Tag Archive - marketing

Losing the plot


It seems so obvious from the outside. Winemakers and wineries in a region should cooperate to promote the region and give consumers a clear idea of what that region offers to encourage them to give their wines a try. Yet in practice, when you delve into any region or country, what you see are arguments, divisions and recriminations.

It is something I saw a glimpse of recently during a trip to the beautiful region of the Langhe in Piemonte (thanks to Berry Bros & Rudd), but I stress that this was only the latest example of something I see everywhere.

The conversation started as “How can we (all) make people more aware of the Nebbiolo grape” … but quickly turned into a discussion about who should or should not be included, how “there’s really nothing else in the world like nebbiolo, and everyone should realise this”, and about the classification of vineyards.

Italy is already famous for its complex regional boundaries and multi-layered wine classifications. So how is it that wineries can possibly rationalise “making things easier/clearer for the consumer” by creating further sub-divisions of wine regions and new DOC’s?

I felt the odd one out when I implored the wineries to spend time finding what they have in COMMON that is unique instead of worrying about local matters, but how to explain this view?

Wine and Movies

Winemakers, their wines and their wineries are all great characters. On their own, each one is different, has its own background, personality and role to play in this world. Yet, individually, they are walking biographies, of interest only to the already devoted fans. They lack a context & excitement. They lack a narrative.

To quote an interesting article by Caro Clarke:

“Plot is what happens. Narrative is what the reader sees and hears of what happens – and how he sees and hears it.”

Movies NEED great characters, but they also need a narrative, a story that affects not just what we learn, but HOW we understand what it is all about. There has to be something that brings these characters together, gives them a way to express themselves, makes them interact, highlights their brilliance … and their flaws.

  • Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) needs Los Angeles, computers, satellites, guns and terrorist threats to make sense as a character, otherwise he might just be a moody, aggressive law-enforcement officer with a sadistic streak and a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • King George VI (Colin Firth) needs the pageantry and social norms of British Royalty and threat of war of 1930′s London to make us care about his fight with a speech impediment, otherwise he’d just be an unfortunate toff who wouldn’t make much money as an after-dinner speaker

Ultimately, there has to be something that engages the viewer and consumer and keeps them in their seats. THIS is what the region should be providing. But just like every movie needs its actors to play the parts, it also needs directors, screen writers and camera operators (and many more skilled folks, including Best Grips, whatever they are). A great movie only emerges when all of these people, and their skills, come together.

The same is true for wines. There are great wine makers, great wineries and amazing wines, but they make a much greater impact when they are put into a context that consumers care about and understand. EVERYONE needs to play their part in promoting the region, and the individuals involved need to learn to think of the overall effort as well as their own objectives.

Consumers are looking for ways to understand wine, so let’s give them the stories they need to convince them to bother paying attention, and then spend their hard-earned money on our wines.

In response to this, Vrazon is planning on running workshops for wineries and regional bodies to help them develop this concept for their own situation. Look out for announcements for dates and locations in 2011 and 2012 but we hope to have one up and running in conjunction with the 2011 European Wine Bloggers’ Conference

Let’s hope that in future we can tell more interesting, unique stories that make sense of the great wine characters that do exist out there.

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A toast to wine freedom

In this 50th anniversary year of Amnesty International*, I propose a letter-writing campaign that might liberate wine stories from their digital prisons.

“Yet if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done.” Peter Benenson

Please feel free to employ this whenever you come across egregious examples of “digital wine imprisonment” then give a “Toast to Freedom“.

Wine Class @ Diony Castle

[Template Letter - amend and complete as appropriate]

Dear [Winery]

It has come to my attention that the amazing, delicious and unique [wine], a wine celebrated by wine lovers across the world as an outstanding example of the craft and science of winemaking, has, by your actions and inactions, been digitally imprisoned and locked away from the gaze of millions of potential appreciative drinkers.

It was clearly established by international convention that the use of Flash-based web sites is cruel and unusual punishment, tantamount to torture. Wine lovers wishing to enjoy [wine] should not have to wait ages for screens to load, to sit through cringeingly self-congratulatory and irrelevant films, or install plug-ins just to watch bubbles burst on their screen or photographs drift in and out of focus.

Continue Reading…

Access Granted

Last week’s Access Zone activities at the 2011 London International Wine Fair (LIWF) were not only great fun and a way to spread the word about social media in wine, but they seemed to strike a chord with the wine trade present.

Gabriella, Ryan and I were very pleased with the buzz around the fair and online about the range of events, seminars, projects and announcements that Vrazon helped to make happen on the relatively small space of the Access Zone. After all, that was the idea. This wasn’t intended to be another “theatre” for presentations, but an interactive space where we could start discussions with a presentation, then have as much participation as possible. As Ryan Opaz observed:

“The only way this will work is if the audience interrupts a lot.”

Every major announcement was well attended, with participants filling the aisles and following on the livestream. We are extremely grateful to all those who took the time out to listen, ask questions, answer queries and generally make the experience of the LIWF as useful as possible.

The archive of the live access zone video and interviews can now be browsed; more polished videos will take a little longer, but BIG thanks to MadCatMedia for making the magic happen

Day 1 – Tuesday 17th May

The Access Zone really kicked off with two big events on Tuesday – the social media Q&A sessions with ourselves and other volunteers, and the launch of the Disrupt Wine (you will be able to learn a lot more about the Disrupt Wine on the dedicated site being built).

Where else would you get the combined talents and different perspectives of Wink Lorch, Louise Hurren, Andre Ribeirinho and Ryan O’Connell on a roundtable? It was a lot of fun for Ryan and me to moderate and be involved in. The overall message from these discussions could probably be summed up a:

“Be yourself, and good stuff will happen”

It was also amazing to be able to create a blend of three different varieties from three different winemakers in three different countries – and made on the stand! We are very grateful to Thierry’s who took the brave step of returning to exhibit at the LIWF by investing in a stand that would sit alongside the Access Zone. Most importantly, they also agreed to the concept of developing a pan-European wine blend on the stand in only three days. It was a privilege to work with Markus Huber (of Weingut Huber in Austria), Emmanuel Laurent (of Rodet in Burgundy) and Giorgio Flessati (of Viña Falernia in Italy) on this project. Evidence, if any was needed, of their own commitment to doing something different and offering creative, fresh thinking to the UK wine trade.

We ended the day with the visit by Naked Wines and their archangels, learning about their latest developments and watched them select a range of new wines. Naked Wines are now also listing the Disrupt Wine on their new marketplace – do check it out and get involved.

Day 2 – Wednesday 18th May

The Wednesday was time to showcase Vrazon‘s other main projects, the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) and the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC). Congratulations to all the winners and runners up in each of the 5 categories of the inaugural BDWA, many of whom, like Wink Lorch, Tim Atkin, Richard Ross and Mark Ryan were on the stand to hear the results. The response was wonderful, particularly as there were some very deserving finalists in the spotlight, including both new names as well as established writers. Congratulations to all of them!

For more details and a full list of finalists and winners, visit http://borndigitalwineawards.com

We also took the opportunity to announce the overall theme for the fourth edition of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, which will be “Storytelling“, and that George Taber will be our first keynote speaker. Of course, this was all accompanied with a delicious glass of Franciacorta from our host sponsors for 2011. Please visit the EWBC site for more information, and if you are thinking of coming, please do book your tickets soon as the number of tickets is fixed and we anticipate them selling out early again this year.

But it wasn’t all about us, it was also a chance for Ryan O’Connell’s to give hints and tips for wineries looking to take advantage of social media, and to hear more about what Palate Press is up to to help wine bloggers make money from their blogs – check them out!

Day 3 – Thursday 19th May: The final day

The final day was once again dedicated largely to Disrupt Wine - selecting the delicious winning blend (50% Gruner Veltliner, 40% Falanghina and 10% Macon Chardonnay) as well as unveiling the label design incorporating the audience’s own tasting note contributions.

We also had great discussions on blogging by David Lowe (@bigpinots) and another general Q&A with Ryan Opaz. Lots of great content there for reference.

On top of all this there were dozens of great interviews with bloggers, publishers, retailers and winemakers, open tasting sessions and PLENTY of networking, much of it brought to you live but also recorded to watch again.

We hope all those who made it to the stand got something out of it. Not everyone at the fair will have seen the value of Social Media in wine, and it certainly is not a tool to replace everything that is done to sell and promote wine, but it is a great complement for the best brands and people, and we hope to see more great stories being told after this event.

These were three intense days, but with the help of our many friends listed here, as well as the organisers of the LIWF, and Thierry’s, we feel it was all worthwhile for all those involved.

See you next year!

Robert McIntosh, Gabriella Opaz & Ryan Opaz

Measuring influence or communication skills

Do you have influence? This question is causing quite a stir at the moment, but what does it mean in the wine world?

This question will be of particular relevance next week at the London International Wine Fair. Why? Because with the massive growth of online sources of information, wine businesses will want to understand who can help them spread their message, and build their brands.

“I’m 47 on that”

Influence“, in theory, goes beyond raw numbers of readers, hits and followers, and instead promises an insight into a wine communicator’s ability to engage their audience and generate some kind of activity (see here for a previous post “Writing Under the Influence of Twitter“).

In many ways, it is analogous to how wines are scored, except this time it is the communicator themselves being scored. Take James Suckling for example, infamous for his point-scoring perspective, in the world of influence he himself is scoring 47 and 53 instead. I don’t think he’d like these numbers, but should he be impressed?

The “science” of measuring this influence is in its infancy, but developing every day to include a wider range of information sources. Two of most widely used services today are PeerIndex & Klout, and for your enjoyment, analysis and feedback, here is a list of “top 100 wine twitterers” I have created from the MANY folks I follow every day:

(Click on the link for the full global list of the most influential wine accounts and for information on what the different columns mean)

You will note:

  • The list is ordered by an overall influence score that does not relate solely to wine (I am hoping to work with this data in the near future)
  • The list is arbitrary & incomplete – I certainly don’t know all twitterers interested in wine
  • It is a mix of all those with interest in wine, covering many different segments – winemakers, marketeers, personalities and consumers that could/should be looked at separately
  • It is based largely, at this stage, on twitter activity (though facebook, linkedin and others are apparently taken into account). So if you are not on twitter, tough luck!
  • Most of all, influence is a very personal thing, so you probably will disagree with this list

For comparison, here are Klout scores for the same top 10:

Klout score for wine

Unfortunately Klout’s list does not allow for more than 10 users at the moment, so it is very hard to compare (but this data should be available shortly) however, you can see a similarity in the general order of users.

In essence, the influence score is a measure of how likely a message sent by this person is likely to be heard and acted upon. It is calculated based on measures such as the size of the audience, the volume and quality of interactions with that audience (messages, retweets, lists), the nature of the content being shared, and how unique and interesting that is, and more.

Measuring your social media skills

But does it mean anything? More importantly, does it help in any way?

I feel uncomfortable with the idea of “most influential” lists, yet I do recognise that the people who feature highly are those I read and look out for.

I believe it would be better for the term “influence” to be replaced with “skilled at social media communication” – unfortunately that is a lot less catchy. I believe that these measures are really about how skilled the person is at communicating clear messages in a way that people will want to follow, read, share and react. Skills are learned, and the effort and time users invest in these accounts is therefore also reflected in the score.

Does it matter? Whatever you think these measures mean, they do reflect the profile of certain people and messages. More decision-makers (advertisers, PR companies, buyers, consumers) are paying attention. For that reason alone, the answer is, Yes … but don’t lose sight of the big picture!

It is always important to keep an eye on the leaders in a field, but don’t forget that in an area that is developing as fast as social media, the next big thing is probably not included yet!

Next week’s LIWF will see a lot of influence at work, and if managed well, see these scores rising. Brands will see their influence scores rise as visitors share their reviews and links online. Communicators will be discovering and sharing the kind of unique content that their readers are interested in, and looking to share. Who wins? Everybody – brands, writers and consumers, and the online wine culture.

Have you checked your score? Is it a fair reflection? Want to know how to improve it? Come along to the Access Zone on F70 at the London Wine Fair to ask us.

Update 10/5/2011: here is a list just of UK wine bloggers as an example

Stay tuned to WineConversation.com as we explore the area of influence, or communication skills, and look in more detail at what this might mean.

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Jacobs Creek champions wine regions

“Jacobs Creek has almost got a responsibility, as one of the major brands out of Australia, to teach the consumer about some of the great regions within Australia” – Bernard Hickin

A refreshing point of view by Bernard Hickin, Chief Winemaker at Jacobs Creek. [apologies for the background noise, but it was busy]

I was invited to take part in a dinner at 28-50 recently, to mark the (re)launch of Jacobs Creek Reserve range as region-specific wines, which coincides well with Wine Australia‘s under-fire “A+ Australian Wine” campaign, to act as a step-up from the Jacobs Creek Classics that have been around since 1976.

The wines themselves were interesting, individual and fairly priced (at an RRP of £9.99 but presumably not immune from promotions). You can read the reports of the evening from some fellow diners such as Stuart George (Creek Mythology) and Heather Dougherty (Jacob’s Creek at 28-50) and some thoughts of mine below. Overall I thought they were good, well made wines that did show something quite different from the normal ranges we expect from bigger brands, but I also felt that they showed quite a young character and might benefit from rounding out with a little extra age as, being all under screwcap, they have obviously developed slowly.

The pricing is the issue. So many of the producers who might be used by a region to showcase the uniqueness of its style are expensive, limited production wines – as was reasonably obvious at the recent Wine Australia tasting. Great wines but hefty price tags (not helped by currency issues, of course). These may be the very best examples, but being unaffordable means that the message does not get through to consumers – who then cannot be blamed for a lack of interest or knowledge of “regionality” in a country.

This is why what Bernard Hickin said struck me. You might disagree with the marketing and promotion activities associated with big wine brands (and they don’t come much bigger than Jacobs Creek) in the supermarket channels, but if the message needs to reach a mass audience, this is an effective means of achieving it. Having a big brand strongly committed to the cause, assuming it is doing a reasonable job of presenting the regional character, benefits everyone.

I’ve always thought that regional ‘brands’ were more interesting marketing tools than varietal labelling, so I look forward to seeing how this “regional” message is received by consumers, and how winemakers across the world take advantage of this.

Tasting Notes:

Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2010 (Barossa, Australia): very floral, lime, lemon and elderflower nose, and tight acidity (almost underripe fruit) but a hint of tropical fruit on the finish. Very young and crisp.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): strong passion fruit, not grassy, and mango skin aromas. The palate was tropical, but not overly ripe. Might need to round out a little

Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): very ripe apricot and citrus nose, but on the palate there is a lot of weight and texture from the lees ageing (but not heavy oak). Well rounded and drinkable, but will it convert Chardonnay-sceptics?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): baked strawberry nose, opening to black cherry. The palate has some more herbal, almost eucalyptus notes (not expected) and high acidity. Lighter and more delicate than I might have expected, maybe trying too hard to avoid “over-ripeness” tag?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawara, Australia): Black fruit, but also some (green) pepper and that eucalyptus, minty notes associated with the region. Big texture. You can almost feel as well as taste the thicker skins. Pepper spice on finish masking the fruit a touch. Young but very nice.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2007 (Barossa, Australia): A (pleasant) burnt match, fruitcake nose. Some spicy, candied fruit but also a hint of spirit despite not being too alcoholic. Tons of acidity to accompany the fruit, so it never strays towards jammyness. Pleasant finish, but young.

Update: 17/2/2011 – minor updates to correct factual errors in the tasting notes

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