Beer, Wine & Spirits

Champagne wants to be millennial women's drink

Source: Veuve Clicquot

Americans on average drink only one-third of a glass of champagne each year, according to internal research from Veuve Clicquot. Seeing room for growth, the LVMH brand wants to turn the bubbly drink from something you sip on special occasions to a beverage you pop on a more regular basis.

"Americans are more and more interested in wine, and the proliferation of wine bars in this country is extraordinary. … The more consumers understand and are educated about what champagne is and what goes into making it and the whole process and all of those components, the more they are willing to pay that higher price," said Vanessa Kay, president of Veuve Clicquot USA.

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Veuve Clicquot traditionally advertises at upscale events and publications, including creating the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in New York. It also launched a global print ad campaign called "Let Life Surprise You" in the fall of 2015. But to really change perceptions — and not lower prices, which start around $50 a bottle — the brand launched its first digital ad campaign, focused on introducing the company to an influential demographic: millennial women.

In March, Veuve Clicquot released three digital short films on YouTube and Tumblr focusing on telling the story of the woman who ran the company through the lens of the modern millennial woman. It's continued the campaign by curating images of women drinking its bubbly at social events, as well as creating GIFs and other social media around the materials.

"For us, it was about how do you reposition as something delicious that you can enjoy with your friends or people that you care about, even in more casual settings?" said Brian Carley, chief creative officer at agency Rokkan. "How do we make it the preferred drink of book clubs? If you bring a six pack of beer to a party, why can't it be a bottle of champagne?"

It turns out focusing on women is a natural fit for the brand, Carley said. LVMH's other champagne brands like Dom Perignon tend to skew more male, he pointed out. Given the history of Veuve Clicquot, it was the perfect label for a female focus. The company was founded by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron in 1772. He died in 1805, leaving his widow Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in charge. Madame Clicquot became the first woman to run a champagne house and is credited with popularizing the brand.

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Digital-focused ads allow the brand to introduce itself to new consumers who may not have heard of the champagne. It also allows Veuve Clicquot to use new storytelling techniques to explain what goes into a creating a bottle of champagne, how it differs from cheaper cava, sparkling wine or prosecco, and, most importantly, why it's worth the money.

Tyson Stelzer, wine writer and the author of "The Champagne Guide 2016-2017," said adding to the buzz about the brand was the fact that the Madame Clicquot story was detailed in a New York Times bestselling book in 2008, which was optioned for a movie in 2013.

Stelzer also pointed out that the U.S. is the third-biggest consumers of champagne, following France and the U.K. But the wine saw a dip in popularity around 2007 when the global crises hit since it is considered a luxury product, Stelzer added. Now that incomes are starting to rise again, he said champagne could be poised for its comeback. As "foodie" culture continues to grow, more people willing to spend more on dining. Add to that the increase in cocktail culture and millennial demand for premium liquor.

"There is a global trend towards greater elegance in taste," Stelzer said. "People are looking for wine or food with more subtle flavors. There's opportunity there for champagne to work better as a wine style that goes through the whole meal."

Veuve Clicquot could be in a good position to meet increased demand. Stelzer said. He said it's the second largest of the champagne houses, and it recently announced plans to expand production facilities. The project is estimated to cost 200 million to 300 million euros.

"The biggest challenge to champagne going forward is balancing the cost of production to the cost to market," he said. "It's one of the most expensive wine styles to produce."