Are You Adjusting Your Marketing To Boomers?

Never Bet Against A Dog That Tells You They Can't Play Pool 
"If you aren't starting to make some adjustments in your current marketing strategy to Boomers, you will lose your most important current wine buyers sooner than you think, and another winery will pick that consumer up who will adapt to their changing preferences."
My mother plays pool, has an occasional nip, likes pink and is a dog. She's actually a wonderful person, but I've been trying to break her from nipping for years. Now it seems the years themselves are actually slowing down her nipping, which isn't good for the wine industry when considering her in terms of her Mature Cohort. A non-nipper wouldn't be the person a winery should try and attract. (Don't play pool with her either.) 

My mom can nurse a large bottle of moscato for a month. Obviously if she is representative of her generation, when it comes to developing a strategy to attack the geriatric set there are probably better places to invest your precious resources. But if you listen to many in the wine press, they will say its the Millennials. I believe if you sell fine wine and that's what you are going to do, I suggest you would be better off investing in my mom's cohort today because they can at least afford your wine, if you can convince them to buy it.

Millennial Myths

We've been writing for years on the Millennial Myths, the most prevalent one being Millennials are driving fine wine sales. That's absolutely false. They aren't driving sales and there shouldn't even be a debate. I found -this article- from 2009 which is a good example of the kind of confusion that's been layered onto the discussion. Take for instance this quote:
"the U.S. ranks third in total wine consumption, and is gaining rapidly on the leaders. Much of the (3.3% ~ 850,000 case) increase can be attributed to the Millennial generation"
Market Share of Wine Sales Sorted by Cohort
It wasn't true in 2009 and isn't true today. What is true is the Millennials have the highest growth rate, but like all segments with low numbers of consumers, the high growth is because of the small base versus the growth in the nominal consumption of the segment. 

The chart directly above is one I used for a speech in Sonoma in May. It's from a survey we do of West Coast Wineries and shows that Millennials represent less than 15% of total wine sales. That's pretty consistent with Nielsen information as well.

Don't Market to People Who Can't Afford Your Product

The way I make practical sense out of the avalanche of miss-communication and demographic-goguery, is to break it down into component parts. Buyers of anything have to have the willingness and the capacity to buy. For example, my 20 year old Millennial daughter wants a new Range Rover - she has the willingness. But as a sophomore away at college, she doesn't have the capacity in her budget. I've heard some people argue that you need to market your wine to the Millennials now because they are the future. In the same breath, I've seen market research on Millennials where they feel they aren't being catered to because they want less expensive and better wines. The truth is DOMESTIC wine should be marketed to Millennials as a category, but its the lower priced wines that attract those consumers today. For now though, lets just stipulate to the belief the Millennials have a greater willingness to drink wine than any previous generation ( .... its not a proven fact either because the data aren't available from previous generations, but lets just go with it.) Do Millennials have the capacity or disposable income to buy fine wine?

I looked to the most recent information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau on both wealth and income levels. The data reveal that the older boomers have the most wealth followed closely by the Matures, with Millennials having amassed only about 2 percent of the Boomer wealth still early in their careers. 

I also reviewed the top 20 percent of all wage earners sorted by age. Again its the Boomers leading the pack as the highest paid, followed by the Gen-Xers, the still working Greatest Generation, and last again are the Millennials. So if it was only the capacity to buy, that information might suggest a winery should have a plan to go after the geriatric set since they have the capacity. The problem is, the older generation doesn't have the willingness - or maybe the kidneys to be a dominant cohort in wine sales. Back to the question, where do you invest your precious marketing budget?

Boston Consulting Group Matrix

The answer isn't binary. Your marketing budget needs to be spread out a bit but focused largely between high growth segments, and those segments where you have a high market share. 

The basics of the now legendary Boston Consulting Group's Growth Share Matrix is pictured to the left.  My mother the dog as the chart shows, falls into a segment in the lower right quadrant that has a low market share and low growth rate. In the BCG Model, she is termed a dog and that is the cohort you want to put little if any of your marketing resources. The above chart on Market Share shows the Mature Cohort has a 14% share of fine wine sales now. That's about the same as the Millennials, but you should be investing more in the Millennial Generation versus the Matures because Millennials do have growth upside while Matures will be turning up daisies making them ineligible for wine purchases relative to Millennials. Plainly, there is no growth opportunity with my mom's generation.

Between the remaining cohorts - the Boomers and Gen X, where should you invest more of your attention and marketing dollars today? The Boomers are far larger than Gen X and they have more capacity to buy, but you really should be investing a fair amount of your time and effort now attracting new Gen X consumers instead of new Boomers. Gen X are - or should be, the current stars of the portfolio looking at the matrix. They are the consumers that are going to drive your sales growth higher as the Boomers kidneys hit retirement age.

It's True: My Mom Gave Birth to a Cow

To keep it fair, while my mom might be a dog, as a median aged Boomer, I am a cow; a "cash cow" to utilize the BCG model. I may not be able to beat my "Dog" mother in a game of pool, but I can swim better than her. I just need a little help lifting all that dead weight out of the pool these days. 

Anyways ...fine wine producers have to be relevant to Boomers because they have the highest market share in wine purchases still, and they will for some time yet. You need to "milk" the Boomers by spending less vigerously versus Gen X. You need to utilize this cohort to fund investments in product development and marketing to other growth cohorts. But if there is something you can do with the Boomers today in terms of investment, its looking for product changes that might elongate the length of time they remain your wine buyer. That is a very important consideration and worth contemplation and further investment. That will return a solid current ROI.

Why Will Boomers (and Matures) Slow in Wine Spending?

You may think that you are doing the right things to market to Boomers today - just like you always have, but that's no guarantee of their future behavior relative to your wine and purchase preferences. The Boomers are evolving and without adaptation of your brand strategy, you might find them growing away from you before the Millennials come to rescue your sales growth. I wouldn't expect the Matures to adopt Millennial behaviors that would keep them as a viable sales cohort .... generally speaking that is, but even they might benefit from answering the following question - Why will people slow their spending after age 60? Answer that and you will find a correct path to market to Boomers and even Matures as they age in the next 10-20 years. 

While part of the reason they spend less is retirement, the reason they will decline in market share is really because they can't continue to drink like they did when they were Millennials (sic). So the simple solution is, consider making some wines that are lower in alcohol but maintain the other attributes the older set prefers. That's easier said than done in the warmer AVA's, but there are available technologies to make a wine that has a traditional flavor profile and has less alcohol, and might fit their pocket book as well.

To that end, last week I came across an article advertising some new marketing research about the size of the Low Alcohol category. link. One statement in particular stood out to me:
"Once considered a niche outsider product category, lower alcohol wines are now growing in stature in many markets around the world. Across the 8 markets looked at in this report, buyers of sub 10.5% ABV wines now account for 38% of consumers, or in other terms, over 80 million regular wine drinkers -making a rather compelling case that this is a market sector which can no longer be ignored. From the 8 markets analysed in this report lower alcohol wines are currently performing best in the USA, Germany, Canada and UK where the number of lower alcohol buyers and consumption of sub 10.5% ABV wine is the highest."

I think that's where we should leave it for today. Hopefully that gives you some food for thought.

What do you think? Should you be spending all of your time marketing to Millennials? Are you investing in the best growth opportunity for today (Gen X)? Are you seeing declines in purchasing from Boomers and falsely attributing that to lower income from the recession? Are the Matures worth marketing to still? Where should you invest your precious marketing dollars and time selling your wine?

Please log in and offer your thoughts to the community.

Meet Ms. Irene

 I like to jog and swim. Many mornings I am at work early jogging around the field or swimming in the pool for exercise.

I like to make myself up and collect all sorts of makeup.

I enjoy cooking a lot. Last year I helped the students in grade 3 cook spinach that they grew in the garden and I plan on doing a cooking ASA (After School Activity) this year.

Watching movies is one of the things I like to do at home.

Surfing on the internet, too.

I enjoy traveling and seeing new places.

During playtime, I like hanging out with kids and helping them.

I enjoy playing board games with my son.

I love cats and have a pet cat named Tiger. 


10 Fun Facts About Me!

Today was our first day with kids at IST and I am so excited to get the year going. It is a great bunch of children! Part of the process of meeting and getting to know one another is sharing information about our personal lives. That is why I am excited to participate in Blog Hoppin's Linky Party. Today is Meet the Teacher Day!

1) I live and work at an international school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I love being an international school teacher. It allows me to work doing something I am passionate about while traveling the world and having amazing experiences. It also helps me meet wonderful people like my spectacular assistant Miss Irene. I couldn't do it without her!

2) I have an amazing, fun, supportive and all around wonderful partner who I get to work with at school too! We have lived in California together before moving overseas. We were in Malaysia first before Tanzania.

3) My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz and when I am down, I watch it to cheer me up. Once a year, my mom, sister and I would have Wizard of Oz night. We would get in our jammies, cuddle under the blankets with the lights off and sing along. I know the whole movie by heart.

4) I am addicted to my blog roll and follow many bloggers. The blogs I mostly read daily are teacher blogs, but I love vegan cooking, fitness and book blogs too!

5) I used to teach students with disabilities and was an administrator for 3 years before moving overseas. Teaching general education is relatively new to me as a professional and I love it!

6) Cooking and baking are the perfect way for me to relax. I am willing to try new recipes and have a little cook book collection going. As much as I love to cook, I do not eat beef, pork, lamb or much dairy. My decision to not eat mammal came to me when I was 10 years old, but the smell of bacon still gets me.

7) I can't leave home without earrings on. I collect them like crazy and often my earrings match my outfit.

8) Running is the perfect way for me to get going after a long day at work. I have a few running buddies in Dar and try to keep motivated to run weekly, although I do have a nagging back injury that won't go away for good.

9) I like watching sports and have gotten pretty serious into watching football. My favorite team is Chelsea! Really though, I will watch any sporting event and have a great time.

10) I am in a book club and often read multiple books at once. My favorite genre is non-fiction, but really, I love all books. In fact, the best part of my day is reading aloud to my students. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite children's authors.


Wine Sales In the Last Half of 2013

The Best View of the Housing Bubble Pre-Crash
I recall giving a speech in August of 2008 to about 125 growers and winery owners. The speech was on the economy and I pulled up the slide above to demonstrate what I was seeing ahead of us. This was at a time just after Lehman Brothers collapsed where it had become apparent that we had crested a market high in housing and entering a bearish period. What the chart says in brief, is the historical average ratio of existing home price divided by median 4 family income is 2.8 times. That's what the red line is. With a ratio of 2.8 times, if a family made $100,000 a year, they could afford a $280,000 home. You can see what happened by late 2006 into 2007.

We are taught in school that in economics, measures have a tendency to revert to the mean. But talking heads everywhere were suggesting back then that what we were experiencing was a normal correction. Maybe, but the chart above along with some other indicators told me otherwise and I suggested we were about ready for a nasty correction and reversion back to the mean, and that correction was going to be huge and take years based on the slope of that line. 

If that weren't enough, I also suggested the growth rate in wine would fall to flat (zero percent) growth. I really thought there was a strong chance wine sales growth could go into negative territory for the first time in memory - but predicting that would get me permanently banned from the Economic Optimists Union so I fudged up a little on the forecast. I was actually being optimistic on what was ahead for us, but people didn't hear it that way. My speaking invites started falling like the stock market. I've never been invited back to speak in front of that Grower Association again. From all sides the message was, "If you don't have good news to report, then we'll find someone who can." Well, OK then, go ahead and listen to your excessively optimistic speakers and see if I care. My dog still likes me and my mom still ...... well ...... my dog still likes me anyway.

"The housing correction poses the biggest risk to our economy. Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us." Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, 11/12/2008

This video was what we saw just months after the speech I made noted above. It was pretty stinking gloomy. The stock market was in the crapper and home prices crashed. With speed never before seen and perhaps treading on Constitutional Authority, the Government and Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson started to make investments in the Banks through the TARP program and several other initiatives. Ben Bernanke started to throw money at the financial system and economy. The banking system and Detroit were stabilized. But with the markets dragging bottom and hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown at US industry, the average voter started asking the question, "When do we get a bail out?" The answer came soon enough though most of America missed the memo when Fannie and Freddie were put into conservatorship to protect the US mortgage market from vanishing, causing a free-fall in house prices.

So where are we today? Fannie is actually starting to repay the bailout money (Self serving note: the Bank bailout through TARP was paid back with a sizable profit to tax-payers thanks to the strings Paulson put on that Bailout.) Of course Detroit is now going Bankrupt, but the American Auto Industry was able to rationalize their insane Union compensation plans, and has a chance to pay back a large part of that bailout, if not all of it .... well most of it anyway. The economy isn't healed but the most recent Case-Shiller Index had this happy news last week:
"As of May 2013, average home prices across the United States are back to their spring 2004 levels. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline is approximately 24 to 25 percent. The recovery from the March 2012 lows is 16.5 percent for the 20-city index."
Essentially the news is, housing prices are back! In the Bay Area consumers even see an overheated market again with multiple offers and short listing periods. So I was wondering now ...... just where is the recovery in terms of the measures in the chart at the top of this page? My speech back then said that we had to revert to the mean. Paulson said we wouldn't see the economy and markets recover until we had the bulk of the housing correction behind us. Did we get there? The current information out there suggests we have reverted to the mean and are now showing home values at 2.85 times median income. Of course the bad news in that is we will likely see growth in home prices slow now due to investors cashing out and more of the average mortgage payment going to interest, thus reducing the amount of house a person can afford. Being an optimist, we are at least not looking at another bubble. Housing growth will take place as median incomes rise.

Consumer Comfort Index at 5 year high
Don't get me wrong. There is a lot to do still to heal housing and the mortgage business. Banks aren't able to make home loans anymore and sell them as packaged securities. Prior to the crash, that was half of all new bank lending. Now it's 0%. Banks now have to keep the loans on their books or sell them to Fannie or Freddie for the present. While its nice to know they are starting to turn the corner, last week President Obama outlined plans for the wind-down of the Governments involvement in those institutions. Having just gone through qualifying for a home loan, I can tell you first hand that the mortgage business is dramatically different than it was.

In the SVB State of the Wine Industry Report released in January, we predicted bumpy going in the first half of the year and an upturn in the back half with average fine wine sales growth in the 4% - 8% range. While there are still plenty of variables out there that can throw that forecast off, I think at this stage with the good news in housing and retail sales hanging in still, its remains a good forecast.

The middle class consumer is showing resilience, housing is now below 6 months of inventory which typically signals a short market, and the Fed is talking about ways to slow their bond purchases in response to what seems like a healing economy. We have a lot to look forward to in the last half of the year, and I'm hoping my pre-recession gloomy speeches will be forgiven by the organizers in hindsight, and maybe my phone will ring again since I have happy news to report? Oh well  ..... at least my dog loves me.

What do you think? Where is the last half of the year headed? Are we going to hit my sales forecast for fine wine this year? What about the mortgage and housing markets? Are they going to stall or improve? There are lots of moving parts but please log in and offer your perspective for the community.

Do You Like Drinking Day-Old Wine?

My mom used to go to the Day-Old Hostess bread store. She would get apple pies and Ho-Ho's and freeze them for our school lunches. They were really good....maybe not that healthy but Hostess advertising said they were healthy snacks back then - wholesome goodness I think was the pitch line, and even day-old Hostess snacks never were stale. Of course now we know it was due to the overuse of preservatives which by themselves can cause a corpse to never decompose.

There is no Day-Old Wine Store for good reason. With Twinkies and Snowballs, freezing made the product usable on my schedule. With wine once its opened, you either drink the whole thing or risk letting the remnant oxidize. Personally, I hate oxidized wine but there's a dilemma. Do I drink a really nice bottle with dinner and have some left that might not be consumed? Or, do I drink a lesser bottle and not be as concerned if I have to dump it? Of course I can just drink the whole bottle, but the calorie thing is becoming a real problem these days .... maybe it was the Twinkies. Either way I blame it on my mother pushing me into addiction. Twinkies are a gateway drug you know.

I can't tell you how much day-old wine I've had to dump over the years. I'd hate to think about what that cost me; maybe thousands of dollars given my drinking habits stemming from my traumatic childhood. While I've not found a solution to my Twinkie addiction, I have found the solution to my dilemma of wasted wine. If you like this solution as well, there is a deal for you at the end of this blog - only for SVB on Wine readers.

Meeting Brain Pickers

Gadget to Hold Your Glass When Drunk

In my role at Silicon Valley Bank, I get lots of calls from people wanting to pick my brain. It's probably why I can't remember what day it is anymore. Brain pickers come in all flavors; as investors, the press, people with a business concept, and on occasion people who have the latest and greatest new product or gadget. Some of the ideas are novel but never has anyone presented me with something that I saw as a disruptive or transformational innovation. That changed in September of 2012 when I saw the beta model for the Coravin Wine Access System.

Gadget to Never Buy Wine Again
In August of last year I got a call from Josh Makower. He told me he had a product that "preserved opened wine for months" and "the transformational potential of the product for consumers, restaurants, and wine producers would be unprecedented!" To say I was skeptical would be a massive understatement as I've seen hundreds of gadgets in wine fail, but a few things intrigued me here. It turned out Josh had been involved with several successful medical start ups with Silicon Valley Bank on the Tech side of our organization, and he was a part of NEA which is a top tier Venture Capital Firm. He also said he was bringing his colleague Nick Lazaris who was one of the early CEO's of another of our technology start ups, Keurig.

The "AH-HA!" Moment

Gadget So Your Glass Never is Empty

Josh brought in one of the beta models of the Coravin system. With a special needle that's used in the medical field attached to a device that looked like a rabbit wine opener, he easily inserted the needle through the capsule of an unopened bottle. Then, pressing a button with his thumb and pumping in argon gas, he pumped out a single glass of wine. He removed the needle and the cork resealed itself. That was interesting but not earth shattering to me. Then the ah-HA! moment came: The bottle was half full, had the original capsule intact, and was first opened 4 months prior! This was not day-old wine! We popped the cork on an unopened bottle for a side-by-side comparison:  No difference whatsoever. The wines were identical. Now that WAS earth shattering. A wine that had the first glass poured months prior, tasted the same as an unopened bottle. My mind started racing to applications.

Gadget to Turn Wine into A Tree
I could have a glass of white, pinot, and cabernet every night at dinner and never worry about spoiling a bottle. Corked wine? A fine wine retailer or tasting room customer could take a very small sample and test it with reactive test strips to check for specific flaws before taking it home (First someone has to invent those strips). Tasting rooms could use an industrial version with a 1 ounce meter on the gadget that could be attached to a larger argon tank thus eliminating waste or accidentally pouring oxidized wine. My mom could drink her magnum of moscato one glass at a time for 2 months without the wine changing. That case of wine you bought a decade ago and stored ... has it reached the point where its time to drink it? The applications are limitless.

Product Release

On Monday July 29th; almost a year from the date I took the meeting, Coravin announced the launch of their new wine storage system. Robert Parker had interesting comments saying, Coravin is “the most transformational and exciting new product for wine lovers that has been developed or invented in the last 30-plus years.” He also posted a series of videos about the Coravin System based on his own testing. You can find those on his website.

Gadget to Make Sure You Spill Wine
I don't think the product is perfect yet:. The argon canister only contains enough gas for about 15 pours. It would be nice if that handled a few more glasses but I'm guessing we'll see more canister options at some point in the same way we saw so many different extensions from Keurig through the years. In addition, the product at first blush is a little pricey at USD $279.00. That said I drink a bottle of wine at that price on occasion so maybe its a bargain? Thinking further, after paying for the machine itself, we're talking about getting the freedom to try any wine in your cellar and not worry about spoiling it for 66 cents a glass based on 15 pours at $10 for a canister. Given the price of those bottles, the all-in price actually seems very reasonable, so I take it all back. Its a fair price.
Some of the skeptics out there might think I have a personal interest in promoting this. I assure you I don't. I haven't been asked to recommend this product by anyone and don't have any incentive. I'm just really jazzed with the utility of this gadget and the people behind it. The applications for the consumer, winery, restaurateur, and wine shop are game-changing. Me? I just can't wait to have any glass I want any night, or share any bottle with a friend without having to drink the whole bottle.

A Deal For SVB on Wine Readers

The good news for you is I did contact the founders last week to let them know I was going to dedicate the SVB on Wine Blog to the Coravin product. So while I don't get anything for recommending this, they have offered to anyone reading this blog, 3 gratis argon canisters if you buy a package between now and Friday August 9th using the PROMO CODE: SVBWine. You can do that through this link to the Coravin website.

As a final point, for those commercial wineries interested in trying this out, reselling these in their own tasting rooms at some point, or have other questions about commercial use, I've been given the contact at Coravin for additional questions and discussion. You can contact John Fruin, National Sales Manager here:

What do you think? Did you hang in there and read another exceptionally long Blog? Are you skeptical of this product like I was? Log in and offer your thoughts about this product or any other storage devices that you are using and appreciate.