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External and Internal Motivation

I read a lot of different blogs these days, things I have come across largely through suggestions from other bloggers (that is the real power of blogging). Sometimes this is called something like “Google-drift” but when it is directed, then it is about learning and spreading your horizons.

One such blog is Herd: The Hidden Truth About Who We Are.

The most recent post chimed with my thoughts on my own recent post. If you want to understand what motivates people then you must realise that it is not just “internal” factors but “external” ones. We interact with those around us, we are part of a “herd” of sorts.

When it comes to building wine brands and motivating 20-30 year olds to be interested in wine and buy more bottles, you have to look beyond what you put on the label and what bottle it will come in, but to what factors would motivate that consumer to even get close to your bottle.

Magners did this with a combination of heavy investment in advertising (mainly tube and bus in London), breaking the mould of a stagnant category (cider) and offering a new format for its product (over ice). They got so many people talking about their product they HAD to try it – even if they hadn’t seen the bottle, tried cider for years or were even thinking about the alcoholic element.

The “cider conversation” has now spread wide enough that Magners cannot even cope with the demand from across the UK and the entire cider category is growing massively. They continue to advertise, but now it is about reach, not innovation; the consumers are doing that themselves.

Now, where is that wine conversation? How do we get 1 million 20-30 year olds talking about wine, any wine? Ideas on a postcard, please.

Wine over ice? No!
Apple wine? That’s just silly!
Chilled red wines for summer? Now there’s an option. Hmmm….

Appealing wine drinkers

The audience that could potentially have the most appeal to wine makers and retailers are those aged 20-30 who could then develop their interest in, and expenditure on, wine for the rest of their lives.

So how does wine manage to appeal to this appealing audience?

This is one of the things I am trying to think about on this site so I was interested to see that it was the main headline of research carried out for Vinexpo (the world’s largest wine show in Bordeaux every two years) with young people in the UK, US, Japan, France and Belgium.

(According to my sources – Harpers and OLN) Their recommendations were:

  • provide a younger image – moving wine away from the drink parents enjoy
  • change the perception that it is a drink associated with higher social classes
  • demistify wine
  • provide guidance

Well, I’m not greatly enlightened by this and if this is new thinking for the French, then they are a little behind what is happening elsewhere already.

To be fair, there are a few things that are interesting, but contradictory.

They say, for example, that young people say they are interested in wine because it is seen as “sophisticated”, but then they talk about demistifying it and changing its image to something more youthful. A very fine line to walk there. Surely it is better to build upon the existing image and make it relevant, not pop the bubble of wine’s mystique?

Also, they mention that young drinkers like traditional packaging (not tetrapack?) but that they also like branded wines that are not too obviously targeted at the young. Agreed! We are all much more sophisticated consumers of marketing messages these days and wine has to fight its corner along with Nike, Coke, Playstation, Nokia, et al.

Finally, they say they find the category confusing, so they want more varietal labelling. This is something I have trouble with as the two are not strictly related. It would be awful if, in their desire to chase this market, retailers chose only varietal wines that conformed to a specific taste profile. Does a varietal label really give more information, or is it just another “brand”?

I think there ought to be a campaign called “Variety, not Varietal!” (maybe there already is?). I think I should deal with this separately in more detail in future.

The thinking still seems to be that individual wineries and retailers can shape this market, but I think that this is unlikely. As I said above, there are a lot of competing demands for the attention of these young adult consumers from brands not just in drinks, but in every moment of their waking life. How is wine to be relevant and interesting to them?

What wine needs is a real, reasonable, fun and fashionable conversation to emerge concerning wine that 20 somethings can participate in, learn from and then use to improve their experience of drinking wine. That will need a much more concerted campaign by everyone involved in wine. Or lots of luck!

Independent Wine Education

First they go an cancel a perfectly decent wine column by Richard Ehrlich on Sunday. Then, they do a tie-up with the Independent to create a “Seven Day Wine Course” with Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR).

What is happening with wine at The Independent?

The inserts in the newspaper are coming out every day this week sponsored by, and with content provided by, BBR’s Wine School to generate interest in their Wine Club. The content is reasonable, considering you only have the equivalent of 4 sides of A4 to cover “Burgundy” (plus Champagne hidden on the back) and “Rhone, Loire & Alsace”, including main varietals, maps, vintage charts, etc. But the tone is odd.

My reading of these “fliers” (they are only folded A3 and remind me of cheaper conference inserts in trade mags) is that they are not sure who they are targeting. The content has to appeal to the “average Joe” reading the Indy, but are they interested? Is this taking a “populist” approach to bring in new wine buyers? I doubt BBR are interested in that market. Is it taking a high-brow approach, appealing to knowledgeable consumers who ought to consider buying better wines?

Neither I’m afraid. If you have to state that the main varieties of Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, then great, educate people! But then don’t immediately follow that with a statement like:

“Yields have to be kept low, however, for optimum quality.”

“Yields”? “Low”, how? “Optimum quality”?

And as for the design and layout, this looks at least 20 years out of date if not more.

I am not knocking BBR as I am sure their intentions in this are good and they are even trying to implement pretty up-to-date technology (see comments here and here). But I am not sure how much this “course” will help the cause of the UK Wine Culture. Couldn’t they have spent just a little bit more on editing and the layout, or is there some subtle message here I am missing?

The price of success – $3.99 a month

Interesting development to happen straight after my last post:

A special announcement from Vinography

Seems like I am in good company in reading Vinography, but I don’t think I shall be parting with the money. Sorry!

[EDIT: of course, it could all be a big April Fools joke - the timing is suspect and of course designed to get tongues wagging, but it would seem unusual to quote WS like this?! Does it make it more or less likely to be a fake since it is pretty much what Neal Martin did with]

[CONFESSION: If it is a joke, that's twice I've fallen for one today! Doh!]

[FINAL EDIT: I suppose I could claim extenuating circumstances: wine with dinner, the fact that here it is after midnight, so technically no longer April Fools, ... but the truth is, I fell for it. At least I know that Spaghetti doesn't grow on trees]

Wine Culture Online

This blog is still in its infancy and who knows how long it will last, nor if it will establish any regular pattern. I suppose random thoughts on a regular-ish basis is the nature of blogging, but to become a regular destination for people you need to establish your “voice” and your “theme”, just like any other publication.

So, while I muddle my way through, I thought I would maybe point to a few of the others that I read and who are contributing a great deal to the same debate in their own way, and which appear in my blog roll. These are pretty much all blogs that write about the nature and business of wine rather than tasting the wines themselves.

Jamie Goode
Jamie’s site is an engaging mix of wine tasting notes (some great and varied ones), thoughts on matters vinous (particularly closures) and his own life (dogs, films, music and making his own wine). I get a lot out of his blog and this post is a recent example of many of these threads in a single post.
Andrew Barrow has a number of different sites and blogs, and a variety of interests, but seems to be the main one. His blog combines a lot of news relating to wine as well as his enthusiastic support for a series of food & wine matching posts called “Combinations“. Not only are the dishes and wine matches explained, but he takes some cracking photos too.

Tom Wark is a California based communication and PR specialist who has an interesting view on the business of wine. Some of the “business” he discusses is specific to the US, so the regular reviews of the unbelievably complex and protectionist US wine distribution business are not always relevant, but are usually entertaining anyway. However, he has a lot of interesting points to make on branding and communication, and he recently set up an award for the best wine blogs (hence the link above) that is worth taking a look at.

Alder Yarrow is a well known US blogger on wine (and won the award above for best wine reviews) and is well connected to what is going on with the wine culture online in the US. I like his take on most aspects of wine culture and would recommend reading anything that falls under the heading “Ramblings and Rants“. He also includes reviews of wines (heavily California weighted as you would expect) and local wine bars which could be of interest to anyone travelling out there. Also, check out the main page where you will find a reasonably comprehensive list of wine blogs (I only say “reasonably complete” as I am not yet included, but it has hundreds of others, including ones in Spanish, French, German, Chinese, etc.)

These are just a few blogs I read regularly and that influence my own thinking and posting. Of course there are other sites (not blogs) like Jancis‘ site, Decanter, and more as well, but you probably already know about these.

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