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September 27, 2007

Marketing Wine: Gender, Generation or Knowledge?

Posted in: Marketing

Can we make assumptions about who feels most comfortable ordering or buying wine? At first glance, findings of a recent Harris Interactive/Robert Mondavi Private Selection study point to a generation and gender gap, but I say - look a bit deeper.

Damon Musha, the marketing director for that brand wisely made this point in the press release: “These generational and gender differences may be more a matter of knowledge than of age, sex or taste,” noting that the study also found that 69 percent of wine drinkers either strongly or somewhat agree that they would like to learn more about wine. The education/information-needing factor should probably have been the main focus of that study, but who’s quibbling?

The reality is that something much more significant is going on - beyond the thought that women and youngsters just can’t seem to grasp the subtleties of wine. Thank goodness.

Like so many other industries, there is a knowledge gap that transcends gender or generational differences in wine appreciation. A lot of people - young or old, male or female - just haven’t studied up on wine, so it makes them uncomfortable ordering it, buying it, or knowing how to pair it with certain foods.

The same would go for consumer electronics or financial services. Some people have been inspired to learn more and others haven’t yet made the leap - no gender about it.

Take me, for instance: I am definitely learning a lot from very wine-savvy friends, but up until maybe 10 years ago - I didn’t really have an interest, plus, I’m a woman (big surprise there). I don’t think the generation “gap” theory applies in my case because I didn’t automatically “know” about wine when I hit 40, somehow.

Also, I have plenty of guy friends who are as uncomfortable with it as I am. I have noticed no real gender gap, and I think many like me might default to our comfort zone - beer - so we don’t have to embarrass ourselves in beverage selection situations.

But, back to wine marketers: If they mistakenly took a feminized approach based on the supposed gender gap results of this study, that wouldn’t really serve men or women, would it? Rather, clever, humorous, common ground sharing, storytelling style marketing campaigns that even slowly educate would likely be a big hit for ALL of us with less knowledge.

As male and female roles merge and morph in this twenty-first century, highlighting gender differences should no longer be the easy answer for marketers. Instead, a marketer’s first steps should include understanding the level of industry/product knowledge that segment their customers.

By Andrea Learned, Learned On Women.

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