Gen Y, Millenials, Echos…who are you?

Generation Y had received a lot of attention from the media in the recent years as they were entering the market with a different set of attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles compared to their parents the Boomers. The wine industry is looking at this consumer segment as the opportunity not to be missed. I just finished preparing a presentation for the New Zealand Wine Business symposium held in Taradale, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand and thought I would summarise the current knowledge about this generation and what challenges it raises for the industry.

Generation Y, Millenials or EchoBoomers

Generation Y was the term coined by cohort specialists to indicate that this generation was following the quite undefined and misunderstood Generation X (X for generic). To distinguish themselves from the Xers, Generation Y started to labelled themselves Millenials since they were finishing high school at the turn of the Millenium. Echo Boomers is sometimes used to acknowledge that they are the Boomers children.

The cohort definition varies between countries and authors. The birth dates span between 1982-2001 is mostly used (Strauss and Howe, 2000); However in Canada, demographics specialists use 1976-1999 (meaning Gen Yers are 11-34  y.o., in 2010); Australia uses a narrower range 1982-1995 (14-27 y.o), or lately the cohort was described as the New Boomers who were born between 1983-2001 (9-26 y.o)

Attitudes, values and lifestyles

While preparing this conference I reviewed this Master thesis presented by Michael Wright at the University of Oregon in 2006, entitled: Psychographic Characteristics of the Millennial Generation: Developing a Market Segmentation for Use in the Wine Industry.

Wright reviewed 16 articles from academic publications, wine and more traditional media published between 1991 and 2006 and specifically attempted to use the findings and categorize them for three psychographic characteristics (i.e., values, attitudes, and lifestyles) by using a conceptual analysis method. His analysis led him to summarize Gen Y attitudes, values and lifestyles according to these 3 themes:

Theme 1: Millennials are not only environmentally sensitive, socially aware, and culturally diverse, but they expect to have a voice in these issues. They support companies that embrace these same beliefs.

Theme 2: Millennials are highly influenced by their peers, they and respond to playfulness and fun.

Theme 3: Millennials are technologically savvy. They want instant gratification and expect information will be available wherever they are, regardless of form.

How should the industry use this information to better communicate to Millenials?

The good news is that Millenials have started to drink wine and like red wine preferably (AC Nielsen 2007). They want to learn more about it, so they experiment a lot by trying new wine styles from different countries. US millenials are quite loyal to imported brands (Wine Market Council, 2007)

Traditional wine learning strategies that have been successful with Boomers   do not apply to Millenials. Indeed, these long wine appreciation classes convey an imagery of sophistication and exclusiveness that Millenials don’t look for. Moreover, wine appreciation classes send the message that one has to suffer through wine education to enjoy it (how many classes should I take to know which wine I like the best?). Millenials want to experiment, have fun, and receive immediate gratification. So industry needs to engage them differently. The more consumers find personal relevance in a product the more involved they become and the more loyal they remain!

The bad news is that they don’t recognize themselves in the current media strategy of the wine industry (Thach and Olsen 2006; Barber et al, 2008). The imagery communicated does not highlight important values such as cultural diversity, social gathering with friends, fun and playfulness.

The use of social media by wineries is exploding and the different SM platforms provide certainly tools to better interact with younger consumers. However they are rules in SM: don’t use it to promote your brand, but to establish a relationship with your customers so they can trust you. Word of mouth is the most trusted source of information of this generation since they rely on their peers heavily to make purchase decision.

Let me ask you now:

  • How do you engage the Millenials in your business?
  • What strategy(ies) do work best for you? Please share your Dos and Don’ts to pursue the discussion.


 Michael R. Wright 2006, Psychographic Characteristics of the Millennial Generation:Developing a Market Segmentation for Use in the Wine Industry. MSc thesis, University of Oregon-Applied Information System   64p

Nelson Barber, Tim Dodd, Richard Ghiselli. Capturing the Younger Wine Consumer, Journal of Wine Research, Volume 19, Issue 2 July 2008 , pages 123 – 141

Wine Market Council  Study: 2007 Consumer Tracking Study;

AC Neilsen Study: Millennials and Beverage Alcohol


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