“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much” … Yogi Berra
It is my experience that the best time to innovate is in time of crisis. Business historically exhibits up cycles and down cycles. Right now, we’re either in a bounce, or the cycle has started a long slow trudge out of the financial abyss. It is evident that case good supplies are tightening, as wineries winnow down inventories of their ’06’s and ’07’s. Our wine distributor partners are ordering via the Dell Computer model of just in time. Restaurants that were case buyers have become bottle buyers, and retailers have reverted to post millennium stock reduction strategies. At this point, the wine market is forecasted to continue growing, albeit at a slower rate.
A quick review of a recent down point in the economic life of North America, reflects that crisis and necessity are the mothers of invention. 9/11/2001 had a significant short term affect on wine consumption. At the time wine inventories in all channels were inflated, and recent vintages had been panned in the press. Fred Franzia and ‘Two Buck Chuck’ came along to absorb the juice at the value end of the market, and the series of vintages over the next six years received significant acclaim from print critics in the know, cementing the category we have come to know as ‘cult wines’. The buddy wine film Sideways was released, and demand for Pinot Noir wines shot through the store roof. Prices for wines of all categories above $5 a bottle increased as a result of market dynamics, with the strongest growth in the segment of wines above $15 bottle. For a full review of the economy’s relationship to wine sales in the last 25 years, please read Vic Motto’s article ‘Wine in a Downturn’ in the Global Wine Partners January 2009 newletter, VinSights.
Several factors have mitigated the effects of the global banking crisis on the growth in overall domestic wine sales. The pool of wine consumers in the US has grown by 25 million in the last six years as millennials have adopted wine as their beverage of choice. The relatively cheap dollar in relation to other currencies and drought in Australia have diminished market share for most categories of import wines with the exception of Spanish wines. Smaller recent domestic wine grape crops related to demand, and a wine industry tuned into the consumer sales cycle, have case goods inventories in balance, or in some pricing and varietal segments short, softening downward pressures on wine pricing. This even as we experience channel consolidation and shifts in consumer purchasing patterns.
Given the law of unintended outcomes, a new way of communicating brand has occurred as well. Computer work station, laptops, netbooks, and smart phones, as exemplified by the iPhone and Blackberry, are now ubiquitous. This generation of new wine drinkers is indeed the personal computer generation. Communication has evolved from the desktop to a more portable format. What started out on AOL as instant messaging, moved to Yahoo and MSN, continuing the migration through MySpace to Facebook and now Twitter and FriendFeed. Texting and IMs have morphed to become micro blogging as a way for friends, communities and businesses to communicate. It is now all about the conversation.
The mindset around social media is it’s all about having a conversation with your friends and not about advertising to an audience. As Jeff Stai, at Twisted Oak has often stated, ‘it’s the modern equivalent of the office water cooler conversation.‘ Sorry, Don Draper, the Mad Men model has peaked and, like Sisyphus’ rock, is rolling downhill. Understandably navigating this new multi platform brand awareness strategy can be intimidating and challenging, and the utilization of unique tactics for different touch points can be daunting. Wineries need to develop a set of targeted tactics for each platform such as podcasting, You Tube, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, while including traditional media in the mix in an effort to create brand awareness. It is important to note that this takes commitment, and managers who aren’t just digital savvy, but who understand that the dissemination of key communication points is now a complex exercise. It may also take the insight that maybe it’s more important to listen than to talk. Today’s consumers choose with and to whom they engage. The current key marketing question is not how do I manage my social media relationships, but rather it’s how do I nurture them.
Lets take a quick look at the Murphy-Goode’s promotion ‘A Really Goode Job’. Their print ad reads – “Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent. $10,000/mo (6-month contract), wine country housing included for a good communicator who is Web 2.0 fluent..blogger, videographer, tweeter..excellent written and verbal skills, engaging presence, at least 21-years old, wine lover”. The folks at Murphy-Goode, have established solid broad market distribution. They’re utilizing print, website and social media platforms to tell a fun story. Their have their ducks in a row. Prior to the start of this social media campaign there wasn’t much of a digital conversation going about Murphy-Goode. Now if you check-out Twitter search for ‘Murphy-Goode’ or ‘A Really Goode Job’ you’ll be able to observe all the buzz that this promo has developed. And that’s just Twitter. If you check out the freemium search feature at Cruvee, you’ll see that the conversation about Murphy-Goode has elevated above the din in a noisy, brand saturated marketplace.
How does your winery compare? What are you doing to innovate, and create brand buzz? Are you engaging in the conversation? The Murphy-Goode program has legs. Publicity and brand awareness will follow the selection of the successful candidate. The stories, videos, blogs and conversations generated by the new Murphy-Goode ‘Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent’ will continue to engage customers and fans. As soon as you go on the Murphy-Goode web site and vote for your favorite candidate, take time to think about your digital media strategy, and how your winery will engage customers. clients and fans in the conversation.
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