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A question

A question for a dreary Wednesday morning:

(I am trying to get my head around this and I am sure many people will have different views)

How important is the varietal on the wine label?

Any thoughts? Has anyone come across any diverging views?

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!

Marketing Innoculation

So Threshers and Stormhoek are at it again (no I will not link to it, but I suspect you can find it easily enough) – you can read my previous views here and here.

Having just spent 6 weeks trying to rid my body of an infection, I don’t have the energy to fight a marketing “viral” campaign too, but I think that the consumer “body” will be better able to resist it this time around – although I may be wrong.

My own view is that resistance is low at Christmas, but that at the moment the word of mouth element will be sufficiently dilute for it not to take control. It would be amazing if it did, but there are probably enough deal junkies and gapingvoid ‘disciples’ to spread the word. However, how many times can Hugh do this before he ruins his own credibility and that of the brands he works on?

Let’s wait and see. I suspect the answer will be inconclusive, with a rise in sales to justify the action but not nearly the same impact, vindicating the opponents.

New Packaging – Wine Tetrapack

I have been suffering from one of the worst chest infections in my life and have been unable to taste or even think about wine clearly for the last month, so apologies for the extended silence.

As I was shopping for milk in my local co-op convenience store the other day, I came across one of the latest novelties in packaging for wine. The tetrapack.

I have seen the format before, (I am thinking of French Rabbit from Boisset) but I hadn’t actually seen it on shelf before. I was intrigued to find this in a small store in my local area, so I bought it for curiosity’s sake. Unfortunately, when I opened it to try it, I couldn’t taste it, so I have no comments on the quality of the wine.

The wine in question is Andrew Peace‘s masterpeace Australian Chardonnay, launched at the Australia Day Tasting in January.

Is this the future for wine? Let me think about some pro’s and con’s first.

On the positive side;

  • It weighs less so it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to ship
  • The opaque carton protects the wine from the harmful effects of bright sunlight and UV
  • It is a sterile, sealed environment unlikely to become “corked”
  • It gives greater surface for marketing messages and useful information
  • It is easier to store; no wine rack required
  • I believe it is supposed to be recyclable
  • It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with and which is becoming more popular
  • On the negative side;

  • It has been done before for the cheapest of the cheap wines in the days that these were undrinkable (things have improved even at this level in the wine trade), and is therefore tarnished with this perception
  • It is still made from plastic and various metallic compounds, so how environmentally friendly can it be?
  • You get no visual clues at all about the wine. Think of the attractions of rose wines, deep gold sweet wines, etc. All wines will look the same, or at least the colour the marketer/printer want you to think it is
  • Bottle shapes have always been a differentiator, not just on weight for ‘better’ wines, but classic regional shapes like the tall bottles from Alsace, or embossed Chateau-neuf-du-pape
  • It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with
  • None of the pros and cons immediately jump out at me as “killer” reasons for or against. This packaging is likely to be used only for cheap, young wine to be drunk immediately, so convenience will matter. And if, on balance, it is more environmentally friendly to produce and dispose of, then even better.

    So, is this the future of wine? I don’t consider myself an old-fashioned wine purist. I am all for the screwcap and other modern closures for example. However, I am not convinced by this format for the simple reason that it further reduces wine to a mere convenience beverage, one that happens to contain alcohol and be made from grapes.

    If we are to educate consumers about responsible drinking, encouraging them to drink wine but to do so in moderation and hopefully at a quality level that will bring them pleasure, then it is important we do not “dumb it down” too much.

    Wine branding is not only about building a name and image for the producer, or even of the region, but for the product category itself. This isn’t about being elitist (although I recognise it could sound that way), it is about building a sensible Culture of Wine. Quality packaging is integral to that I think. That isn’t to say we should stick to glass per se, but I would like to see something better differentiated than a carton.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is it, but it is certainly something to ponder further.

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