their crap! I haven’t tasted the wine, but one hopes that this company is in it for the long haul, and not just pandering to the young, skinny and beautiful. If done right, their marketing can create loyalty, which is what every brand seeks. And this doesn’t only pertain to emerging wines. Classics like Chateau Latour and others of that ilk would be wise to start tapping into the younger pulse as well, lest they start watching their market presence dwindle when their current fanbase starts pushing up daisies. I realize that’s a harsh way to look at promotion, but in all honesty, future serious wine buyers aren’t reading WE or WS unless it’s sitting on their parent’s (or grandparent’s) coffee table. Sacre Bleu, on the other hand, is building equity in an online community that will grow the more it talks, and as you can see, it’s talking.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jesse Porter October 30, 2008

The one thing people always seem to say about the so-called “Millennial” generation is that no one can really figure out what we want. If nothing else, this piece offers yet one more convincing endorsement of that sentiment.

I’m 25 years old and have been interested in wine for about four years. In that time, I’ve not only learned a thing or two about regions and varietals, I’ve also learned a thing or two about obnoxious, condescending marketing campaigns. I’ll withhold judgment of Sacre Bleu’s wine, since I haven’t tried it yet, but what I will say is that I — like most discriminating members of my demographic — find nothing of value in mindless ad campaigns that appeal to our most prurient sensibilities. “Pushing lifestyle rather than product” is not a way to make us like your wine, nor even to taste your wine… it’s a way to get us to blog about how pathetic and misguided your company must be.

A partnership with Live Nation, a totally irrelevant and non-wine-related entity, is not a “genius” marketing move, but rather a degrading insinuation that my peers and I are apparently too dumb to make informed purchasing decisions based on the attributes by which wine has always been evaluated: region of origin, varietals contained therein, history of the vineyards and the producer, data pertaining to the specific vintage, etc. Despite what the people at these marketing firms may believe, “future serious wine buyers” ARE reading trade magazines, ARE checking vintage charts, ARE establishing relationships with local vendors whose opinions they trust. Yes, we utilize the internet as well, but we don’t completely reject the tried-and-true methods of the past. (We’re not re-inventing the wheel here… we’re just buying more wheels than twenty-somethings used to typically buy.)

You want someone who’s 25 to like your product? Here’s an idea — make it delicious, make it interesting, and offer it at a good price. The website I run is full of reviews of wines which have succeeded in doing just that. These are the bottles that are stacked twelve deep in the cupboards of our apartments… these are the bottles that accompany us as we check our e-mail and watch Colbert. Sell your wine to us as if we were your average 40-year-old wine buyer, except a little more adventurous, and a lot more impoverished. If you take nothing else away from this, please: push the product, not the lifestyle.

Marketers might do well to watch this video of some young winos sharing some bottles and talking about what informs their purchases. No texting, no tweeting… just good old-fashioned drinking.




2 Katie Pizzuto October 30, 2008

Jesse, you’ve got some valid points, but I have to disagree on several things. You are the exception to the general rule. Most people your age do NOT have 4 years of serious wine experience under their belt. The point of wines like this (and I’ll include Yellow Tail here as well) is to act as “gateway” wines and hopefully get a young generation to begin enjoying wine and then explore from there. None of us started out drinking Petrus unless we were inherently rich.

In a market as saturated as this is, you truly have to fight for every inch of shelf space, and if a winery has the forethought to move down other avenues of advertising, like concert promotion, I think it’s a step forward. Beer does it…why not wine? Do we really have to take ourselves THAT seriously? In the end, no matter how much I extol wine as the nectar of the gods, and wax eloquent about it, it’s a BEVERAGE. We should remember that. And while future wine buyers may begin checking the rags and the charts at some point, they certainly don’t go directly there if they have no interest or curiosity. The point with this campaign, like I said above, is to get it into people’s hands….you can’t always do that sitting on a shelf. Being the wine of choice available at a concert venue will do that. After that, it’s up to the beverage to be good….if it sucks, consumers will not drink it again and no campaign is slick enough to overcome that obstacle.


3 Jesse Porter November 2, 2008

Thanks for your reply, Katie. I want to clarify a couple of things. In my original response, I said I’d been “interested” in wine for about four years… I don’t know what in that statement led you to assume I have “four years of serious wine experience.” The first year, in fact, was spent in ultra-beginner mode: grabbing colorful bottles off the shelves at grocery stores, sticking to my two favorite varietals, etc. After realizing I wasn’t getting as much out of my wine consumption as I potentially might, I bought a copy of Wine For Dummies and read it cover to cover the summer I turned 22. That period was my “gateway,” my first tentative foray into the wine world — a much more organic experience, I think you’ll agree, than having some marketer shove a bottle of something dubious into my hand at a rock concert.

I absolutely did not “start out drinking Petrus,” nor did any of my friends — there seems to be this misconception that young people who take wine seriously must have money to burn. (To this day, my modest wine collection is composed almost entirely of bottles costing $20 or less — and the “daily drinkers” that fill my cupboards retail for less than $10. My friends and I aren’t wealthy, we just happen to prioritize wine. We’ll skip that extra frozen pizza or carton of ice cream if it means grabbing one extra bottle at Trader Joe’s.)

Your last point illustrates what I think is at the core of this unfortunate trend of pushing the “lifestyle” rather than the product: the idea that wine is “just a beverage.” When we equate wine to beer, or soda, or juice, we do ourselves a huge disservice, because what makes wine so unique is exactly that it’s NOT just a beverage; it’s so much more. It’s culture, it’s history, it’s a thousand names of a thousand obscure French villages, it’s untold scores of bizarre grape varietals that most of us will never try. I didn’t buy a copy of Beer for Dummies, or Soda for Dummies, because beer and soda posses no mystique; they don’t stimulate one’s desire to learn more. Wine, when approached in a healthy, exploratory way, beckons the beginner into a beautiful world of knowledge, and romance, and memorable quests for the next delicious bottle.

However, when wine marketers choose to present wine as just another beer alternative — something to sip on because it’s tasty in the moment, and that’s it — they risk turning a whole generation of potential devotees into a disenchanted consumer group who will just move on when the next tasty beverage comes along. You don’t engender a lifelong love of wine by encouraging young people to drink it while they’re preoccupied watching a band perform. You do it by taking them seriously, by appealing to their youthful thirst for knowledge and exploration — and, of course, to their burgeoning palates.


4 Katie Pizzuto November 2, 2008

Jesse, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. what I meant by serious wine drinking is that you took it seriously and began researching and learning, which is what most wine lovers do when they start out. Having a marketer shove a glass of something in your face (though I don’t think it’s fair to call it “dubious” as it might very well be a good wine) is not what is happening here. It’s simply what’s available if you choose to buy a glass of wine from the venue’s bar. I don’t understand why you would have a problem with that?!?

Second, my comment about Petrus was not an assumption that you had money to burn, in fact, I’m assuming that you don’t, as most of us don’t. I was making a point that almost NO ONE starts out with “serious” wines. They start out with some unassuming wine that leads them down the path you are now on. I will also add that I think there are plenty of beer aficionados who appreciate the subtleties of a well-crafted brew, who would disagree with how you’ve lumped them in with soda. In the same breath, I would venture to guess that there are plenty of artisan soda makers, hand-blending their quality root beer with real sassafras or such, who would then disagree with being looked at as something less than a wine maker. To say that beer or soda possess no mystique is to snub the passion that others have for THEIR beverage of choice.

I have worked in marketing for over 15 years and I know first hand that most 20-somethings want wine demystified so they can understand it. The mystique will return naturally for them, once the intimidation is gone. As long as it is viewed as something more than a delicious beverage to accompany a good meal, the intimidation will continue. Again, I’m not talking out of my ass here, as a 30-something thinking she somehow intuitively knows what will attract a 20-something…it’s what TALKING to 20-somethings has taught me. What I would ask you, at the end of it all, is this: What would you suggest? In a wine market such as this, where I already said that every wine maker struggles (and I mean that word literally) for shelf presence, what steps should they take to make themselves be heard? How should they go about asking their future customers to give THEIR wine a try as opposed to the thousands of others in their price point? Concert promotion is an opportunity to get it into hands that might not have otherwise picked up the product in a store. At least that’s a start. Then, as I said, if their product is inferior, they will NOT gain loyal customers, but if it is, they may very well start someone on the path to better wines.

Thanks for all your commenting, Jesse. I truly appreciate you taking the time to be heard!


5 Galen Struwe November 4, 2008

Interesting exchange. Jesse, I love your cynicism, as explosive and misguided as it may be in this instance.
I suppose that I had not considered that Sacre Bleu was engaged in a “mindless ad campaign designed to appeal to your most prurient sensibilities”. I assumed Victoria’s Secret had that pretty much cornered. And imagine my surprise to learn that a brand partnership with Live Nation, certainly a non-wine entity, would evoke such a how dare they reaction. We’re we supposed to go to Riedel? And I’m not exactly sure how it’s “obnoxious or condescending”. You really didn’t elaborate on that.
My real hope is that the brilliant irreverence found in the name “Young Winos” is, at its core, a cry for a transformation of old wine conventions, a demand that template advertising featuring vineyards and sunsets go the hell away. That stuff wasn’t working on you guys anymore. You can’t be sitting there tonight hoping to see the next bottle with a lizard, kangaroo or stately Chateau on the label wondering what Spectator is going to write about it. Reading your comments, I thought for a moment that you were making your parents argument for the sanctity of wine, a real meet the new boss same as the old boss affirmation. Live Nation, my ass. Give me Food and Wine.
You are right, however, about one key thing. At the end of the marketing/branding and bullshit trail, the juice better be good.
Our meritage, Cuvee Gustave Fayet, won a Decanter 2007 medal as well as a commended medal at the London International Wine Competition. Our white blend CVM has been praised by wine critics from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Miami Herald. Had I not fallen in love with Gustave Viennet’s wine in 2007, I could never have mustered the will or passion to make any of this happen. And I ain’t in it just for the money.
I love the Young Winos. The group is articulate, obviously outspoken and committed to wine. That much is certain. I love your caution about Sacre Bleu. It’s necessary today. For many people in your demographic, you are the canary in the coal mine. What we are doing is only the beginning. Wait until the big guys get a load of this. The industry is not known for its marketing originality. Should Sacre Bleu become the next big thing, the game will change in a big way and not all of them will be as tolerable as this.
Open a bottle tonight. Be kind. Be real. You’re on to something.


6 Chris Walker November 5, 2008

“Millennial generation”? Is that what we’re calling my spoiled and overly coddled age group? Nice to see we’ve been given a name. (Before anyone gets their panties bunched, yes, I’m aware that is a brash overgeneralization.)

Initially, I don’t find Sacre Bleu teaming up with Live Nation to be genius marketing. If I’m attending something like a Nine Inch Nails show the last thing I’m thinking about is drinking wine. If anything, I’m going to drink beer. The only thing that could persuade me to drink wine over beer at a concert is if, let’s say, the beer was $9 and the wine was $6. But even then, I’m only choosing the wine because it’s cheaper, not because it’s particularly good. I’m not in the mind-frame to be introduced to wine at a concert, and I love wine. A concert – whether it be NIN, Rise Against, or even New Kids on the Block – just doesn’t seem to be the proper setting. Live Nation also sells tickets for Jerry Seinfeld. I guess I could see drinking wine at a Seinfeld show but how many twenty-five year olds are actually shelling out the hundred-plus-dollars to see Jerry live? Not very many, so there you’ve missed your target demographic.

Having said that, now that the Sacre Bleu / Live Nation alliance has been brought to my attention here, and after reading the heated debate in the comments section, I’m more inclined to pick up a bottle and try it should I see it at the store. If the Sacre Bleu / Live Nation thing hadn’t garnered the attention it has here I probably would’ve just ignored it. So, I guess in a sense the marketing has worked in an indirect way.

Now considering the debate here, I find myself agreeing with Jesse in a lot of ways. When it comes to wine I don’t want to be pushed a lifestyle. I don’t want wine to be stuck in my hand when I’m having “the best time possible”. Chances are, it will spill and I’m too busy enjoying said best time rather than focusing on what I’m drinking. I don’t text about wine. I don’t “tweet” about wine (I don’t even know what “tweeting” is). And to assume this is how you’re going to “get me” insults me more than it inspires me. As Jesse said, a blatant and misguided advertisement campaign will have us blogging about how ridiculous it is before it will have us embracing your product.

Hoenstly, if you want someone who is 25 or 26, like myself, to like your product just make it good and offer it at a reasonable price. And reasonable is subjective. I walked into my local wine shop a week ago and told the owner I was looking for a good French pinot noir; I like them earthy, perhaps “stinky”; not overpowering like typical Californian pinots, but delicate and intricate. He asked me how much I wanted to spend. I said around $30. He showed me a bottle, I bought it, and I loved it. It was everything I asked for. Once I loved it then I inspected the brand further. Not the other way around. Granted, I can’t drink a $30 bottle every night but because it was so enjoyable I immediately went back and bought more. I will open the bottles with good company, on special occasions, or on that simply deserving, random Saturday night.

I could continue but I think Jesse has already made the good points. (Aside from dismissing beer. How dare he?) And I think if everyone were to go back and read them they’d discover that they’re not as cynical or misguided so much as they are absolutely true. (I mean, how can you disagree with him or me? We are your target demographic, telling you how we feel about this issue. And we’re wrong? Okay then, tell you what, we’ll just go back to finding wine how we did before and make it a point not buy your product. Thanks for alienating us.) Basically, I like that Sacre Bleu is trying a new approach to reach new people – specifically younger people – even if I don’t think using Live Nation is a great choice.

I don’t know, maybe you should set up tastings at Whole Foods, somewhere we shop where there’s a good chance we’re actively searching for a new, exciting wine. This bar and lounge in Reno called Imperial comes to mind, too. On the weekends it turns into a beer and a shot or a two-part cocktail crowd but during the week people my age go in to hang out, eat some surprisingly good food, and have a couple drinks. Try and feature your wine on the menus of places like that (Imperial actually has a nice wine list). I know that if a server, or a wine-equivalent of a “Budweiser Girl” came up to me at Imperial, explained the wine a little, and recommended I try it I probably would because that’s the setting in which I’m interested – not at a concert. I don’t know, I’m just trying to offer creative solutions rather than just complain or say anyone is wrong. Ultimately, something you’ve got to remember is “Young Winos” are a self-motivated bunch. We’re out there searching for you, all you have to do is make yourself available. If we like your product we’ll introduce it to our closest friends. And they listen to us more than they listen to you. You can’t make the “Young Winos” either, we make ourselves, or we’re influenced by elements marketers cannot control. Then we, in turn, make other “Young Winos”. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth, especially in this digital age.


7 Jesse Porter November 6, 2008

I really appreciate everyone continuing this dialogue. Let me just address a couple points that have been made:

First, I certainly didn’t mean to disparage beer (or soda). There are certainly excellent and interesting examples of both to be discovered by the savvy consumer. The obvious difference, though, is in public perception. Most people aren’t intimidated by beer or soda. Most people don’t harbor an insecurity that they “don’t know enough” about beer or soda, as so many do with wine. No one walks into a bar, takes a look at a long line of taps, and begins to worry, “uh oh, what are my friends going to think if I pick the wrong one?”

I’m essentially just a proponent of the de-mystification of wine for my generation. I want my peers to feel the same nonchalant confidence looking at a wine list as they would ordering any other menu item. Due to the enormity of the wine “discipline,” however — the sheer number of regions, varietals, and producers at play — getting to that point of confidence is not a particularly easy task. It requires a certain determination to undertake a long period of thoughtful, critical discovery. It can’t be achieved by mindless engagement with wine; i.e., just drinking whatever you’re given without taking the time to truly engage with it.

That, in essence, is why I’m not a fan of offering young people their “gateway moment” out of a proper wine context. If I taste a bottle of Sacre Bleu at a wine bar, or in an informal tasting group with friends, there’ll be an opportunity for reflection: I’ll learn what “meritage” means, I’ll learn about the grapes involved, I’ll learn why the wine tastes the way it does. If a glass of the stuff is just put into my hand at a concert, however, there’s no opportunity for reflection or critical thinking. I miss out on 90% of the “wine experience,” because I’m just treating it like a beverage, nothing more. You don’t cultivate wine lovers that way, you cultivate passive consumers who have nothing more invested in your product than they do their breakfast cereal. If I drink wine all the time, but have no idea what I’m drinking or why I like it, then wine hasn’t been at all de-mystified — and I’ve gained no more from the experience than if I was drinking Miller Lite or Diet Coke.

Katie, your “what do you suggest” question is a good one — and Galen, no, I’m certainly not advocating a return to insipid “vineyards and sunsets” ads. Whatever creative means you employ to market your brand, my major piece of advice is this: sell us the whole wine experience. Embrace the fact that wine IS something more than just a beverage. Young consumers aren’t just thirsty for something quaffable and tasty; they’re thirsty for something fulfilling on an intellectual level too. Call it “the sanctity of wine” if you like; we’re not opposed to that idea! There seems to be an unfortunate perception that we’re a generation of wine agnostics, that we don’t care about the history or the culture or any of the other “wine geeky” stuff. But we do! There’s a reason that total beginners show up at my tasting groups. They don’t want to just get drunk — they’re there to learn.

So I’d agree with Chris: show us your wine when we’re already in a wine context (grocery store, wine bar, whatever). Get your wine into our mouths, yes, but also provide us the other 90% of the experience. Give us tasting notes, tell us why your Chard doesn’t taste like a Chard from France, explain where the “petite” in “Petite Sirah” comes from. The “wine-equivalent of a Budweiser Girl” idea that Chris mentioned is an inspired one: a company rep (in a cute costume, if you like) mingling with customers at a club or a wine bar, talking about the cepage, explaining why “meritage” is pronounced the way it is, etc.

Just giving us a glass of wine out of context not only does us a disservice on the receiving end, but does your wine a disservice as well. There’s so much that makes your wine unique, and we ought to know that stuff. And, more importantly, we WANT to.


8 Katie Pizzuto November 6, 2008

Jesse, you make a lot more sense to me now, if for no other reason than the fact that you are being constructive. I think it shows a lot that Galen is out here willing to have a dialog not just with those that think Sacre Bleu is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but those that critique and criticize. I think your opinion is invaluable, as is Chris’, and thank you for taking the time to express yourself fully, rather than simply leaving a curt line or two. If the rest of the wine world could just do me a favor and stop posting photos of dudes with their nose in a glass, I would be ETERNALLY grateful!!!


9 Michelle Bard November 19, 2008

Just to add – my circle of 20s and 30s friends, of which I am a member of the former, generally enjoy our glass of wine, liquor or beer over a game of Wii. (The girls are drinking the wine, and the boys are drinking the beer. That is exclusive.)

While I wouldn’t remember the TASTE of the wine that I had at the Jerry Seinfeld concert, that I DID shell out hundreds of dollars to attend, I would probably recognize the Sacre Bleu NAME and label from attending such an event as Live Nation, and would probably then pick up the product if and when I saw at the local store or Trader Joe’s.

I don’t think the taste of the drink is going to pull someone in while at the concert. They will be preoccupied, BUT name recognition is what it WILL be about. And I would venture to guess that this mission will be accomplished. This will pull in some new drinkers.


10 Katie Pizzuto November 20, 2008

Michelle…thanks so much for adding your thoughts…your point is a valid one. While your attention may not be focused and honed on the wine you’re tasting, at least the brand is beginning to build recognition, which is what I repeatedly discuss. But it is overwhelmingly important that the wine be GOOD because if you pick it up at Trader Joe’s and then realize (in the comfort of your home) that it sucks, you won’t ever go back for more OR recommend it to your friends which is equally as important. So, as you said, if the goal is awareness—mission accomplished.


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