June 18 2010
Many a cultural anthropologist and psychologist have issued dire warnings about Internet use causing social isolation and loneliness, but what if the opposite was happening? What if, in fact, we are becoming more connected because of technology?
That’s the suggestion of one trendspotting site called TrendWatching.
I’ve mentioned Trendwatching and their monthly trend briefings before. It’s a fascinating resource for making sense of our cultural climate. Rare is the time when the site doesn’t isolate a trend that connects the dots on things that I see and sense, but haven’t fully synthesized. And, equally rare is the time when that trend doesn’t have a connection path to wine.
Trendwatching’s most recent briefing, joining previous briefings that I’ve also written about (a brand as a consumer concierge service provider and how people denote ‘status’ in a new economic environment), is about the phenomenon of connected gatherings. They call it, “Mass Mingling.”
By now, to many in the wine realm, this notion of a hybrid of connected online and offline gatherings and social networking made kinetic may be self-evident particularly because wine is already so social, but I can’t help but note that this is still very nascent outside of technology early adopters.
A “Tweet-up” may be intuitive to some, but isn’t for most. AIDA – the old marketing axiom for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action is still a developing situation for the vast majority of wine enthusiasts who haven’t made the jump to pursuing their interest online. But, they will …
According to the Trendwatching report:
Thanks to the online revolution, hundreds of millions are now actively searching for, finding and connecting/signaling and staying in touch with likeminded souls in the virtual world. Constant updates, GPS and mobile online access is now bringing this explosion of dating, networking and mingling to the real world domain. Mass Mingling follows the pattern of any consumer trend, whereby an existing human need is unlocked in a new way … never before were people able to build and maintain such extensive personal networks.
The report goes on to discuss, primarily, the quick growth of geo-location services and mobile connectivity (smart phones) that blurs the lines between being on and offline and in so doing obliterates the previously constrained notion of who was or was not in our network of friends and acquaintances.
The primary takeaway of the report is that networking, empowered by evolving communication technology, will lead to significant and continued social aggregation of likeminded people. Brands can participate in this social aggregation by helping facilitate these gatherings.
In the world of wine, we’re already seeing this to some degree with Twitter TasteLive, and independent online/offline Twitter-based gatherings that are forming around topical areas like Washington state wine or Pinot Noir, amongst other connection paths.
Elsewhere, research by eMarketer (here, here and here) supports the idea that much of our online activity is brand-centric (talking about brands) with a natural correlating response being offline word-of-mouth. Forward thinking wineries already understand this, but what they may not be thinking about is this “Mass Mingling” notion with deeper possibilities like … well, like home parties—something that combines online and offline marketing with a consumer’ natural propensity to talk about the stuff that happens to them.
In 2006 when Stormhoek, a South African wine brand, sent wine out to 100 people with instructions to gather a group of friends and enjoy the wine while taking a couple of pictures it was inspired marketing novelty. Doubtless, at the time, Jason Korman and his marketing mensch Hugh MacLeod didn’t think they were going to spawn a business model. Yet, a company called House Party is proving that brand centric marketing and in-house parties can be big business.
The premise is simple enough – a consumer signs up at their site, monitors party opportunities, requests a party and, if selected, is sent a “House Party Pack” – a kit with product and marketing to support their in-house party that will occur simultaneously with others across the country. In the weeks and days leading up to the event the firm provides online networking and social media tools to capture content and to foster engagement amongst participants. Really, it’s all so beautiful in its simplicity: People like free stuff, we already know people associate with and talk about brands, and the word of mouth that extends from the event, when multiplied across a thousand parties can be significant.
In short, what does technology-driven “Mass Mingling” and consumer-based house parties mean for the wine business? When combined with the growth of miniature wine tasting samples like TinyBottles from Crushpad and 50ml bottles from TastingRoom.com, the world of consumer-based wine marketing is about to evolve. In the future, it’s very likely that not only will direct-to-consumer wine sales be critically important to a winery, but so too will be the marketing that goes along with it, jumping out of the tasting room, off the computer screen and into the living room, with other likeminded people who can carry a brand message forward on a one-to-one basis whether that’s on the web, via your phone, or in person.