March 17 2011
Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle snoozing since 2004 and awakening in the early spring of 2011, it’s not hard to persuasively argue (to say nothing of intuitively understanding) that digital marketing (in all of its permutations) is foremost on the minds of wine marketers for direct-to-consumer engagement.
That’s the fact. Here’s the reality: It’s wild and wooly out there. Making sense of it is beyond any one person and yesterday’s Twitter account is tomorrow’s old news. Yet, trying to figure out any one thing (like geo-location, for example), can take you into Alice’s rabbit hole leaving you more confused than when you began. This, I know.
Continuing what has always been a part of what I write about here – the intersection of wine marketing and wine enthusiasm – I’m altering these posts to, at the least, be more findable on the site by headline if not style.
Generally, I like to take sides on an issue and make hyperbolic proclamations that read like mandates (um, Glenn Beck without the apocalyptic bombast?). Instead, with this incrementally re-jiggered series of posts that will occur once every month or two, I’m choosing to just simply discuss a few things that have wine marketing implications (that I find of interest) while offering some context that I find equally interesting.
Of course, first up is the wine industry’s favorite internet poster child: Gary Vaynerchuk.
Gary V. and Dailygrape.com
On Monday, March 14th Gary Vaynerchuk announced on the 1000th episode of WineLibraryTV that he was re-deploying the web-based show that launched him into pop culture. During what he described as an “emotional” episode that seemed to me to have all the emotional sincerity of somebody cruising up to their baby mama’s trailer park in an Mercedes S-class to drop off eight months of child support back payments, Vaynerchuk revealed that the newly created Dailygrape.com would be the new home for his wildly popular wine review show.
WineLibraryTV (WLTV) isn’t going away, per se, but it will now only be used for special interviews and one-off activities, according to Vaynerchuk.
Citing a need to, “Innovate” and get out in front of trends, Dailygrape.com is available via your web browser and optimized for viewing on iPads and iPhones. As an iPhone/iPad application, Dailygrape offers a number of features for community and user wish lists, and access to additional Gary Vaynerchuk reviews.
Speaking of reviews, Vaynerchuk promised more of them, which he will deliver on…for the introductory price of $2.22 a month through the rest of year, delivered in a monthly newsletter. More on this in a second.
A couple of things jump out to me about Vaynerchuk’s move to a de-couple himself from his retail operation, WineLibrary:
1) He’s smart to not let his charisma and personality take him in business directions away from the core of what got him to this point – wine. Does Oprah become an icon and build a media empire if she took a left turn out of her afternoon chat fest three years in?
2) He’s smart to re-brand because his shtick is intrinsically linked to WineLibraryTV and his WLTV patois has a finite audience. The early returns on his first two episodes at Dailygrape.com indicate Vaynerchuk may be toning his act down from outsized caricature to energetic everyman. This can have a direct correlation on potential audience growth.
3) In order to be taken seriously as a wine critic, where there is ample room for deification with a younger generation, Vaynerchuk had to separate himself from the frequent denunciations that a reviewer can’t be impartial if they’re selling the wine, as well.
4) Dailygrape.com doesn’t offer an RSS feed – which means Vaynerchuk is no longer syndicating his content – an online model that has been predominate over the last decade; the notion that giving content away for free, everywhere, can help build a brand. No, instead of going to Google Reader to watch the show, you’ll have to go directly to the site, or the iPhone/iPad compatible application on your device.
This “innovation” that Vaynerchuk speaks of seems to me to be more of business-savvy maturation and a necessity with an eye on the next couple of years of sustaining growth for his personal brand.
What’s he’s doing is using internet feedback as a large focus group to answer perceived negatives while at the same time creating a branded media property separate from the womb of his retail operation, positioning himself as an accessible wine critic for a new generation. Rachael Ray has her 30-Minute Meals and Vaynerchuk is building on wine criticism. Through this process he’s also showing his cards for what we’ll be talking about two years from now, which will likely include:
1) Remember when we didn’t have to pay for anything on the internet? Vaynerchuk goes premium offering exclusive content to subscribers.
2) Vaynerchuk the respected wine critic with a fast-growing subscription-based newsletter, widening influence and Dailygrape shelf talkers at retail stores nationally
3) Multi-platform ubiquity
4) Extensible branding and the foundation of a media company à la Oprah’s Harpo Productions and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
In sum, I’m careful not to confuse “innovate” with “necessitate” and, truthfully, it seems like the changes Vaynerchuk is making are as necessary as they are cutting edge yet I have a sneaking suspicion that Vaynerchuk’s star is not only going to get brighter, but he’s going to convert detractors in the process.
To see how my Vaynerchuk analysis skills were in March of 2007, a little over a year into WineLibraryTV, click here.
Next up: Pts. II and III of this post series.