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It’s No Wonder Wineries Are So Damned Confused …

It’s no wonder wineries are confused and immobilized with fear of new marketing practices and technology.  Primary learning opportunities at seminars frequently fall into the category of gobbledly-gook babble.

If you get the occasional whoosh of air blowing upward, it was probably somebody pumping sunshine up your skirt. 

If you can’t baffle ‘em with brilliance, befuddle ‘em with b.s., I guess.

Thankfully, some people speak in a language you can understand.

We have the makings of a speaker-based Wine 2.0 Marketing Battle Royale.  In one corner is Gary Vaynerchuk, Director of Operations from Winelibrary TV and in the other corner is Google’s Kevin Kells, Industry Development Director of Packaged Goods, a title that in and of itself is pretty darn confusing.

You see, both gave remarks recently to winery audiences around the topic of wine and technology—what is popularly referred to as “Wine 2.0.”

Vaynerchuk spoke at the recent Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) in July and Kells spoke most recently at the Wine Industry Financial Symposium that took place on 9/17.

Again, just to make sure we’re clear, they were both speaking about the use of technology in wine marketing.

Kells had the following to say, as quoted and excerpted from a Wine Business Monthly article posted today:

Kells contrasted the marketing approach used in traditional media, in which marketers “zap” advertisements where they think consumers will be looking, with what he called the “computing cloud,” an abstract place containing “all information: websites and all the findable, usable and more mobile services people use online.”

“capturing engagement in that cloud” is a two-way exercise. The Internet is a database littered with people’s intentions, he explained, and “you want to over-surf” the sites that matter as much to the consumer as to you. “While the cloud is abstract, the users are real.”

Kells provided a “brand steward’s checklist” with questions brand managers should be asking, such as: Is my brand missing out on engagement opportunities? In response, Kells said it was “physically, mentally and structurally impossible to do marketing that is sight-based anymore. You need to get your brand stewards more in tune with the instrument-based market. Just because you don’t always see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Computing cloud?  Brand steward’s checklist?  Sight-based marketing?  Instrument-based market?

Mind you, Kells was simply talking about using the Internet as a marketing asset for wineries.

Somewhere Jess Jackson was enjoying lunch and counting his money probably clairvoyantly picking up that somebody was blowing some sunshine up somebody’s skirt somewhere on the other side of the valley.

As a contrast to Kells, let’s take a look at a news report on Gary Vaynerchuk’s speech at the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) in July.  Excerpts from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

The wine industry is missing a huge opportunity to build stronger relationships with its consumers using new technologies like Web videos and wine blogs.

That was the blunt message delivered to wine industry executives in Napa Tuesday by a young, outspoken New Jersey wine retailer who said the industry needs to embrace change or die.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people in the wine business are really blowing it,” said Gary Vaynerchuk, director of operations for the WineLibrary, a Springfield, N. J. wine store with a popular interactive Web site.

The wine industry for too long has catered to a handful of critics whose opinion means nothing to the average wine drinker, Vaynerchuk said. What matters far more to most people are the opinions of other consumers, and wineries need to wake up soon to this new reality, he said.

“Now everyone has got an opinion. Everyone’s got their two cents. Every single person you cross paths with in this industry — whether at an in-store tasting or a stock boy — you need to fear, and you need to embrace,” he said.

Vaynerchuk agreed. Wineries that are complacent and unwilling to engage new consumers in their own language will soon find themselves left behind.

“Get out of your comfort zone and embrace change,” he said. “If you are scared, you are going to lose, and losing sucks.”

Same message delivered differently. 

Now, who would you take wine marketing advice from?  More importantly, if you’re a consumer who would you buy wine from?  Google or Winelibrary TV?  My advice to wineries?  Listen to the guy that uses the word “suck” and try if you must, but lightly parse the wisdom from anybody that uses the phrase “Brand Steward Checklist.”


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (12) |


On 09/21, Randy wrote:

Jeff, I would add that Gary has been in the wine industry for his entire adult life. He’s an insider who understands the business (at least from a retail perspective) and also gets what the Internet represents both as a media channel and a commerce channel. That’s why his words should carry more weight.

On 09/21, Mark Koppen wrote:

David Meerman Scott has an interesting discussion of “gobbledygook” in his “New Rules of Marketing and PR” that illuminates the difference between the two approaches/styles you mention.  Gobbledygook is rampant is large companies like Google, and at a point becomes barely comprehensible.  No matter what you think of Gary V, he just lays it out there in (mostly) plain English.

On 09/21, el jefe wrote:

I am now imagining hordes of Dilbertian Pointy Haired Bosses convening off site strategic planning meetings on “Capturing engagement in the computing cloud”... oh the horror!

Gary is right on with what he has to say about making best use of the internet - to the extent that your resources allow. On the other hand, if Gary offers you a salad, I’d recommend passing…

On 09/21, Dr. Debs wrote:

Interesting article, Jeff, and a telling contrast. Besides, for me it was comforting to know that not everyone blowing hot air is in academia…

Seriously, though, I think that one of the problems with embracing “the ‘Net” is that it’s so damn huge. Finding the bloggers and wine 2.0 sites that have the kind of people frequenting them that are your target buyers must be a real challenge especially to folks who don’t spend 15 hours a day online. This must be a new kind of job in PR firms: web surfing and linking up producers with consumers. If it’s not, it should be.

On 09/21, Jeff wrote:

Good analysis on your part, Dr. Debs. 

In fact, I got an email from a guy yesterday that is starting just such a consulting group called:

The Conversation Group (.com)

I think I do take for granted that I understand the wine blogging jetstream whereas others may not.

On 09/21, el jefe wrote:

But: If you want to get serious about this stuff and you are a typical small winery - you pretty much have to just spend the time and poke around. You aren’t going to be able to afford to pay the big bucks for a consultant to do it for you. And paying someone else to do it isn’t going to give you any insight into the best approach for you.

I had to go through it two years ago before I started El Bloggo. I did have half a clue before I started - but I did NOT have a sense of how important blogging could be to my winery until I had gone through that exercise (which started out as a simple quest to improve my “regular” web site.)

You can make a great start simply by searching on “wine blog” and delving into the archives of the top ten or so on that list.

On 09/21, Patrick Llerena wrote:

Forget about not knowing how to get started…I really had little idea that this whole world outside of my cozy little e-commerce/marketing shlock site existed!

Thanks to pushy innovators Jeff L., Jeff S., and Gary V. for inspiring me to leave my comfort zone and get busy!

On 09/22, Dr. Debs wrote:

Welcome to the Big Top, Patrick! Your wines sound fascinating, and good, too. But I’ve not come across them in stores, so if not for you leaving a comment here, etc., etc., I wouldn’t even know that you were someone who makes wine I’d be interested in! Just goes to show you the power of 2.0—the long tail, and one customer at a time.

On 09/23, Tish wrote:

I think everyone who has made some prognostication about wine marketing via the internet has also been proven wrong. In the case of the above approaches that Jeff lays out neatly, there is probably kernels of wisdom in both. I lean toward Gary for now, simply because he has proven the power of driving more business to his site via a truly original fomat (wine library tv, now imitated lamely by wine spectator). The only real problem I still find with Gary’s model is that if he’s so sure that “everyone’s” opinion counts, then why does he continue to undermine his own authority by persistenly hawking wines based on Parker and Spectator scores?

My own take is that wine-interested people are ready and willing to accept opinions from savvy sources beyond numbers-toting critics, but a precious few real people are willing to start surfing the web to find the right opinions to suit them. Rather, these people are far more prone to find and take advice and suggestions IN SITU, be it in a restaurant, at a retail shop, or in a tasting like those I and other wine educators/entertainers do in areas where wine is flourishing.

On 09/23, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for the comments everybody! 

Patrick, welcome to the big top, indeed.  I can humbly assure you that if you engage in the wine blogosphere, you will start seeing customers and your winery in a completely new light.  Please let me know if I can help you in any way.

El jefe, searching for “wine blog” is not satisfactory as this blog doesn’t pop up.  damn it.

Tish, thanks, as always, for swinging by.  In my opinion, the wine blogosphere is still populated by largely a very sophisticated audience.  If you buy into the fact that blogs will not become irrelevant and will continue to grow than we’re only just now at the tip of the iceberg for readers and influence, at least that’s my ongoing motivation.

Thanks again, all!!


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