Hey Millennials, wine and liquor marketers think you have a target on your back

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It’s wine, Jim, but not as we know it.

Last month, a pair of essays I wrote ran in Slate. The first focused on the rise in “gender-specific” spirits (i.e. vodka designed for women, flavored cognac engineered just for men), the second dealt with pop-culture branded wine (i.e. Downton Abbey wine, Duck Dynasty wine).

Two very different topics, but one disturbing thread connects both:  clearly, wine and liquor marketers think Millennial drinkers have a big old target on their backs. What I heard over and over again was, “it worked when they were kids; it will continue to work now.”

Consider this comment, from the gendered spirits article:

Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist at University of California–Davis (coincidentally, a school famed for its winemaking programs), sees parallels between how toys and these candy-like alcoholic beverages are marketed…“The people who were children in the 1990s when I started to see toys color-coded by gender, pink and blue, they are becoming young adults,” Sweet observes. And “they are used to gender differentiation in products.” In other words, millennials are desensitized to gender-specific marketing; many have never known anything else.

Alongside this comment, from the pop-culture wine article:

Millennials in particular grew up with branding, and they don’t think anything of it,” says Kara Nielsen, a consumer strategist for CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insight. “They grew up with a cartoon character on their toothpaste. This is like Mickey Mouse-branded treats for the grown-up set.”

A note to the over-21 Millennial set: when you were a kid and someone handed you a blue SpongeBob Squarepants toothbrush or a pink Disney princess toothbrush, you probably didn’t have much choice in the matter. You’re an adult now, with an astonishing array of choices before you. Please choose wisely. It’s your prerogative to choose candy-flavored whiskey or Star Trek-branded wine if that’s what you truly want, but please, make sure that it’s YOUR decision. Don’t let marketers decide for you.

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