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Beyond Hipster: Fresh ways to reach Millennials

Rowena Curlewis, CEO of drinks design specialist Denomination argues that to succeed at marketing to millennials, brands must combine unique design solutions to consumer problems and strategic rigour

Rowena Curlewis Denomination

For wine brands Millennials are an opportunity. Last year research in the UK and US found that Millennials have overtaken every other age group for wine drinking.

This may explain the slew of wine brands and packaging that is rehashing the same tired hipster imagery. They’re into quirky labels! Wines that look like craft spirits! They’re young, so funky is what they’re after!

This is too simplistic and will become less relevant as this cohort becomes older and starts gravitating towards a different lifestyle. How then to reach Millennials?

Epicureans or Developers?

Wine brands need to delve deeper into their target audience, understand what role their brand can play in their lives and then communicate it to them – primarily as always through label design.

Are they the adventurous type – described by Wine Intelligence as the Epicureans - who is interested in exploring beyond the mainstream? If so, deliver a label that feels different to the mainstream offerings, that appears more individual and that aids their understanding of the wine category, as opposed to the more traditional mass market offerings.

Or are they Developers, open to influence, but more risk-averse? If so, offer designs with enough conventional wine cues to reassure these consumers about quality and credentials.

Strip back complexity

Packaging which strips back the complexity of wine without dumbing it down, will be more successful in helping consumers to be less fearful of the category. For example, Le Chat Noir was developed to tackle the complexity of many French wine brands where often knowledge is assumed, and less knowledgeable consumers can feel anxious about their lack of understanding.

The design created for Le Chat Noir is still quintessentially French in style, with its Parisian poster-style graphics, but clearly communicates brand, region and varietal in a simple, up-front manner. There is no unnecessary or confusing language, but instead clear and simple communication makes decision making easy for new entrants, such as millennials, or for that matter, knowledgeable consumers.

Innovate on structure

Gen Y may love its wine but the general trend is towards moderating alcohol intake, and this is particularly prominent amongst millennials in the UK (Mintel 2017).

Falling consumption rates are a challenge, but where is the opportunity? What about all those unfinished bottles of sparkling wine losing their fizz? How could you help the consumer with that problem?

Enter Georg Jensen Hallmark Cuvée – a sleek, designer sparkling wine, with a shiny silver stopper. The brand impresses consumers with the sophistication of Danish design and the affordable price of premium Australian sparkling: luxury fashion at a high street price.

Consider venue

Whether it is the drizzle of Glastonbury or scorching Coachella, music festivals are where a lot of Millennial drinking happens. How can your brand offer something that enhances that experience?

They could look to the example of PinotPinot’s Sparkling Pinot Grigio. This can is portable and practical, but also labelled in a graphic style that feels designed for festivals.


Whilst all these examples differ significantly in style and are neither quirky, crafty nor funky, they nonetheless successfully target the millennial consumer. The truth is that strong and unique design solutions combined with strategic rigour will ensure your brand’s success.

The broad principles here – know your consumer, communicate with clarity, innovate, and consider how the product is used – are applicable to every single target market. But interestingly, a recent survey by the Co Op found that by 36-40 most people have settled into a wine rut. The Millennial is a critical consumer for the wine industry and the chance to reach them is now.





20 November 2017