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In 2012 please bring the 99% something different

There have been a few “New Years” posts that have tried to peer into wine tinted crystal balls and extract ideas of what the new year will bring us. When I say us, I’m referring to the wine world and its future trends, sales and “movements”. Will Bio-D continue to be a force? Will China finally begin buying other wines and not just help to drive the price of Clarets through the roof? Will the “up and comers” up and come?

I don’t think I need to join in. David Lowe, did one of the better wrap ups when he asked top movers and shakers what they thought. I heartily recommend clicking over to read the lengthy article.

Therefore, I just want to make one request of wine writers, wine pundits, wine authors and the rest. It’s two pronged the request, and does have some caveats, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Let me know what you think.

The request I have is quite simple: Please take yourself LESS seriously. Wine is a liquid with flavor. It’s not going to bring the end of the world, nor cause mass panic when priced incorrectly or when the author happens to share a lunch with the person who made it. I know this is hard to believe, but wine is supposed to be fun. Turns out the consumer, or the 99% of consumers who do not spend more than a 20 on a bottle of wine, don’t give a damn about wine beyond making sure it helps to lubricate the social situation they are currently in. It’s my wish that this idea, of wine being fun, can seep into wine communications in 2012.

That said, I realize there are a few of you out there who need to cater to the 1% of people who do care if the the total volatile acidity is greater than or less than the average wine drinkers attention span, or whether the choice of egg shaped fermentation vessels really has added a .00003% decrease in tannin harshness. I’m willing to bet that about 5 of you could manage to maintain this vital content. To you 5, please keep it up! You’re doing great.

To the rest of you wine writers who were not included in the elite group of 5 I mention about, there are still lot’s of options.  I’ll assume the rest of you are the ones complaining about the loss of column space about wine in the local papers, the downfall of a privlededged lifestyle which demands that one must enjoy long lunches and late night punditry over wines that they can’t afford unless offered to them, in a purely objective context, by the winemakers themselves. I can’t say I blame you, but as they say, “you gotta get paid”.

To do so I reply:  move on to new pastures, or get creative.

Give me, no give us, the 99% of wine drinkers, something to bite off and chew on, full of new flavors and ideas. Give us context. Give us stories. But above all, give me something we haven’t seen before. No more fruit flavored adjectives ladled over healthy helpings of regurgitated geek speak. It’s giving us indigestion, and for the most part, constitutes a lack of creativity and independent thought.

Don’t start another blog this year, with your thoughts on what  the wine you bought at the local corner shop tastes like. Do something different. Think outside the box. Or maybe get into boxed wines. Wine fashion, what dress pairs with Cabernet? Wine architecture. While a waste of money IMHO, there are plenty of killer buildings whose stories have not been told within this world of wine. How about beach wines? I always wondered what wine pairs best with the light saltiness that clings to my lips as I climb from  the Mediterranean on a July afternoon. Explore the world with a new perspective, one that acknowledges wine as beverage and not as a sacred cow.

I know this request will be laughed at by some of the “serious wine writers” who will claim that they are doing “serious business” here. And while I my disagree, I’m willing to play along. Let’s look at one of the big news stories from last year: Bordeaux and its ability to price itself out of the market.

My take on this is simple. I heard far more whining about Bordeaux losing their minds and the harm that the pricing will do to the Bordeaux market than I heard about people offering alternatives. From my perspective, Bordeaux is selling fine. It’s value is over inflated due to the string of “once in a century” vintages, but  really, who is maintaining this market?  The journalists themselves? Most likely. Every year, they are invited and coddled at tastings during En Primeur, journalists accept their invitation, “forcing” them to cover a historic wine region. Thus giving much of their time to a region that does not really need the help.

I say let Bordeaux go this year. I like Bordeaux, but give them a reason to work for their reputation. Take a risk, stick your neck on the line and help build a region that is not stuck in history, where the marketing of its wines are not linked to 100+ year old competitions.  If you want to do the “serious business” of wine writing right, cover the news that as of late Bordeaux is more of an idea than a wine.

Do we really need more long lists of tasting notes from Bordeaux? Burgundy? Napa? Others? Do we really need more speculating about what the old guard is doing today?

The 99% says no.

If a smart and influential wine writer wanted to do some good for the average wine drinker, they would spend more time putting pressure on the local retailers to up their game; to make the supermarkets take responsibility for their appalling selections and pricing; to help the growers demand fairer prices in the market; to help educate consumers to upgrade their purchase and thus kill the evil 3 for 10 virus that seems to spread like a cancer.  Why not give us a week of consumer focused writing and punditry, rather than complain about lazy wine regions that coddle the wine press.

2012 is going to be amazing. I know it. A blank slate waiting to be filled with stories and travels. I just ask all of you “communicators” to reach out this year and try something different. Just because you always have doesn’t mean you always have to. There is plenty of opportunities in the world today to make a buck or two writing about the things you love, you just need to make sure you put a new twist on it.

Cheers,

Ryan

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@BVWines protecting minors from the existence of wine, since Nov 18th 2012

1 picture might not be enough in today’s fast paced world

A picture is worth a 1000 words, or so the saying goes. Personally, I’m starting to think this idea is outdated in today’s world and even more so in relation to the photos you post online. Today, with every gadget and gizmo in your pocket having the capability to snap a photo, upload it and share it in real time, we the online surfers of this world, are constantly being assaulted with images that are at times brilliant and often quite forgettable.

I was considering this the other day when staring at a rooftop as I walked to my metro stop. The rooftop was nothing very special, but it created a nice negative space when presented against the deep blue sky. By itself, on a wall in a frame with a nice touch of sepia or black and white, the image might have been perfect to complement a room or become a talking point in a conversation. It was then that I realized that the same image when presented online, might at its best get a retweet or two, or maybe a stray comment on flickr, but would more likely stream past in a flurry like one unique snowflake tumbling to earth lost in the blizzard of others content.

Marketing your brand can be quite similar, and I think that to better understand what it takes to make your snowflake stand out you need to understand how to make that rooftop photo more relevant. What the photo of the rooftop was missing is a story. Something that links one idea to another. 1 photo in a post on a blog is nothing. Most likely you can give me any photo you take and I’ll find 300 just like it. But if you give that 1 photo context, and a relation to an idea you could keep me interested for a longer length of time.

Taking the rooftop photo example, imagine if I created an album of rooftops from around my town of Terrassa? Or images of the building who’s roof caught my attention? Weaving these images with small bursts of focused text in a post begins to give me a reason to stick around and keep reading.

Same thing goes for branding. One mailing, one website(by itself), one Twitter account, these are not going to do anything to further your brand. They provide no value by themselves. It’s only when you link them or use them to create layers, of stories, ideas, or contexts, that the real magic begins. If you havea winery with 200years of history, that is one layer, and while in some cases that layer can have influence it does have a expiration date and it really is not that unique in the world of wine. What about the story of today, or yesterday. What other stories are you forgetting to tell?

Think about what your “slideshow” is in relation to your brand. If you do you’ll be giving the consumer something to talk about.

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Great advertising is about message, not product

Many of my readers are not from the the USA, so may not have seen this advert (unless they happen to love American Football) but take 2 minutes and 3 seconds to watch this Superbowl advert:

Now, think back about how often the logo, the car itself or anything recognisable as “the product” were shown. They were there (so you see them the 2nd, 3rd … 22nd time you watch the ad), but they are NOT the message. The message is bigger than that, and the clever thing is that a strong, emotional message can be associated with the product with good advertising. In fact sometimes it actually makes it more likely if the product is not shown (think perfume ads).

How many businesses in the wine industry dare to advertise like this? Think, in particular, of “generic adverts” promoting regions such as Bordeaux, Alsace, etc. Or the battle to be the packaging and closure (screwcap, cork, ..) of choice. More often than not, they focus on the bottle of wine … and fail.

I’ve seen a few decent wine “Country” adverts promoting the wine alongside food & tourism, but they hardly break any mould.

I should point out that although I like the advert, it has little effect on me. This is a good advert for someone for whom “luxury” is a reason to buy a car. I personally think that Detroit has failed so massively because they failed to understand that more people are after practical cars with a much reduced impact on the environment (and not just modified versions of the same old stuff). Just as an advert for a wine, or wine product, I have tried and know I dislike would not appeal to me. However, it is a good way of communicating their message and helps you to change how you think about it even if you don’t buy it.

Oh, and an unexpected celebrity endorsement also works too

Is anyone doing something similar in wine? There must be some good adverts out there in print or video

UPDATE: of course, one thing leads to another and I start to see relevant content everywhere (though not wine yet). I LOVED this advert too:

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A spot of wine relief

If you live in the UK I’m sure you’ve heard of Comic Relief. If you don’t, please forgive the eccentricities of this peculiar little country, but there are times when you just have to do something a little out of the ordinary.

Wine Relief

Comic Relief is a charity event, based around “Red Nose Day” on March 18th, that gets millions of people involved in raising money for charity, mainly through comedy and making a fool of yourself in public (those not always being the same thing). The charity supports projects in the UK and Africa mainly, and counts on the support of thousands of volunteers, and a great many celebrities.

One such ‘celebrity’ is Jancis Robinson, who with her husband Nick Lander, has helped to coordinate the wine trade’s participation in this event under the banner of “Wine Relief”. I’ve been involved in these projects in the past, including quizzes and tastings. In 2009 they raised over £880,000! I’m sure they aim to smash that this year.

I encourage all of you to make some contribution to a worthy cause if you can. The easiest way is to buy more wine. There are plenty wines to buy (with 10% of proceeds going to charity) from many retailers such as Virgin Wines, M&S, Waitrose, Majestic, Booths, Wine Rack & Laithwaites, so you can contribute at the same time as enjoying some nice wines. There are some reviews of these wines on Simon Woods’ blog already, and I hope to check a few of them out myself soon too.

I hope to take part in a BYO evening with a difference (plans being made as we speak), but check out the Facebook page for information, links to offers and events, and join in the fun, and let me know if you have plans (or better still, “Like” the Wine Relief 2011 Facebook Page and leave a note for others to see).

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