Mixed Blessings

Poring Over Wine Data, Educated Women, Etc.

Wine buyers aren’t who you think they are. At least, they aren’t if you think that market begins and ends with middle-aged, well-to-do Wasps in smoking jackets. A report by Scarborough Research says a “new vintage of wine purchasers is hailing from a young and ethnic demographic.” Twenty-five percent of wine buyers fall into the 21-34 age bracket. Moreover, the report says the ethnicity of wine buyers “closely mirrors the ethnic breakout of the U.S. population, with 10 percent of wine consumers being African-American and 10 percent Hispanic.” Nor are the newer customers just swilling jug wine. Young adults are more likely than their elders to spend $20 or more on a bottle of wine. If the demographics of wine have outgrown the familiar stereotypes, that’s less true of wine-purchase geography. The metro areas where people are most likely to be wine buyers are San Francisco, Boston and New York. Wine buyers are thinnest on the ground in Charleston, S.C., Salt Lake City and Wichita, Kan.

Breaking through the fuzzy clutter of conventional alpaca-breeder ads, a campaign for a breeder in Ohio takes a romantic approach. If you were a female alpaca, could you resist the blandishments of a “Handsome single Peruvian male” who “enjoys walks in the barn, sleeping in stalls and pregnancy out of wedlock”? Another singles ad features a male who “enjoys the rural life” and “seeks adventurous female for night of romance, passion and, if we’re lucky, pregnancy.” With come-ons like these, is it any wonder Ohio is a hotbed of this nation’s alpaca industry? The campaign was created for C R Alpacas by Communications Factory of Mantua, Ohio.

Who’s more likely to have a college degree—a man or a woman? A new Census Bureau report suggests the answer depends on one’s age group. For the total population age 25 and up, 28.5 percent of men and 25.1 percent of women had at least a bachelor’s degree. Looking just at people age 25-29, though, the report says 31.8 percent of women and 26.9 percent of men held a degree. These findings (analyzing March 2002 data) are consistent with reports of an increasingly female skew to the student population. The report also says women age 25 and up surpassed men in the percentage who’ve earned a high school diploma (84.4 percent vs. 83.8 percent).

Perhaps fast-food marketers should embrace the rebranding of french fries as “freedom fries.” A new report from The NPD Group says Americans’ appetite for Gallic spuds was waning even before the U.S.-French contretemps over Iraq. Consumption of fries at fast-food restaurants fell by 10 percent between December 2001 and December 2002. It’s not that people decided to eat healthier, says NPD. The phenomenon is more a consequence of the rise in “dollar menus.” Consumers who might have bought a combo meal (which typically includes fries) are increasingly likely to put together their own combinations of $1 items, sans fries.

There’s no denying that vast numbers of Europeans despise the U.S. and all its works. But an eight-country poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project provides a useful bit of context. It turns out that Europeans are quick to badmouth their own countries, too. Asked whether they’re “satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going” in their country, 67 percent of respondents in France answered “dissatisfied.” So did 79 percent in Germany, 74 percent in Italy and 63 percent in Britain. Spain was the only nation surveyed where the “dissatisfied” vote was less than a majority (47 percent), though even there it exceeded the “satisfied” tally (41 percent). There was plenty of gloom among respondents farther east, with 89 percent of Poles, 58 percent of Russians and 81 percent of Turks saying they’re dissatisfied with the way things are going in their countries.

There are lots of extraneous items floating around in New York’s East River. Who can be sure the Loch Ness monster isn’t one of them? An ad for Scotland’s official tourism bureau raises that tantalizing notion as it promotes Tartan Day, a day on which New Yorkers will be regaled with marching pipers, a “Dressed to Kilt” fashion show and other such Caledonian delights. Mimicking a famous photo of Marilyn Monroe, another ad in the campaign shows a Scotsman coyly holding his kilt in place as the updraft from a subway grating threatens to lift it. Green Team of New York created the series.

The bad economy has yet to squelch Americans’ generous impulses. In a recent Vertis survey, 10 percent of respondents said they had cut their contributions to non-profit organizations during the previous 12 months. But more said they’d increased the amount of such giving, whether slightly (19 percent) or significantly (6 percent). Asked to identify the categories of non-profits to which they contribute, 53 percent cited organizations that deal with health, 49 percent mentioned religious entities, and 41 percent cited groups that assist children.

The problem isn’t that people have stopped buying stuff. For many marketers, the problem is that people are buying it too cheaply. Even before the economy soured, consumers had honed their skills as bargain hunters and developed an aversion to paying full price. Moreover, a prolonged period of price stability has made price increases (for anything but gasoline) seem out of keeping with the natural order of the universe. Now that household budgets have become more austere than they were during the boom years, marketers in many sectors find themselves bereft of pricing power. Still, a report by Miller-Williams says resistance to price increases varies by product line. Consumers were asked how much more they’d be willing to pay in certain categories “to meet your desires.” In the automotive sector, 16 percent said they’d be unwilling to pay anything more. This adamant stance was more common with respect to software (22 percent of respondents), personal computers (24 percent) and wireless communications (34 percent).