Racy Wine Labels a Must for Millennials, Study Shows

June 15, 2012 - News Release

Understanding the preferences of the youngest wine consumers – millennials (aka Gen-Y) ranging in age from 19 to 35 – is no easy feat. Highly mobile, they are the emerging market of consumers upon whom the success of most brands now depends.

 Joe Barth and Statia ElliotIn a study recently published in the Journal of Product & Brand Management, Profs. Joe Barth and Statia Elliot, Hospitality and Tourism Management, found the majority of millennials choose wine based on package appeal, with racy labels faring best.

For the two-part study, beverage management course students created wine label designs, and the researchers surveyed more than 400 millennial consumers to assess label design and “brand personality” preferences.

“Products have characteristics associated with them, and these new wine drinkers really want their product choices to reflect their personalities,” said Elliot. “Our study shows that this is particularly relevant for young consumers, whether it is what clothes they wear, what car they drive or what they choose to drink.”

Millennials also influence their parents, says Barth. “Adults go along with it when their kids tell them which cellphone to buy or recommend a wine. The millennials are looking at the labels, front and back, and they want to find an interesting story to share with others – one that reflects not only who they are but also who they aspire to be.”

Branding is a key factor in a wine’s success. To identify and differentiate products, marketers must fit name, symbol and design in a small space on the bottle label.

The researchers found wine labels created by millennials are often non-traditional in image, name, colour and overall design.

Among the students’ names were monikers such as “Make Me Blush” or “4 Play” that left no doubt about the connection between wine and seduction. About half the bottles presented sexually suggestive images and correspondingly racy names. Marketers take note: millennials are not shy.

For the label design survey, almost all respondents were Ontario university students aged 19 to 22, with household incomes of less than $25,000.

“Older wine drinkers look for wines that convey ‘charm’ and ‘success,’ with labels that typically come in subdued colours,” Elliot said. “Millennials, on the other hand, consider themselves ‘spirited’ and ‘up-to-date’ – more modern and colourful packaging appeals to them.”

Generally, the respondents are young consumers who enjoy mid- to low-priced wine fairly often. About three-quarters of respondents said they drink wine at least a couple of times a month, and most spent less than $15 a bottle.

Prof. Joe Barth
School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext: 54867

Prof. Statia Elliot
School of Hospitality & Tourism Management
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext: 53971

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1