Wine Marketing in the Consumer Content Era

by Tim Elliott on July 19, 2007

Editors note: This is a cross-post of my “weekly” post over at Jeff Lefevere’s Good Grape blog. Since I’ve been silent there for a while, expect some more frequent posts some of which I’ll cross-post here.

It’s been a while since I posted here at Good Grape so I thought I would get back into action with a meaty topic I think a lot about in my day job as a wine marketer.

How has wine marketing changed in the era of consumer generated content?

At one end of the spectrum is the ground-breaking work by Hugh MacLeod harnessing the power of social media to reposition Stormhoek as a “social object.” You can check out Hugh’s account of his campaign by viewing a 25 minute video of a talk recorded at the PSFK Conference in London last month.

What is most interesting about Hugh’s story is how simply — and almost by accident — he implemented a global marketing campaign in a very fragmented and traditional industry. Like a lot of wine brands, Stormhoek is a volume play where critic’s scores, aggressive sales practices and shelf-talkers are the standard marketing approach. So what did Hugh and Company do? They engaged the blogosphere and started a global conversation about their brand. The result was more than doubling sales in less than 2 years for an investment of about £20,000 (approx. $41,000 USD).

The other end of the spectrum is where 99% of the wine industry is at the moment with their heads in the sand about the internet and little clue about social media. They live in fear someone uneducated consumer will bad mouth their wine on one of the new Wine 2.0 sites such as Cork’d. This level of spin control and anxiety is understandable given the subjective subject of wine tasting where a $2 Chardonnay could be judged superior to a $40 Chardonnay.

But I have three words of advice for winery owners – Join the conversation!

We have seen a few brave wineries start blogging and engage the growing wine blogosphere. Although the jury is still out on their efforts, I know wine has been sold and word of mouth has resulted in new customers.

Don’t have a tasting room? Use your blog to create a “virtual porch.”

Have a limited marketing budget? Spend some time reading and responding to wine bloggers and they will say some good things about your wine and drive traffic to your blog.

The theme of this week’s Wine Industry Technology Symposium underscores the urgency of wineries adopting new online marketing strategies. My favorite quote was from wine podcast superstar Gary Vaynerchuk from Winelibrary.com who said in his talk to , “Embrace your website as your business.” Amen, brother; I hope a few wineries there got the message.

So the bottom line is that wineries who are not part of the social media conversation are doomed to let consumers determine their word of mouth. Like any online endeavor there are trolls but if you engage and extend the conversation you are more likely to encourage partisan customers to come to your aid. If you do nothing, you are likely to suffer in “Google Hell” for some time.

All it takes is a bit of time and focus. The rest — like what Stormhoek has done — could be history.

  • http://www.elbloggotorcido.com/ el jefe

    hi Tim – great post! – I especially enjoyed mousing over your links…:)

    I would add a word of caution, however: WOW is it a lot of time and work to do this! Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve made so many new friends doing the whole blogging and social networking thing. I hope someday to meet most of them…!

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Thanks Jeff. While I agree the time commitment is not insignificant, it’s fun and the payoff can be tremendous.

    As far as meeting goes, I’m hoping to see you at the Family Winemaker’s tasting in San Francisco next month… I also might make a surprise visit to Twisted Oak on August 18th if the creek don’t rise and I don’t get hung up in Napa :)

  • http://www.elbloggotorcido.com/ el jefe

    Napa is over-rated, I hear… be sure to be sportin’ an eye patch, matey!!

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