X marks the spot for wine producers

THE term Generation X causes me a few problems. I don’t ever remember it being discussed at school, it wasn’t mentioned in biology, accounting or human biology and it never popped up during an outdoor education camp.

But the X generation has created an enormous amount of interest among the marketers of Australia’s leading wine companies, primarily as a response to an aggressive and very successful campaign by many of the leading spirit companies to lock up the dollars spent by this so-called X generation.

Much of the X generation wine market has been lost to the appeal of the ready-to-drink market, with products such as Stoli Lemon Ruski leading the way. Be in no doubt, this age group drinks plenty of alcohol, but wine just doesn’t appeal to many of them.

For many of the younger drinkers in this age group wine just isn’t fun. It lacks the funky seduction that the spirit companies seem to offer and is seen as a drink enjoyed by an older age group. Wine companies make no excuses that they want a share of the disposable dollars the X generation has to spend.

What, then, is the X generation?

If you remember Barossa Pearl you don’t qualify, while those who began their drinking days with the delights of Summer Wine and West Coast Coolers are getting closer to the X spot.

Essentially, the X generation is identified as aged between 20 and 30 years, give or take a few years. I am in favour of the looser application of the age criterion as I like to think of myself as part of the X generation, as do many of my friends, at least those still without children.

Women in this category have been identified as the most important buying group within the X generation, driving wine companies like BRL Hardy and Southcorp to focus brand strategies on young females.

Having already captured the baby boomer market, wine companies are now looking to extend their target audience to reach the younger X generation.

The problem is how to entice these new consumers?

Many wine companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create new products and new fashions in marketing to the X generation.

Southcorp got the ball rolling a few years back with the Blues Point label and, at the same time, introduced a new term to the trade – concept brands.

Concept brands are not intended to last forever. They will run a natural course, in the way that Blues Point did and Soho wines did for Southcorp.

BRL Hardy has released its concept range of ‘Wicked Wines’ in an attempt to capture this same market, with encouraging results.

Bill Hardy from BRL Hardy said that, while some of the concept brands worked, others unfortunately didn’t. But the rewards of getting just one of these brands right justified the other attempts made to seduce the X generation of drinkers.

Stoli Lemon Ruski was one of the most successful concept brands ever launched in Australia, creating a substantial income stream for manufacturer United Distillers. The irony here is that Stoli is a wine-based drink.

The range of Hardy’s ‘Wicked Wines’ lives up to the image projected and includes Lust, Envy and Greed. The packaging is lively and it has plenty of spunk, and is aimed directly at the young female audience.

Moet and Chandon also has attempted to engaged in this market, although at the more discerning and potentially selective end of the scale, with its Piccolo’s, a 235ml bottle of fizz that makes drinking from a straw look stylish, funky and ‘in’.

Following on behind the eightball you find Yellowglen and Flirt introducing the same concept in affordable cluster packs of four.

Another to see the potential offered by generation X is Brown Brothers, which has not changed its label design for 17 years but has now recognised that it to needs to keep in touch with consumers and potential consumers, and has introduced change.

In many ways the young of today have a more rounded education available to them than their parents did.

This is having a flow-on effect in terms of wine appreciation.

To back this up you only need to look at the numbers of X generation wine drinkers enrolling in wine courses across the country, screaming for education and appreciation. Here in Perth, the Wine Education Centre is booked out almost a whole term in advance for its courses and, according to the centre’s Blair Hill, the classes are filled with a high percentage of young people eager to expand their knowledge.

It is not just the wine companies which are chasing this next generation of wine drinkers. Retailers also are recognising the need to capture this audience and, while a little slower to pick up on the value of the X generation, some have actively targeted the market using the mediums this generation has built itself.

Many retailers will not understand how to use email and Internet sites themselves but recognise that this is a medium that increases their appeal to the X generation.

Some newsletters have started to take out the wine jargon and terminology and replace it with a language that encourages, rather than discourages.

The media also has changed, with a new magazine launched late last year called Wine X specifically targeting this X market.

The magazine’s content is aimed at 18-30 year olds and includes not just wine but CD reviews, book reviews, fashion and wine region reports.

It unquestionably takes the old school out of the wine industry and puts contemporary fun and attitude and spunk back in its place.

The old school might spend more money on wine now, but the future generation of wine drinkers will spend more money as they indulge in their thirst for knowledge over time and become more aware of the delights of the world of wine.

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