The interesting thing is that photography could do lots of different things for wine. It COULD be about the tasting experience. It COULD be just about selling the product and packaging recognition.
But I think it COULD be so much more. I should point out that the whole reason for this blog is not to sell any wine, but to talk about how important wine is, or could be, in our society.
Let’s take them separately so I can explain my thinking, and the differences.
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A TASTING NOTE
As we have discussed, there are those who are already trying this, in particular Chateau Petrogasm. The point of the image is to express something unique or descriptive about what is INSIDE the bottle. They do not need to pick a brand for this as this concept applies to any wine. This is a very useful addition to the communications armoury of any winery or retailer.
The limitations of this, in terms of adding to the general perception and role of wine, is that it targets those who have pretty much already decided they could buy this product, but they would like to know a little more about exactly what they will experience when they open it.
But what about the undecideds?
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A SALES DRIVER
The important point that Andrew made was that selling wine requires context. I agree. He mentions the kind of photography he likes, and happens to be very good at, which is wine and food. The photograph acts as a means to communicate an ideal occasion and partnership for the wine, be it food or location.
There may be people out there who had not yet conceived of buying wine, but whose occasion matched the image (dinner party, specific food match, …) who would be influenced by the communication of this image.
The trouble is, neither of these reasons does what I set out to do, which is to use photography to say something about the role of wine, or a SPECIFIC brand of wine, in an individual’s life or generally in our culture (the wine conversation).
[Photo by Wine Scribbler (Andrew Barrow) :: Unfortunately for a post about photography I do not have access to photos of these topics as I have simply made them up, so to brighten up this post I am borrowing one of Andrew Barrow's excellent photos for you to enjoy.]
PHOTOGRAPHY AS BRAND COMMUNICATION TOOL
Lots of wines will taste of brambles and spice. Many of these wines will be a great match for lamb and lentils. But which would you choose?
How about the one that is drunk by a George Clooney look-alike, whilst resting in a large leather armchair in an oak panelled room, and being served his food on a silver tray?
“I’ll have what he’s having!” It says ‘I like old fashioned luxury’.
Or maybe it is a wine that has refreshing citrus and exotic fruit flavours? Maybe you’d choose one that was matched to a grilled fish with cous-cous and aubergine tapenade drizzled with olive oil and set against a Greek sunset?
But how about the one that has diamonds drizzled in a glass instead, and shows the sunset from the deck of a yacht whilst the pristine white towel sits on the deck chair awaiting its mistress’ return from her dip in the sea?
“I’ll have what she’s having!” It says ‘I’m a modern, independent person used to always getting the best’.
This is branding. I could go on and maybe vary the target groups a bit more. How about a message about an active, independent retiree enjoying a moment of well-deserved relaxation with the family? Or how about a young woman surprising her partner with a bottle of wine as a little bit of just-affordable-luxury with their fish & chips to celebrate them buying their first apartment together?
The message does not have to be about the wine or even how it is consumed. It should be about what makes this wine different from all other wines, and what buying it, or consuming it, says about that person (even if they do not like it).
Champagne does exactly this. Spirits do this. Why not still wine?
Wine has not really come to terms with this and continues to focus so much on the product itself rather than these ‘extended’ features of the brand, something which is second nature to anyone in most other consumer marketing fields.
I am not advocating selling wine solely on this basis, as one of the things that separates wine from many other products is its “agricultural/natural” authenticity and individuality, and its continuously evolving nature. However, wine is a luxury, whether we like it or not, and there is a LOT of competition in this field from people and products who can do this better.
Whilst thinking about this topic I have browsed through the latest wine magazines on my desk and the quality of imagery in the advertising, other than for champagne, is woeful. I thought about it, but decided I will not even bother to reproduce them.
If wine producers ever want to sell their wine for more than simply the cost of production, and sometimes not even that, then they are going to have to start communicating some of the ‘other’ benefits of their brands.
So, is there a photo out there that says some of these things above about wine (ANY wine) without actually having to involve a glass or a bottle? Or at least only peripherally?
What emotions, actions, associations … do we have with wine that could be expressed visually so as to say something new about wine?
Maybe this is a meaningless quest, but I think it is worth at least asking the question. No?