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When “Altruism” needs to Equal “Cooperation”

The gravest, most sincere challenge facing the U.S. based wine industry today, tomorrow and into the future is cooperation – a “none of us is as strong as all of us” mentality that lifts market leadership and progress from iconoclasm to esprit de corp.

No, no, I’m not talking about helping somebody out with your bladder press when their press decides to pull up lame during harvest; I’m talking about cooperation on a level that fosters innovation and progressiveness in market development.

The wine industry has always been altruistic with a strong social conscience, but cooperation on the order that moves the collective sales needle forward has been elusive.

In August, Scott Becker from Global Wine Partners wrote a guest post on this site and outlined what he viewed as the future of the wine industry as the industry collectively turned the page on a chapter that coincided with the passing of Robert Mondavi.

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In the next wave, Becker suggested that the industry won’t be defined by one man – real or inspirationally –who leads by putting the industry on his shoulders.  Instead, the value-chain of all segments of the wine industry, a vast network of people and relationships, working together for a common goal will be critical.  And, even more importantly, Becker also discussed the value of data within the context of these relationships.  He noted:

… more professional talent will be required to manage the network and mine the data, the glue that binds the relationships.  Speaking of data, the next chapter will need more of it.  Scanner data and depletion reports won’t be enough to readily understand what is happening in the market for fine wine.  The shift from a production focus to a market focus will accelerate through this next chapter.

Very incrementally, we’re starting to see germinating sprouts from the wine data planted seed.  In the past week an iPhone application, Cor.kz, with integration into CellarTracker, the largest user-generated database of consumer-based wine reviews, released bar code scanning functionality allowing a user to use the application to scan a bottle at home or at point of sale to find out information about the wine from various partners, like Wine-searcher.com or the aforementioned CellarTracker.

Elsewhere, an international wine social networking / tasting notes site called Adegga is trying to develop an international industry-wide wine identification code called an AVIN.  Presented on the back of wine labels, it would act as a unique product identifier similar to the way a book has a unique industry-wide identifier called an ISBN number.

Likewise, Cruvee, a business intelligence and social networking monitoring provider, just started a free service called OwnIT that allows a winery to create a central repository for their wine data ensuring that the wide array of third-party wine sites has consistent data about the winery and the wines.

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This is all very interesting and well and good – but, the unfortunate challenge in each of these examples is the blending of bigger wine industry concerns with small business commerce.

That’s not the way things work.  A small technology-based wine industry provider isn’t the tail that can wag the dog.

Look at any business segment in the country and any real industry-wide collaboration and standardization has been created by a standards body or consortium that has the interests of everybody represented.  It happens thousands and thousands of times a year in virtually every industry.  It’s not always easy getting everybody on the same page, but once standards are defined innovation can occur thus allowing capitalism to proceed on its normal course.

Perhaps the great example of this is the Internet.  Nobody “owns” the Internet, yet working groups like the W3C and ICANN make very mission critical decisions about standards and definitions that subsequently flow downstream and benefit everyone engaged in business related to the Internet.

And, while there are large associations that advocate for the wine industry (Wine Institute, WineAmerica, etc) these are not organizations that have much (if any) technology related acumen—the next wave of progress for wine market development.

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Now, more than ever, this wine industry-wide collaboration is necessary as the wave of innovation that leads to Becker’s data assertion is getting ready to gear up in a manner that touches us all.
I recently had the opportunity to dig into the very wonky topic of Top-Level Domain (TLD) names.  I’ll try to explain this with as much brevity as possible to get to my point.  We’re all familiar with Top-Level Domains.  They are administered by the aforementioned ICANN.  These are the web address extensions .com, .net, .org and a bunch of others that make having a web address possible.

The ownership of a Top-Level Domain has always been tightly administered and benevolent.  Nobody “owned” a domain extension.  However, marketers racking their brain to come up with a web address that hasn’t already been taken, provided their company applies for the TLD, they’ll simply be able to use .pepsi (for example) and whatever they want to precede it.

However, there are stipulations to this sponsored ownership.  The first stipulation is the not so inconsequential requirement that begins with an $185,000 application fee, associated legal fees and a technology infrastructure that some estimates indicate will drive the total cost to in between $500,000 to $1 million.

I expect many industry-wide TLD’s to be registered with subsequent “leasing” of domain names by a neutral industry group.  Think .movies for Hollywood, example.  This is important to the wine industry because, obviously, the Top-Level Domain .Wine is and will be available. 

Coming full circle, with the attempt at aggregation of industry-wide data there is also a need for an industry-wide domain extension, with altruism at its core.  While Amazon.com’s potential entry into the wine business has held interest for many it’s also the inverse of the age old problem of the White Knight Syndrome – looking for somebody coming to the rescue.  The reality is if the wine industry is interested in reducing its reliance on the 3-tier system and building out its direct-to-consumer business than the answers are starting to take shape.  But, it’s not easy, it’s not inexpensive in the short-term and it requires that the industry’s long held belief in altruism also equate to total cooperation.

In my next post, I’ll paint a real life example with the Top-Level Domain .jobs and the impact it can have on the way we look for jobs.  The translation to “buying wine” instead of “looking for a job” is easy (and eye opening).



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Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (6) |


Comments

On 12/08, @nectarwine wrote:

Very thought provoking topic. I’ll have to digest this one more. Two things come to mind:

1) From my early observations of the wine industry, there seems to be a level of camaraderie and team work but less collaboration. Coming from the corporate world, we collaborate on everything. Working in our siloís will get us, well probably working in a silo somewhere in the Midwest. The wine industry as a whole could do a better job of organizing and marketing.

2)TLD, wow - a game changer. So, let’s just say that I went out and bought .wine - I could own that high level namesake and then sell http://www.goodgrape.wine or http://www.winelibrarytv.wine. The marketing potential is huge - would you be willing to pay $$ to switch goodgrape.com to goodgrape.wine? Should be fun to watch how this plays out.

Josh @nectarwine (twitter)

On 04/02, philadelphia injury lawyer wrote:

I enjoyed your blog immensely.  However, on the TLDs, the chances of an explosion in new domain extensions are not likely.  I cite the past with regards to the unveiling of country specific domains, e.g., .tv and subsequently, .me.

When they were first released around 2007/2008, it created a land rush; people/companies scrambled to pick up the “premium” names, like date.me, etc.

Ask yourself what is the most popular website with a .tv extension or .me extension?  Chances are, you can’t name one.

The inherent issue lies in the fact that people are conditioned on the .com extension - that is if they ever actually type the URL.  Google has made it too easy to find a website, which subsequently gets bookmarked - so there is rarely a need to go to the long white box at the top of your browser.

At least that’s me .two .cents .worth smile

“In Vino Veritas”

On 06/08, Jean Guillon wrote:

Interesting wink

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On 01/13, Car Accident Lawyer Philadelphia wrote:

The TLD is an interesting topic for discussion and very much appreciated your insight.  Looking forward to more comments

On 05/07, TN Pas Cher wrote:

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