Author Archives: Ryan Opaz

About Ryan Opaz

I am cofounder of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, Born Digital Wine Awards and run fun things like: The Access Zone at the #LIWF. Contact me if you want someone to speak about where the internet and wine intersect. I am a Liquid Agnostic.

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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No one wants to watch wine movies

Ok, so I got your attention. I’m sure some of you came racing over here to tell me I’m wrong. Sideways, Mondovino, A Good Year, French Kiss, and more … so many good, and not so good, films that speak of wine. I’m not here to debate the quality and accuracy of the films, but these films have something in common – story lines, emotions and entertainment.

I love wine movies. One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is curled up with my wife, sharing a bottle of good wine. By the end of the film, if the match works, the wine is often wedded with the film in such a way that when I think of one, the other is not far behind.

I say this because I don’t believe anyone, and I include myself, has EVER sat down with a bottle of wine or bowl of popcorn to watch your winery’s website video intro, the one that pops up annoyingly when I want to find something specific on your website. Your website is a tool to transfer information, not a place to hangout and watch movies. And it never will be. Your “wine movie” is not primarily about entertainment, it will not engage consumers emotionally. Let’s face it, it is not going to win an oscar or do anything to sell more of your wine. No one wants to watch these wine movies.

However, a winery can still benefit from the movies. The wine I open for a movie is often selected based on the mood of the movie, or the emotion of the evening. Romantic dramas might suggest a more elegant wine, or you might prefer a muscular Cabernet for the raw-meat of a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

I want wineries to take the “think different” challenge. Don’t plan the film that you want to make about yourself and your wines, think instead of the movies that have already been made. This weekend, for example, try those that are up for an Academy Award (Oscar). Why not tell us which of the films is the best match for your wine – then cheerlead for it? Do some wine and movie pairings, then challenge your mailing lists to offer up better suggestions then link to a place to buy films or rent them online. Maybe even offer an “Oscar pack” of wines for the winning movies. Why not?

And to all you bloggers and engaged consumers, why not challenge yourselves to a movie and wine pairing event? You can match wine and films based on mood, labels, names, styles, even by the names of the winemaker. How would YOU  go about doing this?

It’s been a while since my last movie marathon with friends, but this could be a great way to do it again. Dim the lights, make some snacks and pair some movies!

Here’s a couple to get you started from all of us at Vrazon:

  • The Iron Lady” and Blue Nun – because the once great, popular lady in blue is now a bit frayed and confused. (Robert)
  • The Crying Game”  and any good Blanc de Noir – Not everything is what it seems to be, and yet it can still stir your emotions. (Ryan)

and of course what list would be complete without…

  • Silence of the Lambs” and a Good Chianti (or Amarone, if you read the book) – No explanation needed…though choose your accompaniments carefully!

If you have any ideas, especially if you are a winery and think there is a film that expresses your wine’s personality, tell us about it in the comments below.

Cheers, Ryan

Note: The Academy Awards take place this Sunday, February 26th 2012 at 19:00 Eastern US time (02:00 Central European Time)

Here’s a list of the main category finalists to get you started:

Best Picture: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Actor in a Leading Role: Demián Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt
Actress in a Leading Role: Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams
Directing: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life

 

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Case Study – Social Media Works for Tea

One of the problems with the “should I use social media” discussion is that people who do not, and never will, use these tools natively are the ones making the decisions.

Digital Natives‘ are people who were born in a world where the landscape was always “digital”. If you extend this thinking you then have “social media natives”. I like to say these people are the ones who see no need for a phone book, printed map, or rolodex. I’m almost one of these. I say almost because I still find some things easier to do offline than online, but that is changing quickly.

I start with this because in my daily life, when I want to buy something or learn about something, my first stop, no matter what, is Google. I guess I can see that changing to Bing or Twitter or Facebook at some point, but the fact is that the “web” is my primary destination.

And so, my story begins.

This Christmas, my sister invited my family to stay at a rented house in the Cotswolds for a few days. Great idea! Countryside, hiking, long meals, lots of wine, … a perfect holiday. To make the holiday with family all in one house go smoothly, she gave us all small gifts to help us enjoy our stay. One of these was a not-to-be-mentioned specialty tea company’s assortment of teas. Each person received a different flavor based on their personality. A great gift, and while I wasn’t at that moment a big tea fan, the quality of these teas released a passion in me. I fell in love with them, primarily due to their freshness and quality. I was hooked, and when I got back to Spain I quickly raced to Google to help me fuel my addiction. It turns out that I was in luck as they were available to ship to Spain at a reasonable price.

One week later I was sitting at home with boxes of new teas and was ECSTATIC about beginning my reintroduction to whole-leaf teas – a reintroduction that made me realize how similar high quality teas and wines can be … but that is for another article. The point is, I immediately starting tweeting my satisfaction and including the account of the relevant company in my tweets. I sent a letter to them by email saying “thank you for your great teas”. I even went to their web2.0 website and left comments lauding the greatness of my new favorite teas!

The result: nothing. Not a single “thanks”, “good to hear”, “Happy you’re happy” or other comment. Just silence. Cue the crickets.

I was crestfallen, even heart broken. The packaging was cute, the brand adorable. Expensive, sure, but the quality was amazing. Yet they seem to be fakers in the social world, content to put up twitter and facebook logos on their sites but not ‘walking the walk’.

I considered buying from them again. The quality was great but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I simply didn’t want to support a company who didn’t appreciate me as a customer. So I returned to Google.

This time I found another company with a similar selection but a little less shiny! Less marketing and more tea. A site that was a bit clunkier, and packaging that appeared a bit dull, but they had what I wanted, so I dove in and bought a few sample packs. After selecting various kinds to see what they were like, I hit send.

And then … turn up the happy music. After only a few hours I received an email … from the owner no less. An email that said:

“Thank you for your order, it appears you have a great selection of samples. I’m going to throw in a few of my own favorites, let me know what you think!”

Yeah! I was acknowledged.

Today I received my new teas. I haven’t tasted them yet, but I have 10 new teas to try and a person who is listening to what I think. I’m pretty sure I’ll find a few that I like and I am 99% sure that I will be ordering again. They are also going to be talked about on my twitter stream, facebook page and probably over at LiquidAgnostic.com. At the very least, they are going to sell a pack of tea every month or so to me, and probably to a few of my friends & followers. The cost: 1 email.

If that’s not a killer ROI, I don’t know what is.

I’m off to boil some water.

Photo credit: Ryan Opaz

Engage or Get Out – Don’t waste your time with Social Media

So you have a Facebook page? Great! And a twitter account? Bravo! Even posted a couple of photos, maybe uploaded a video? Good for you. What?? You say you even have a blog? You’ve posted an article or two and have comments enabled? Wow, great job! You’re on your way. Now just stick in there for a few more months, or even years, and you’ll be headed in the right direction!

Today, as I wander around the internet, I see more and more blue and white icons showing up on winery websites as I poke about online. Little reminders that businesses are getting online and “engaging” the consumer. Yet today I want to call Bulls***!

Social media is “social”

Seriously, you do not get points for putting an icon on your website. You do not get credit for being ‘engaged’ because you have a Facebook page. Most of all, you do not get benefits from just pretending to play the game. Social media is about being a social being. I know it’s hard to believe but it is. It’s not just a marketing tool, it’s a way of living. It’s a change in how you think about your consumer. It’s a conversation that actually takes place online, with real people. It’s a conversation that also tends to jump offline into the real world from time to time.

If you want to use Twitter/Facebook, or even start a blog, be ready to change what you’re doing. Don’t come to me and ask “How do we keep doing what we’re doing but at the same time appear more social” because the answer is YOU CAN’T!

If you really want to use Twitter to build your brand, start asking people questions, start engaging your followers, start playing the game. Don’t bother putting up a twitter logo unless you’re going to answer anyone who sends you a tweet! It’s not worth your time, and in the end it will just make you look bad.

If you can’t respond to people who ask you questions on Twitter, or engage in conversations in your blog’s comments, the humans that use these tools will notice, and then they will ignore you. If you don’t want to engage, stick to traditional marketing. It still works, and it can work well. Stick to that, and stay there till you are ready to commit, or ready to hire someone to do it on your behalf.

Just remember that while you can still get away without the “social web” today, those days are numbered, plus the cost of catching up to others later on is getting higher. Social media engagement is at its core an investment of sweat equity. There are no silver bullets. The sooner you start, the easier it will be.  The longer you wait, the sillier you’re going to look.

Get going! Follow me: @ryanopaz – And if you don’t know how to, well then you have a lot to learn.

Ryan

Image via: Daddy Design

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For blogging success, phone a friend

A couple of years ago Hardy Wallace and I got into a debate about editing blog posts. His take was that a blog should be raw, from the heart, without the refining that happens when an editor gets hold of a bloated piece of wine writing. I, on the other hand, suggested that you can still show passion, but that an editor helps to make sure your “raw passion” is intelligible. I was speaking from experience. I am not, as I’m sure many of you readers know (and my laughing wife Gabriella is thinking right now as she edits this piece), the best writer.

Words for me are confusing. The rules of language are confounding. While I know some of the common errors, I do not always spot them when I re-read my own writing. I know there, their, and they’re all have different meanings, but when I read them quickly in an article, I understand what the author is saying so I don’t worry about which one is used. I really don’t care. Maybe I should. I know I should care enough to make sure my dear reader does not have to suffer my errors, so I try to get better every day.

What I want to say to all you bloggers, wineries thinking of starting a blog, or journalists who are leaving the edited newsroom and moving to the wild west of blogging: get an editor. Someone to read your piece before you publish it. Someone to look for the silly mistakes that you gloss over because of your emotional attachment to it. If it were not for an editor, this piece your reading write [sic] now would be unintelligible. You’re [sic] understanding of it impossible. Not to mention 3 times the length, with half the logic. 🙂

I remember getting an email a few years ago from a wine journalist whose books I have enjoyed over the years. That person has written books, news columns, and has spoken at wine events for longer than I have been legally able to drink wine. They were telling me they finally took my advice and started a blog. So I rushed over and quickly checked it out. What I found was proof positive that this person had benefited greatly from years of editors trimming down their ramblings. Editors help.

I’m not saying you need to hire a team of proof readers and have each article polished to perfection. A few minor slips are not going to hurt you, but you can ask a friend to read a piece first before you hit publish to avoid the bigger ones. Or, if you lack a friend with time on their hands to help you out, try simply reading it out loud to yourself as the act of pronouncing the words one by one can often show strange logic and awkward phrasing. Also, don’t be afraid to play with language. Some of us are better than others, but there is something to be said for freedom of expression, but if your writing style leaves the reader confused, you are doing something wrong. What we need in the end is legibility, and more communication.

If bloggers, journalists, tweeters and others hope to have their content published and taken seriously, then the first step is to make sure we know what you’re saying. I would also make a prediction and say that the future of wine writing online will be teams, and not just the ‘lone voice’ online we think of today.

I look forward to seeing how this plays out as time goes on.

Ryan

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