The Mobile Wine Marketing Short Course

I’ve been involved in technology marketing and business development for 15 years and most of that time has been with internet related businesses.  In this timeframe, social media is merely the fourth or fifth internet flavor du jour. Understanding this lineage allows me to maintain perspective on practical matters related to technological change versus the hype. 

However, anymore, with the convergence of the internet and mobile (a/k/a “smartphones”), it’s becoming difficult to keep up, separating reality from hyperbole, even for a person whose job it is to stay abreast of this stuff …  Yet, stay abreast I must, particularly important because the prognosticators are calling for even more rapid change … with more hype …

Given that we’re in a nascent phase of mobile marketing equivalent to where social media was circa 2007, I thought I’d give a very high-level and topical look at the mobile marketing landscape, particularly relevant because wine related activity is on the cutting edge in most sectors of mobile marketing development and will certainly be the next breathless must-do for wineries.

I won’t belabor the details, and my point is to talk quickly about the recent past and present in order to get to the future, where my interest lies, while linking out to sites where more information exists.

According to Mintel, a global consumer research firm, as reported by the Center for Media Research, they suggest the near term future for mobile marketing encompasses the following:

“With smartphones becoming the dominant mobile force, Quick Response and app technology will provide portals into unique experiences and improve our quality of life. In the US, sales of smartphones grew 82% from 2008 to 2010. As consumers are empowered, 2011 will see people take a deeper interest in where they are. Geography and status can be redefined through retail, presenting brands with an opportunity for increased location based services, promotions and solution.”


In understanding this landscape,  the first thing to have a clear understanding of is the near-term legacy model of mobile marketing – commonly referred to as SMS and MMS.

SMS is essentially texting.  The next stage is MMS which is multimedia texting.  Ever take a picture on your phone and then send it to somebody from your phone?  That’s MMS.  After these two building blocks, mobile starts to get wooly.

The Blackberry aside, Apple and the iPhone are duking it out for market share.  The Android operating system can run on many different phone handsets from a number of manufacturers, including the Droid from Motorola.  Meanwhile, Apple and the iPhone are proprietary.

Amongst the two platforms, there’s a significant amount of competitive jousting going on, and both have a preponderance of applications, including dozens of wine-related applications.  Most readers are familiar with this.

Yet, there are a number of technological sub-plots to this Apple versus Android story including the use of Flash versus HTML 5 to deliver motion graphics.  Android favors the former and Apple favors the latter. This story will play out over the next year or so.

The long story short, smartphone trends indicate that nearly everyone will have a smartphone in the very near future and the future of computing (and the marketer’s battle for mindshare) won’t occur with your desktop PC or in your laptop bag, it will occur in the palm of your hand with a smart phone or a wireless tablet computer, running a mobile, non-Microsoft operating system.

So, given that as context, what’s next for mobile marketing in a smartphone-enabled, tablet-computing world?

Mintel has it right when they mention “Quick Response” and “Geography.” The next two years (at least) seem to be based on these two specific mobile marketing functions:

Context Sensitive Marketing

Context Sensitive Marketing or CSM for short is a catch-all bucket for a technology capability (that is rapidly being adopted) that allows an application on your phone to read a barcode or a special graphic (Quick Response or QR for short) that is placed on products – like a wine necker, for example.


In so doing, this scan of the bar code or the special graphic will provide you, the scanner of the object, access to web-based information that is specific to that company, or product.  Think of it as value-added information on a meta level.

The best analogy that I’ve read to help understand CSM comes from technology web site Mashable.  Paraphrased, barcode information or a QR code in the real world is like a real world full of internet links, making our physical surroundings fully contextualized.

For example (also paraphrased from Mashable), you’ve been looking for the perfect lamp for your living room.  As a part of the hotel lobby furnishings, you see THE lamp, and it has a QR code at its base.  You scan the code and your mobile phone browser takes you to a web site with information on the lamp and the ability to buy it.

One such wine-related company that is specializing in this technology is CellarKey with the positioning statement of, “Bringing the experience of a winery to the palm of your hand.”

Now, to be certain, if you choose to really dive in and understand CSM, you’re going to be ahead of the curve for 2011, when this market will really heat up. 

For now, the likes of Microsoft and other mobile marketing companies are still jockeying for position and we’re just now starting to see codes in mainstream advertising, including the current edition of Wine Spectator for Korbel. 



The “Geography” category is really a catch-all for “geo-location” or “location-based” services.  This is the next frontier beyond Twitter.

Established start-ups like FourSquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR, who is partnered with VinTank for application in the wine industry, all bring an application or service to bear, via your smartphone, which allows a user of the application to “check-in” or identify themselves at a location, a retail spot, winery, etc. and begin to accumulate rewards.

Think of this as a loyalty reward card, based on where you shop or visit, combined with an element of fun or gaming that earns you stuff.

With recent announcements that Facebook and are also getting into geo-location services, this market is going to get very fragmented very quickly before it reshapes itself around dominate companies (who have yet to grab dominate position).

The Final Word

Technology innovation comes fast and furious – it’s like the weather in Indiana; if you don’t like it, just wait ½ a day and it will change.  So it is for the evolution beyond social media.  We’re at the precipice of the next frontier, mobile, and two aspects of mobile marketing that will be the hot topic and “must-do” for wineries a short six months from now.

As for me, a person who prides himself on separating reality from hype?  I’d focus on QR codes because of their ability to hit a wide, mass, consumer audience in a relatively short period of time.  Geo-location services, as currently constructed, are great, but there will always be a large percentage of the audience that don’t get it and will never get it, ala Twitter.

Choose your investment wisely.

Additional Links for Review 

* Layar / Augmented Reality
* Quick Response (QR) definition
* Google Goggles (nearly universal QR reader)
* StickyBits (Bar scan marketing company)
* CellarKey
* Steve Jobs hates Flash
* Microsoft mobile tag site
* Mobile Marketing QR / tag company
* SCVNGR wine-related press release