Cute and Fuzzy Gimmicks That Won’t Work
If you’ve been paying attention over the past year or so, you’ve noticed that the wine industry’s employed new marketing gimmicks to target specific demographics, i.e. women, young adults, etc. My question is, do we really need “special” wines for women and young adults? Why can’t we just drink what everyone else is drinking? Is there something wrong with us?
I use the word “gimmicks” because that’s exactly what they are. They’re certainly not “campaigns,” as that would imply that the wine industry’s in touch with its target audiences’ wants and needs. And if you read any of the bullshit that accompanies these products, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
For example: A new label targeting women called White Lie Early Season Chardonnay by Beringer Blass. Do women really want or need a chardonnay called White Lie Early Season? I mean, really? According to Beringer Blass, they “developed a technique for making the wine that involved harvesting the grapes relatively early in the picking season when they have lower Brix (sugar content). This technique, dubbed Early Season™, results in a wine that is low in alcohol, sugar and calories.”
Okay. But since most white wines and certainly all red wines have very little (if any) sugar to begin with, what’s the point? And since the alcohol level of a wine “harvested early during picking season” is only about 10 calories less per glass than a wine harvested at the “appropriate time,” is this really an advantage? And what does harvesting “early” during picking season mean? If they’re already picking, won’t there always be grapes harvested earlier than others?
It’s the same gimmick that Brown-Forman used during the low carb craze. You remember that craze, don’t you? Lasted about nine months (Same length of time that the current Sideways “pinot noir” craze will last, but that’s a different column). Brown-Forman introduced One.6 Chardonnay and One.9 Merlot, which were supposedly “low carb.” (The “One.#” stands for how many carbs are in a five ounce serving of the wine.) Well, most carbs in wine come from sugar. Dry wine, no carbs. And, again, since most wines are dry, most wines are low carb.
Or take the recent rash of wine labels featuring cute (in some cases cuddly) animals or marsupials or amphibians. Are amphibians cute? Somehow these labels are supposed to attract younger adult consumers. Really? Does a young adult who’s drinking microbrews, single malt scotch and Ketel One vodka really need a cute fuzzy animal on a wine label in order to buy it? And will a cute label cause more young adults to rush to a wine store or wine aisle at their local supermarket? Ah... NO.
In this guise of “We’re making great efforts to reach out to young adults and women,” the wine industry’s doing exactly what it’s been doing for the past 30 years - cannibalizing consumers (the 35+ crowd), who’re already buying wine. Why? ‘Cause it’s easy.
Just as the Two Buck Chuck “phenomenon” proved that even low priced wine isn’t enough to bring new wine consumers into the fold (a study reported no new wine consumers were generated because of Two Buck Chuck; existing wine consumers were trading down), this latest PR attempt is only gonna sell more wine to the same people. ‘Cause I guarantee you, no 25-year-old would be caught dead with little fuzzy bear wine bottle label under her or his arm. Period.
We don’t need “special” wines. We don’t need Kool-Aid with alcohol wrapped with Garanimal labels. I mean, what’s next? Wine for the vertically challenged?
Give us your thoughts on this subject. We’ll put them here in the next issue.