Wine marketers hoping to get their message across to mobile, fickle 20-somethings have their work cut out for them.
While research shows these young people are embracing wine earlier and at a greater rate then either Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, these so-called Gen Yers or Millennials — broadly speaking those born between the late 1970s and late 1990s — are proving impervious to traditional marketing and advertising methods.
"You need to be authentic with this generation," 29-year-old journalist Nadira Hira told hundreds of wine executives gathered in Santa Rosa Tuesday. "This generation craves sincerity. We've been lied to &#8230; We don't believe you."
Hira was a keynote speaker at the second annual Direct To Consumer Symposium held at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel. She is a reporter for Fortune magazine who focuses on Generation Y and how its embrace of technology and social networking is changing the nation's social and professional landscape.
Gen Yers are skeptical of traditional advertising and marketing, recoiling from heavy-handed efforts to tell them how they should think about products.
"Nobody wants you to beat them over the head with your brand," Hira said.
They want to explore and experiment and share their discoveries. While this creates great opportunities for new brands, it also presents challenges for turning these fickle folks into long-term customers.
Hira said her generation is this way because of how they were raised. Their Baby Boomer parents were "overinvolved and overindulgent" with them, staying in close contact with their children through college and beyond, thereby "stretching out their adolescence."
"We think we're special," she said.
In many cases they've moved back home, and have put off marriage and home-buying far later than previous generations. This makes them far less rooted. They're great with technology and social networking, but often have poor social skills.
They define themselves less by the place where they grew up, and more by the choices they make in their lives.
"We want everything in our lives to reflect our values," she said.
She suggested wineries get on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, and set up a blog on their Web sites with videos about what's going on at the winery.
But it's got to be real. It can't just be a bunch of old marketing materials slapped up on a blog.
"Think authentic, don't think marketing," she said.
In addition to being fickle, these young people are also profoundly mobile in the way they communicate, Tweeting and text messaging like fiends, said Michael Becker, vice president of mobile marketing firm iLoop Mobile Inc.
There are a billion personal computers in the world, but 4 billion cellular telephones, which are getting smarter every day. Web sites are great, but they're only a start. Wineries must find ways to gain access to the increasingly sophisticated phones of tomorrow.
"If you not engaged in mobile, you're missing your audience," he said.
Calistoga winemaker Edward Ojdana, owner of the tiny Vineyard 511, said he came to the event to brush up on his online marketing skills. A brand as small as his — just a few hundred cases a year — is too small to be carried by distributors, so he needs to figure out how to best sell it to consumers directly. Appealing to the younger generation is a challenge, but he said "you're never too old to learn."