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Jumping the Parade

An interesting aspect of online wine enthusiasm has developed whereby passionate wine lovers take measured glee in opining about the passivity that marks many wineries participation in the sport of marketing.

Read any online wine media for a period of time, and you’ll stumble across this type of article or blog post. It’s the one that laments why, in a world of opportunity, are so many wineries sitting on their hands?

Mostly, this is about social media – the wineries that “get it” and the unnamed wineries that don’t.

With the economy crumbling around them, many wineries aren’t or haven’t been able to make halftime adjustments to the in-game conditions that surround them.  Instead, they opt for a continuation of the game that preceded; it’s like the reverse of the long-in-the-tooth football coach drawing on experiential anecdotes from a game 30 years ago.  Instead, now, it’s not the graybeards that are imploring a change in game plan, it’s those youthful or youthful in spirit. 

Hell, I might be the Howard Cosell of this sport having asked my fair share of ponderous rhetorical questions while providing armchair commentary on why exactly wineries don’t seem to “get it” in the realm of marketing.  Regardless, for reasons of protocol, prudence, or fear many winery folks are afraid to jump in front of the parade, let alone take a position within the caravan of new ideas that double as gawk-worthy floats.


But, when it’s not our money on the line, who can really blame a winery who may fall into preservation mode, watching the pageantry around them, trying to simply maintain their position? Particularly when you consider, to a relative outsider, this pageantry can seem more like a whirling dervish of confusion and swirl.

Yet, rightfully, I think we CAN question; especially since trends seem to be manifesting themselves into long-range developments and not short-term fads.  And, if nothing else, it’s a sign that people care, which is a lot better than the alternative. 

But, simply, the rules of engagement are being re-written as we speak and I think many people are asking “why” of wineries because some old tricks in the marketing bag aren’t resonating and the landscape is shifting for how to talk to customers, existing and potential.

Back in January, I put a self-imposed moratorium on writing anything that resembled a wine + social media angle.  For the most part, I’ve stuck to it.  That said, I do want to make a couple of higher-level points about general marketing.

Three current day wine business items seem to be indisputable truths:

1) New distribution is nearly a closed window for small wineries

2) Demand is caving for wines that are priced above $25

3) Social media isn’t a fad; what you call it may change, but the participation requirement won’t

Given these three items, I’ve seen a couple of recent articles that helped me hone in and focus on how to address customers in this era in what can be an overwhelming parade of information.

The first ‘a-ha,’ that I had occurred when I read a Matt Kramer column in Wine Spectator (June 15th edition) that attempts to define wine consumers at a very high-level.

Kramer postulates that in the new millennium, conscious or unconscious, consumers will define their “wine self”—their wine personality.

He reviews two types – a “Land Mentality” or a “Brand Mentality.”

Quoted from Kramer:

“The ‘Land Mentality’ emphasizes site specificity; single variety wines over blends; an almost obsessive celebration of differences and so-called naturalistic winemaking and grapegrowing.”

“The ‘Brand Mentality,’ for its part is more open-minded in its pragmatism.  It sees the winemaker, rather than the vineyard, as critical; an interventionist approach in winemaking is endorsed, even celebrated; blending is seen as an opportunity to improve a wine. 

An emphasis on brand rather than land is seen as an opportunity to offer exceptional value and higher quality at lower price points, as demonstrated by wines from Australia and Chile.”

It’s a very succinct way of thinking of wine and which category a winery falls into.

Second, I came across a matrix of existing trends that surprised me not for its size, but for the amount of existing trends that do fit wineries.

In the graphic below, information that I gathered from a blog called Fuel Lines, it highlights 36 current trends in our current consumer culture.

The thing that interested me about this isn’t the trends, which we’ve all seen in various articles, it was the gathering of them in one place and the fact that, when viewed in aggregate, wine marketing can be applied to, in my estimation, fully 75% of the existing trends today.


While I’m not long-in-the tooth like the aforementioned football coach, I think it’s safe to say that wine probably hasn’t fit into the zeitgeist of an era since, perhaps, the early 1980’s, if then.

To me, that smells like opportunity. 

And, while I empathize with winery marketers, particularly those that are strapped with a small staff, I can’t help but come back to what an unprecedented opportunity exists to find customers at such a low cost.

Granted, cutting through the fog to understand what exactly is going on in a contemporary marketing climate is tough, and it’s a good measure tougher to address it in an actionable way, but if I were a winery I would ask myself whether I am trying to appeal to a consumer that has a “Land Mentality” or a “Brand Mentality” and then I would isolate existing trends that fit within that mentality that can lead to an affinity customer base.

In doing so, a winery can jump the parade, earn a spot in the spectacle and pageantry, and get the online pundits off their back.  Or, not.  In any sport, there are winners and losers.  The sideline opinionators notwithstanding. 


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (2) |


On 07/14, Hello Vino Jim wrote:

Great post!

I love how you stated: “Social media isnít a fad; what you call it may change, but the participation requirement wonít”

So true.

I definitely think wineries/marketers need to be present in the social media landscape to keep their finger on the pulse of younger consumers and how they are absorbing information before purchasing products. However, they need to put the work into their accounts and not look stale on the Web. If they are realistic and formulate a routine presence on say Twitter and Facebook while promoting interaction in conjunction with discounts and offers for participation…they should see direct sales more frequently.

In addition, some wineries are warming up to mobile solutions for Point of Sale issues. We’re actually trying to tackle this area and assist the overwhelmed consumer through Hello Vino ( if you’d like to check it out. We’re a wine pairing service that serves brands as results. We’d love to hear your thoughts as we try to make it the best it can be.

Hello Vino Jim

On 07/16, Dylan wrote:

I agree, the lamentable part for smaller wineries is when the staff is limited in its time. If you can’t dedicate a time commitment to engaging through social media you cannot reap its rewards. It can become that simple and that frustrating.


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