Tag Archive - marketing

As my Riesling gently weeps

Wine glass and guitar

Ready for musical accompaniment

Riesling. It’s like the wine world in microcosm.

Wine experts love it but cannot understand why consumers don’t go gaga over it, but ultimately this is our fault.

Consumers have heard about it, and when it is poured in their glasses really do enjoy it, but feel confused by its many styles, provenances and the ways it is presented. However, it ends up with a depressingly familiar tale, with an elegantly circular argument:

1. Wine experts wax lyrical over the amazing complexities and variety (of Riesling) …

2. Consumers hear too many conflicting messages, get confused about the overall concept and cannot internalise the information, so ignore it …

3. Wine experts decide that their favourite grape is underappreciated and decide to promote it, so … [Go To 1.]

The BIG problem is that saying “Riesling is great” is that it is a bit like saying “Guitar music is great”. Of course there is great guitar music, no-one would disagree, but if I pick some at random am I going to get Rock, Classical, Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll, Folk, Heavy Metal, …

When complexity in wine is bad

The wine industry ignores this complication because they have lived in the world of wine for so long that they (we) see the myriad of styles as a positive feature, but for regular consumers it is a complication, a confusion, and ultimately a negative feature.

It means that the wine world sees the success of Australian Rieslings as a sign that consumers are rediscovering the grape, but they are left wondering why Germany and Alsace are still not benefitting.

The point is that the buyers of “Rock Guitar” Aussie, lime-citrus, steely, dry, crisp Riesling are not at all interested in the “Jazz Guitar” Alsatian honey-and-nuts Riesling, nor the “Classical Guitar” of German floral, citrus, mineral and high acid Riesling.

They buy Australian Riesling because Australia Rocks! and “Australia” in many cases trumps “Riesling”.

I obviously exaggerate and oversimplify, there are many styles of wine in each of these regions, but consumers don’t know this detail, so most work from limited experience and “common knowledge” models.

Common knowledge tells you that Riesling is sweet, cloying and stuff that is best left to the 1970′s.

Common knowledge may very well be wrong.

Common knowledge is VERY hard to change.

Let’s face it, for Riesling (and Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and many more, if not most, varieties) “varietal labelling” is a misleading simplification anyway. It doesn’t say anything really useful, or relevant, about what the consumer will experience from this bottle.

You cannot convince an audience that is not listening. Until the message we send resonates with the ultimate consumer, it will continue to be ignored. Wine writers need to find a way to write about Jazz Guitar for Jazz lovers, not sell the instrument to all. It means we have to understand the consumer much better, and speak to them directly, not shout and hope to be heard.

Some varieties are guitars, let’s play accordingly.

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Wine labels done right, a discovery at VinCE

A couple weeks ago I found myself in Budapest for the VinCE wine event – An event that is more consumer focused than trade, but a place to discover new wines and meet new people. I have to admit that I rarely find myself discovering  a wine label, or bottle design, at such events that makes me stop and say, “hey, now that is a great idea!” The wine world is full of copycats and formulaic marketing that usually bores me or fails to reflect the wine that it is supposed to represent. The wine inside a bottle is often either represented by a horrific label with a fancy font and ridiculous food pairing suggestions; or the opposite, by a label that is itself a work of art, meant for a museum, while the juice inside is second rate at best.

This year, one winery did stop me in my tracks to exclaim, “Yes, now that is what I’m talking about!”

Dénes Pécsi-Szabó, a young man from the Janus winery in Villány region of Hungary came up to me after the Gary Vaynerchuck masterclass and asked me to try his wines. Needing a reason to roam around, I found his table in the back corner of one of the main tasting halls, and within minutes I knew it was a good idea. Dénes, having very little time left in the day, quickly showed me his wines and the new labels that he was in the process of switching his wines to. Colorful and patterned I thought nothing of it at first, another pretty label. After tasting one of the wines, I remember noting that at least the pretty label contained some good fruit.

It was at that point that Dénes started to explain the story behind the label and I proceeded to inspect it closer. Turns out the patterns on the label had meaning. I’ll let Dénes explain in his own words how he worked with a designer to create them:

We created them with Marton Kenczler, Art Director of Kirowski Isobar. I used to work with him in film productions, and I wanted to bring a designer to create our logo and labels from an outsider world. Marci…had no knowledge or experience in the wine business.

We thought, that the old label is a little boring, as it was created to try to please all consumers and also family members of Janus Winery. We wanted to do something, which we feel[sic] closer to us, looks nice and sticks out of the Hungarian label crowd…

We both felt that the long label hugging around the bottle is a good form for what we want to do. Then I said one or two words about all of our wines, and Marci reflected with the symbols.

Rosé: Fresh, girly
Portugieser: wine for everyday
Cabernet Sauvignon: royal grape
Cabernet Franc: King of Villány Wine Region
Merlot: soft
Syrah: eastern influence, Big body

Using Icons as the base of the design the two decided that each grape would receive its own, unique icon. Therefore, each wine could reflect what was inside the bottle with a few visual cues. By playing with the quantity of each icon, they could give the consumer an idea of what the final wine might offer.

What’s interesting is that this winery was not only branding grapes, but branding them in a visual way that overcomes language barriers. Combine this with fun, lyrical label messages that play with the character of the grape, leaving out any silly food pairing suggestions, and they’re onto something fun and different.

Now I’m not saying that Janus solved all major problem, or that these are the most innovative label designers and marketers I’ve come across, but they took a risk to think differently. They realized that people do shop by grape, and by relating these to visual cues, can create deeper branding. Additionally, they stepped out of the wine bubble to consult a designer who is able to see their world differently. Objectively.

Yes this is a moot point for the first time wine buyer. They are not going to know the “system” when they first pick up a bottle, but it is the “plastic bull” idea – where the consumer, if they like the wine, has an easier route to brand loyalty [Back in my wine shop, if a buyer couldn't find a wine for their pizza on friday night, they defaulted to the one with the plastic bull around it's neck]. These symbols, when first noticed, can create enough curiosity for the casual buyer to connect with them, and possibly seek out new combinations. Beyond that, they represent what is inside visually, and thus go much further than most wine labels who rely on fancy art or funny fonts.

I have yet to taste the full range of Janus wines. This will be remedied soon, but I will say that the couple wines I did taste at the end of a long day were showing great potential. Wines that I would buy, without a doubt.

Wine marketing is a challenge in a sea of copycats. Thinking ‘different’ can be hard to do, but the rewards can be great. Congrats to Janus on their efforts.

Cheers!

Note: This label shown here has a music note icon. This icon has been added as this wine is the official wine of the Pannon Filharmonics Orchestra. In their mind the wines grapes blend with the music so they are shown together.

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A golden opportunity for all wine

You may have heard us talking about some exciting projects on the horizon, so we are very excited to announce Vrazon‘s latest project which will be officially launched at the 2012 London Wine Fair Access Zone, Wine Gold 2012. As we will be recruiting for ambassadors for the launch we thought we might give our friends and followers an early “heads up” so that you can get involved.

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

The European Wine Bloggers Conference is very grateful for having received the support of sponsors such as ViniPortugal in 2009, Austrian Wine in 2010, Franciacorta in 2011 and of course Wines of Turkey in 2012. The conference hosts have gone a LONG way to helping wine bloggers and wine lovers to learn about their wonderful wines and broaden their drinking horizons.

However, we became very excited when two of these sponsors, having met at the EWBC 2010 in Vienna, decided to cooperate.  The result was that the incomparable Willi Klinger was invited to give a keynote presentation to Portuguese wineries and the international Press at the Wines of Portugal International Conference (WoPIC) by their Portuguese counterparts.

Two regional generic bodies cooperating to promote great wines. A dream come true!

We are excited to be able to announce that Vrazon will be taking this to the next level with the support of generic wine bodies from all over the world in the Wine Gold 2012 action plan.

In the spirit of the 2012 London Olympics, UK based wine promotion bodies will team up on a ‘sporting’ agreement to promote ALL wine and not just their own narrow interests for the year.

Instead of campaigns to get already confused wine consumers to switch from one region to another, the objective of Wine Gold 2012 will be to promote the enjoyment and appreciation of all good wine. We hope to convince more drinkers that by taking more interest in wine, they can discover amazing expressions from places they’ve probably never even considered or heard about.

Just as the Olympics introduce us to new sports with unique attractions, such as beach volleyball and kayaking, without detracting from the ‘classic’ track, field and pool events, wine consumers can also look forward to a more varied wine experience.

Details of participating generic bodies are still under wraps while UK market managers negotiate the pooling of limited individual budgets to create the first truly effective wine promotion resource.

Planned activities include:

  • sponsoring national wine columns in newspapers and magazines that are actually entertaining to read
  • buying-up supermarket promotion shelf space so only UNdiscounted wines at real prices can be shown
  • sending UK pub owners on courses to learn how to select, store and serve wine so punters actually get wine worth drinking; the courses will involve them having to actually taste the stuff they are currently selling
  • funding an energetic campaign to improve the quality and variety of suggested food matches on back labels, taught by film industry sciptwriters. No more “goes with chicken but drinks well on it’s own
  • a seminar by the Dragons’ Den team for website and app developers to stop them wasting money on creating wine tasting note sharing services, and instead focus on something worthwhile
  • funding bloggers who are reaching new consumers by paying them to republish their best content in traditional media around the world
  • creating a ‘wine pioneer’ campaign that randomly rewards consumers for talking about their favourite wines online without making any reference to drunkenness, “shit-faced”, “getting bladdered”, etc. or discussing hangovers and hangover cures
  • establishing a “Castaway” style TV programme where supermarket buyers would have to spend a year working at a vineyard and winery to make wines they then have to sell to UK supermarkets for a profit

We look forward to working with our friends at bodies such as Wines of Chile, Wine Australia, Wines of South AfricaWines from Spain, Sopexa and others to make this happen and to help sell a better range of great wines from all over the world.

If you can think of any further projects that should be funded to promote “Wine” we look forward to hearing your views in the comments, and if you are interested in leading the charge in any of these areas, please let us know.

 

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Social Connections are still about people not stats

Small world story; as I walked towards my local coffee and sandwich shop, St. Davids in Forest Hill, I got an email to say my Foursquare mayorship had been lost to another user.

image

I didn’t know this lady, but I have to admit I felt slightly affronted than I should lose this title, despite it meaning absolutely nothing, to someone else. This is my ‘hood!

My step quickened and I duly checked in as I crossed the threshold, to discover I’m still two days away from regaining the title.

I brought up her details as I scanned the room. Not only had she taken my title, but she was from Pamplona – either a tourist or temporary resident. Oh, the shame of it! The indignity.

As I waited for my coffee, I replied on twitter, jokingly, that I would soon take my title back.

I heard get phone ping next to me, then decided it would probably be better if I introduced myself now rather than have her discover later I’d been tweeting from 1 metre away.

It turns out she’s here for a short stay to improve her English, and really enjoying London. As we talk, comparing the use of social media in the UK and Spain, she mentions she happens to hang out with a very “social” crowd. I ask, as an aside, if she happens to know another person I had met via twitter and Facebook from her region, not really expecting anything. Surprisingly, it turns out they know reach other extremely well …

… and we had made a strong personal connection despite this being a city of 10 million people.

I’ve been seeing some discussion lately about whether Pinterest was “better” than Twitter, or whether Google+ will replace Facebook. This is not the point. It’s not about likes, links, RTs, etc. it is about motivating interaction with a community.

This is not about foursquare, its not about twitter or any other communication tool. It is about individuals having the means to discover common links and connections, leading to real life interactions.

It is about how you, as an individual, business or brand, decide to use them. If you don’t bother engaging with people on them, it doesn’t matter what you use, you will lose.

If you still happen to believe these offer your business no value, you may be missing out on very real benefits, but don’t just chase the “next best thing”.

(posted from my mobile, so will have to add more links later).

UPDATE (18:06 added a few links for reference)

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Bordeaux: the biggest joke in the wine world?

Norman Wisdom Laughing

Image via Wikipedia

Something about the 2011 campaign told me that the Mea Culpas would come out this year – and I have a feeling I might be right. ‘We were arrogant,’ says Chateau Lafite MD Christophe Salin of last year’s wine pricing (and ‘timing’ – for which read ‘handling’).

And I think we can expect more of this in the run-up to the 2011 barrel tastings. Lots of hand-wringing and apologies and staunch, almost stoic, approaches to the current release. Yes, we behaved like greedy pigs, we’re sorry, we were shown the errors of our ways, now we can all look at the 2011 vintage with clean, clear, tear-dried eyes and tell the world that it needs to buy it. Fine, life as usual – only a little bit cheaper and with a bit more sober reflection.

But to those Chinese (I keep being told it was them that snapped up all the Bordeaux over the last few years but I’ll happily accept they weren’t the only dupes) and let’s also include all those billionaires, bankers and moneyed social pariahs from all continents, will you indulge me while I stick your noses in the H-word and rub you around in it?

The H-word is, of course, History. It’s out of fashion these days – and vastly underrated – but think about some of what the past now tells us:

1 - All this talk about Bordeaux En Primeur pricing reflecting the market is nonsense. If this year’s En Primeur campaign has already started with apologies, it isn’t because the Bordelais think that people will be less willing to part with stupid money for a bottle of wine, it’s because previous pricing has got them into a sticky and delayed situation. If – as lots of people used to claim – Bordeaux pricing (through the tranche system, etc.) simply adjusted to the market at the time of release, no one would be apologising and so publically self-flagellating in Bordeaux right now (see also John Kolasa’s bizarre ‘I have to follow the line’ statement – was that really passed by his bosses or was this a cry from the depths of the Bordeaux beast’s bowels?). No, this is happening because something from the past (ie. pricing policy) has come back to haunt them. Bordeaux pricing bears no reality to the real world – otherwise how could they be ‘arrogant’? And even if, in your tiny little mind, you think Bordeaux pricing reflects the market and is a perfect system, you surely must admit it’s quite clearly a very delayed system.

2 - Also think back to this time (and quite before) last year. Remember the Bordelais were already talking up the 2010 vintage. Not so this year. If one was exceptionally cynical, one might draw the conclusion that perhaps all this talk of past arrogance and inflated prices is only a ruse to sell a less-than-stellar vintage to an already bored/saturated market. But who would be so ungracious as to believe that?

3 - But it’s not just those in Bordeaux whose history we shouldn’t ignore. Look at the journalists and wine writers. They too are likely to re-hash a lot of this château-owner apologise-to-sell stuff. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of stringent opinions about past Bordeaux pricing policy come out of the woodwork over the next few weeks (to be fair to some writers, concerns were already being voiced last year). At this rate, my past writings and rants on wine-life.co.uk will soon take on what can only be called the blandness of the self-evident. But attacking Bordeaux pricing policy a few years ago felt like the occupation of a lonely and disenfranchised minority. Sure, a lot of wine writers weren’t happy with the prices many châteaux were charging, but they weren’t doing anything about it. Some were even encouraging you to buy this over-priced plonk. If these Mea Culpas from the châteaux continue, expect it to sound like wine critics were on the side of the consumer all along – that they always thought Bordeaux pricing was greedy and were doing everything in their power to tell the consumer, to let him or her know, and to fight the good fight. As I have illustrated many times on my blog before, they weren’t – and if they start to make such pronouncements, they should be held to account. At the very least, many were complicit in their silence. And if, on the back of their previous huge points and ravings, you bought several cases of greedily over-priced claret from them, pray ask yourself what you think their job is and whether you should be following them.

I don’t think we should forget this notion of using the past to inform the present (and even the future) – and I’m not talking about this kind of glossy “we were greedy last year but let’s move on and try the sensibly priced 2011″. I’m talking about actually taking some lessons from it.

Paul Pontallier said Margaux 2011 was ‘excellent’. Which is fine – he can say that and mean it at the time – (so can journalists…Parker can distribute 100 points to wines a case of which is more than many peoples’ salaries and then later – or in some cases even at the same time – tell people it’s overpriced).

But if, say, these qualifications somehow change over time, you then have to ask how much importance is to be attributed to their words in the future. I, for instance, doubt Pontallier means 2011 is ‘excellent’ like 2010 was ‘excellent’ but that’s not really the point; the point is that while we would probably forgive him if he changed his mind over the next few months, we have to then ask why we are giving his pronouncements (if they turn out to be untrue) any credence now and in the future.

Bordeaux is now basically a joke – not funny ha-ha – but a travesty of the wine world. It’s a joke that everyone bar the person who buys the wine is in on. And all it takes to realise this is a half-decent memory, a questioning nature and a look at the facts. In fact, a longer-term memory tells you that this kind of thing happens in Bordeaux in almost perfect 10 year cycles. Some more regular cycles have taken on the regularity of tradition, namely that of wine merchants ask for a reduction in Bordeaux prices in the run up to En Primeur. Strangely, though, they still put the stuff up for sale.

A final point: I can be attacked (quite fairly and justly) along the lines of not understanding that in today’s ‘western’ society what something is worth is up to the consumer (a sort of ‘if they’re rich enough and stupid enough to buy it, let them’). I have a great deal of sympathy for this line of thought. However, if you want to stop speculation (as, apparently, lots of wine lovers do) you don’t do it by thinking (or even saying) these wines are too expensive while at the same time adding to their cachet by covering them in drooling press, gushing video interviews and slapping a huge score on them. No one has the excuse to be so short-sighted anymore.

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