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Jancis and the Blue Nun again

Although she fails to go with the Blue Nun part of the story, Jancis Robinson MW has also written about the spurious data about wine sales above £10.

It must be said that spreading the rumour about others spending a lot on wine could be useful. As Mark Earls points out on his ‘Herd’ blog, we are heavily influenced by what others think and do, so “if everyone else is paying £10, then maybe I should too” might have an effect.

Maybe some independent merchants could do a follow up on this story and recommend a series of £10 wines that would demonstrate how much better wine was at this price.

I quite like the idea of copying the diamond marketing concept, you know the one … “everyone knows you should be spending at least the equivalent of one month’s salary on your diamond engagement ring” (I noticed that a few years back they tried a campaign that said two months!!). If style mags and newspapers picked up on Decanter editor Guy Woodward’s comments and established £10 as the minimum to spend on a wines as a present or for a dinner party, it would at least raise the bar (so to speak).

Copy cat actions

Thanks to mark e who left me a comment on my post about motivation.

“btw I suspect the trick is to get people doing something neat that others can copy. The enormous social signal of a pint glass with ice in it is just such a behavioural meme.

On wine suggestions:
Hugh at http://www.gapingvoid.com and his Stormhoek have blended something to suit the ice-cube usage occasion.”

That story came out the day after I posted my thoughts I think (I regularly read gapingvoid, although he is more focused on Microsoft’s Blue Monsters at the moment). Copying an action is one thing, copying a “trademark” action is another, as it will always strike the consumer of the copycat that they are being manipulated in this second case, possibly making them re-evaluate the original.

Some of the pre-teen-friendly pop groups succeded by creating dance routines that the teeny-boppers could copy (e.g. Steps?). Many others followed, with greater or lesser success, but ultimately it becomes part of the marketing repertoire and therefore loses its power.

When it comes to alcoholic drinks, I assume that the target markets are probably aware of this and therefore that the “tail” of this copying action will be short, however I may well be proven wrong.

I don’t know this, but I imagine that “Herd” memories are short and that is why we keep making the same mistakes, so I guess ice manufacturers are going to be in business a little while longer.

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?

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