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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Digital Marketing Edition

Every year, and sometimes more frequently, I write a post about what’s happening in digital and what’s coming next, looking through the lens of the domestic wine business, based on my work in digital marketing outside of the wine business. This is that post.

Most everybody reading this understands the value of digital marketing (or “engaging” to use an overworked phrase) with platforms like blogging, Twitter and Facebook.  While not all wineries are utilizing these tools, enough in the wine business are.  Despite the growing imperative, we are in the midst of another cycle of advancement.  New platforms are emerging that are likewise centric to community-building and/ or a mobile device, either a smartphone or a tablet computer. 

Life gets more complicated and one man’s use of Twitter is another man’s opportunity to get ahead of “what’s next.”

On Social Media

The “Social Media Expert” of 2009 is now, officially, a dinosaur.  The game isn’t about Twitter or Facebook, it’s about effective use of platforms, a myriad of platforms that happens to include Twitter and Facebook.  As always, be wary of the consultant who borrows your watch in order to tell you what time it is.

On Google+

Google+ is more likely to be a danger to LinkedIN than it is Facebook.  I would keep an eye on it, but its value is still very much in the definition phase and even hardcore early adopters don’t know what to do with it.  Accordingly, I wouldn’t spend much energy on it until it gets categorized into a definable niche.

On Flash wine sales sites

As these sites mature, the fact that they offer a discounted price is going to become tangential to the fact that they make purchasing wine reasonably simple and easy.  There are too many wines for the average consumer to navigate when, at the end of the day, all they want is a good bottle of wine without a lot of problems in choosing.  Flash sites solve this by curation, which will become more important as the short-term oversupply issues resolve themselves.  They’re not going away anytime soon.

On Tumblr

In April, when Gary Vaynerchuk exhorted the crowd at the Nomacorc Marketing Symposium to pay serious attention to Tumblr, the easy to use blogging platform, I understood the “what” and “why” of his recommendation, but I also mentally counter-balanced what he said with the understanding that he also had an investment in Tumblr.

Sometimes it’s hard to *listen* to the message (“Every person in this room will have a Tumblr account for their winery in 24 months”) when you think you *hear* something self-serving.  Yet, recent statistics bear out his commendation of Tumblr.

According to recent Silicon Valley Insider statistics, Tumblr traffic is growing at astronomical rates—up 218% from July 2010 to July 2011.

The “why” of this requires a bit more context and Tumblr’s growth puts several trends in play:

  Wordpress, now the de facto blog platform, continues to lard itself with capabilities, morphing into a robust content management system and professional publishing platform in the process, becoming less and less the simple, easy-to-use, no-brainer tool that it was a couple of years ago.

  People that are active on Twitter and Facebook may want to write more expansively than what those platforms support, but less than the 400 – 600 words of a “normal” blog post.  In doing so, they want to “curate” other news and other people’s content and comment on it creating a sort of ongoing digital ephemera stream, a sort of digital scrapbook and archive of their life.  Tumblr and its competitor Posterous makes doing this super simple and optimized for mobile usage, as well.

  Tumblr and its ilk skews much younger demographically than Wordpress and Blogger.  It’s hard to imagine thinking of Blogger as your Mom’s blog platform, but it’s true.

  Web sites like Wix and Weebly allow individuals to create a web site/personal brand hub and then social channels/platforms become the metaphorical arms and legs off their personal brand hub – Facebook for friends, LinkedIN for professional pursuits, Twitter for communicating, quick links and watching news headlines, Tumblr for activities and longer thought,  Facebook for personal networking, etc.

My overall point is that wineries shouldn’t sleep on Tumblr – where blogs are morphing into a winery PR channel and Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming marketing channels, Tumblr is likely to morph into a more personal communication channel.

Speaking of Not Sleeping…

Wineries are officially remiss if they don’t pay attention to Pinterest.  You probably haven’t heard of it, but you will.  It skews dramatically young, female and educated and it’s all about curating pictures of stuff that users like online.

In my opinion, Pinterest is a direct result of the community niches that organized around subject areas in Flickr.  The community aspect in Flickr, it should be noted, has long been under-acknowledged by marketing types, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as matters of personal taste can be explored unfettered… 

Being into wine is a statement of personal taste and Pinterest is all about expressing personal taste through imagery that is, “pinned” to a user’s board. The fact that Pinterest is growing fast and organically will keep it cool and insider-ish for a good long while.  The winery that starts a Pinterest board that resonates with a large female audience will have a marketing leg-up. I’m very bullish on Pinterest.

Online Wine Sales

The three best wine shopping experiences that I’ve seen online in 2011 are Dean & Deluca, Plonk Wine Merchants and Lot 18.  I’ve purchased from Plonk and Lot 18.

Interestingly, none of these “best” online wine shopping experiences, in my opinion, have anything to do with price, or selection – they have everything to do with user experience.  Clean, elegant, easy to use and information rich, each of these sites gives a drop of knowledge alongside an intuitive web browsing experience.  This is what wineries are competing against and we’re not too far away from current winery web sites and their legacy platforms supported by Inertia, eWinery Solutions and others being woefully out of date from a user experience perspective.

Oh, by the way, wine ecommerce is still very, very early in its growth.  That blip on the sales radar won’t be a blip forever… 

#Hashtag Days

The Hallmark holiday of the new millennium.  Let’s have a “Cabernet Day” or “Pinot Grigio Day” or any of the various permutations that have happened over the last two years.  Snooze.  Wake me when it’s over.  Overall, I’m terribly ambivalent about these arbitrary days just as I’m ambivalent about “Sweetest Day.”

It’s great for marketers because I think it does have an impact (however slight), but, they are unimaginatively tactical and not sustainable because participants gain absolutely nothing from participating and, users, if nothing else, are self-motivated.

Generally speaking, these are even more faddish than the QR codes that I mentioned earlier this week.

Gen Y. Focused Wines

Wine brands that are focused on Gen. Y (HobNob, Project Paso, Tamas and others) are missing something that I think is integral to being in your 20s – connecting your wine brand to an emotion.  Encapsulated by JWT research – it’s got to be a, “Fear of Missing Out” (see here and here).

On ROI

ROI or return on investment is important, but not nearly as important as having the simple ability to measure what you’re doing.  The return will present itself if you can measure.  Figure out the measurement and analytics first.

What I believe about Digital Marketing In a Nutshell

Organized customer relationship management (CRM) is everything.  Every Twitter follower and Facebook fan page “like” should be in a CRM program associated to an email address and, ideally, a mailing address.  The information is available. 

Content is most important after that.  Brands are publishers.  Ideally, both CRM and content marketing is underpinned by a strategy of some duration that plans content for various platforms. Plan your work and work your plan.

Note:  PR is one aspect of content marketing and strategy, but it’s not the entire strategy. 

One-off tactics that don’t fit within an overall strategy (i.e. QR codes) are a waste of time, effort and money.  Likewise, a mobile strategy need not be complicated so long as the platforms used within your strategy are mobile optimized. 

Also note, paralysis by analysis is a peril.  There’s so much out there and so much that you *can* know that over-thinking is as dangerous as doing nothing. 

If all else fails, listen to Miles from Risky Business.



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Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (13) |


Comments

On 09/06, Andrew Kamphuis wrote:

As usual, mainly great points.  Under Online Wine Sales - “none of these “best” online wine shopping experiences, in my opinion, have anything to do with price, or selection – they have everything to do with user experience” - I completely agree.  Apple, Zappos, and other companies are proving that the shopping experience matters more than the price.

On 09/06, Lewis Perdue wrote:

This would have been GREAT as four or five separate posts over several days ... so many great thoughts, but the general headline (as opposed to sharp, thought-provoking specific ones) will dampen readership.

On 09/06, Jeff wrote:

Lewis,

I always pay attention to your critique of press release headlines in your newsletter and I acknowledge that my headline isn’t worth a darn. 

And, likewise, it would be better as a deeper dive series of posts instead of one 1100 word survey.  I agree. 

However, two important points:  In general, headline writing isn’t a skill I’ve acquired, nurtured or gained and I would get bored writing a series of posts about digital and wine.

So, I handicap myself, but at least I own up to it.

Thanks for commenting!

On 09/06, larry schaffer wrote:

You have, as usual, given me a lot to read up on! Thanks for all of the helpful - and timely - information. As you point out in your first comment, things get so outdated so quickly in the Social Media area that one truly needs to commit a lot of time to it to really stay on top of it . . . and unfortunately most of us don’t have that time. I’ll look forward to learning more about some of the new sites / products you’ve mentioned.

And I also wanted to agree with you about the Wine Flash Sites - price will be people in the door, but service and experience will keep them coming back. I really dig what Lot 18 is doing and feel that they stand a very good chance of being in it for the long run. I’m excited about some of the other ones as well, but if these sites don’t do something to ‘differentiate’ themselves, either via offering only International wines or wines from a specific domestic region or something else, it will be difficult to break in . . .

Cheers!

Larry Schaffer
tercero wines
http://www.tercerowines.com

On 09/07, Fred wrote:

“Brands are publishers.”

This will be terrifying news for most wineries.

On 09/07, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

I’m so glad that I have chosen to become a Luddite…thanks for the update, with or without Lewis’ catchy headline.

On 09/07, Paul Mabray wrote:

Jeff - CRM is everything and IMHO CRM is not a tool, it is a culture.  The best internet companies will be defined by their ability to meet customers needs.  Price, selection, those are becoming ubiquitous factors on the internet through comparative search engines, channel conflict, etc.  It is service that will differentiate going forward.  Zappos and others have already proven that theory.

On 09/08, Etty Lewensztain wrote:

Jeff - I (Plonk Wine Merchants) am thrilled and honored to be included among your 3 best wine shopping experiences online in 2011. User experience was a key pillar in designing the site and I’m so happy to see that it has translated. Cheers!

Etty
Plonk Wine Merchants

On 03/26, TN Pas Cher wrote:

EDFER

On 03/30, maquina de coser wrote:

My overall point is that wineries shouldn’t sleep on Tumblr – where blogs are morphing into a winery PR channel and Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming marketing channels, Tumblr is likely to morph into a more personal communication channel.

On 04/17, casas madera wrote:

ill be defined by their ability to meet customers needs.  Price, selection, those are becoming ubiquitous factors on the internet through comparative search engines, channel conflict, etc.  It is service that will differentiate going forward

On 05/02, louis vuitton sito ufficiale wrote:

<a >louis vuitton sito ufficiale</a>ternet through comparative search engines, channel conflict, etc.  It is service that will differentiate g

On 06/09, Side Effect wrote:

This article is very surprised to me! Your writing is good. In this I learned a lot! Thank you!


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