Dispatches from Wine Country

The Blessing of the Grapes

“God is in the details.” … Ludwig Miles van der Rohe

The Blessing of the Grapes for the 2009 Harvest at Schramsberg VineyardsIt’s late August in Northern California wine country, and the annual wine grape harvest has once again started. At most wineries in North America it’s long shifts and no days-off time for the next several months, as full attention to the details of wine production are the primary focus of each winemaking team. In spite of all the inevitable hard work ahead, the first load of wine grapes is always met with anticipation, and the arrival of the first bins are often celebrated by the staffs at the various winery. It’s a ritual that likely goes back to the historical agricultural origins of grape growing and winemaking in recognition of theFirst Grapes in - Pinot Noir from Richburg Vineyards, Napa/Carneros cycles of nature, and the task of hand crafting what was once just sunlight on new plant growth into a wine that one day will be opened in celebration of some special moment in time. This past The Celebration Begins at Schramsberg Blessing of the Grapes for Vintage 2009Tuesday, August 18th I had the opportunity to witness the ‘Blessing of the Grapes’ at Schramsberg Vineyards. The first load of Pinot Noir from the Napa/Carneros based Richburg Vineyard was pristine. Small berries on small clusters of deeply colored fruit on bright green, yet to lignify, stems. Based on the early returns, 2009 looks like a spectacular vintage, at least for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As a bonus I had the opportunity to meet iconic National Geographic and now famed wineSamantha Brown interview Schramsberg Winemaker, Keith Hock by the Bladder Press at the Blessing of the Grapes Vintage 2009 countryThe Schramsberg Vineyards Family Heritage Continues with Vintage 2009 photographer Charles O’Rear, who’s work I’ve long admired. I also had the chance to meet Samantha Brown who was filming segments for her Travel Channel show. More importantly I got to meet and talk to Hugh Davies, his wife Monique and their childern, a few of the Schramsberg board members and a proud grandfather. This ceremony wasn’t just a celebration of Crush, but it was about heritage, continuity, and being a member of a wine making family. It was a seminal bonding experience for family, staff and crew. While Schramsberg Vineyards PR & Marketing Manager Matt Levy had the press bases covered, this was not a publicity event, but a timeless ceremony that for me reconfirmed Ben Franklin’s pantheistic beliefs that nature is god.


Boot Scooting BBQ

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,
With a pink hotel, a boutique,
And a swinging hot spot.
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”   …. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

The arriving crowd at the Scully Ranch for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 BBQWith the smells of wine harvest filling the air in the flatlands and hillsides in the Napa Valley, and rising seasonal temperatures in what the locals refer to as Crush weather, it was time for the annual Land Trust of Napa County fundraiser. The great thing about attending a non-profit fundraiser in wine country is that you know that the wine and food are going to be something special, and the ‘Boot Scooting BBQ’ at thAuctioning a Magnum Vertical Of Viader Napa Valley Cabernet for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 Fundraiser at Scully Ranche Scully Ranch on Mt. Veeder didn’t disappoint. The Land Trust of Napa County, like all non-profits in these challenging economic times is facing a funding crisis, and this event was an effort to refill their depleted coffers. The LTNC is permanently protecting more than 55,000 acres of agricultural and open space lands throughout Napa County. More acreage than BBQ great Ray Green at the Scully Ranch for the Land Trust of Napa County Fund Raisercurrently planted to wine grapes. Protecting the natural lands, scenic and open spaces and the agricultural heritage benefits all the inhabitants of wine country – residents, visitors, businesses and wildlife alike. And through fundraisers, like the Saturday event at Scully Ranch, will continue to do so for future generations. Thanks to organizations like the Land Trust of Napa County, they haven’t ‘paved over paradise and put up a parking lot.’ BTW: The perfect smokeThe hard working volunteers burning the midnight oil raising funds for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 Fundraiser at Scully Ranchd traditional Texas BBQ from world BBQ champion chef Ray Green was a smash hit. And my table rediscovered a fondness for Saintsbury’s Carneros Chardonnay and Carneros Garnett Pinot Noir, both the right weight and style for a warm evening and full plates of Ray Green’s BBQ. All of the volunteers worked so hard, and deserve a hand-up. So if you live here, visit here or sell wine from this area of the world, click on this link and send in a few bucks. It’s needed, it will be appreciated, and it will help to continue the preservation of this special corner of the wine world.


So You Want to be a Wine Marketer?

Walt Disney and my old boss, Mickey Mouse“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” … Walt Disney

One of the attributes that I always look for in someone who tells me that they’re a wine marketeer or that they want to be a wine marketer is an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Oh, not just being a wine geek. Truthfully, that’s not going to cut-it in these hyper competitive times. You really have to have an unrelenting curiosity about life, about culture, and about others. When I used to move around a lot a skill that I developed, one that has served me well in my career in wine marketing, is what they call in the armed services ‘living on the economy.’ This basically means immersing yourself wholeheartedly and without reservation in the circumstance of the culture in which you live. It’s dropping your fears and embracing life. It means reading newspapers, magazines, books, news feeds, and not just wine industry based materials. It means listening to music, seeing plays and movies, engaging and talking to people of all ages. Well, basically living life, but paying attention while you do. Really good actors are able to observe those around them in their daily lives for cues on Duck Blind Liquors, Santa Monica, CAperhaps a current or future performance. This is a necessary skill for any good marketer. Years ago while making a sales call at Duck Blind Liquors on Montana in Santa Monica, I noticed a small, unshaven and rather unkempt man intently watching me as I made my pitch to the store owner. Thinking that the man wanted to make a purchase I offered to step aside to facilitate a possible sale. The man demurred and saiDavid Mametd that he was writing something, and was just imagining a scene. After the man left, the store owner identified the customer as playwright David Mamet, who was drawing information from the encounter. Well, as wine marketers we should always be doing the same thing. Informing ourselves about the circumstances of our culture. Here are a few articles and links that I felt informed me as to what’s transpiring out there in the greater universe which will now tend to help shape my future marketing decisions.


Please note that although the following links have good useable information, a few may require free registration or may time-out after being up for seven days:

‘Word-of-Mouth Gains Volume’ article from Brandweek re. contrary to other ad categories increased WOM ad spend

Better wines in groceries due to fine dinning slowdown now followed by availability of prime beef (may require free registration)

Timely WSJ article ‘The New, Faster Face of InnovationThanks to technology, change has never been so easy—or so cheap’

Interesting must read on ‘Wine and Global Warming: An Open Letter to the President’ (via environmental attorney, Charles Becker)

An article from Restaurants & Institution ‘Social-Media Marketing for Restaurants: 10 Tips’ – can apply to wineries

Interesting article re anonymity of food critics

A good read re. ‘New Orleans’ Chefs remembering Julia Child’ in context of Julie & Julia movie  BTW: Loved the movie!

Be involved and be aware. You never know when or where you’ll find that next big idea. Be inquisitive. Ask Questions, and then sit back and listen to the answers. Stay intellectually curious. It’s the engine that drives the effective, creative wine marketer. And that’s you, right? The innovative, creative, effective wine marketer?

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

Think Different

Pablo Picasso, Think Different“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” … according to Apple legend, written by Steve Jobs

The News

No doubt that there’s been little in the way of positive news in print, on radio or via telemedia in the last 18 months. If we were tCA Lotto Ticketo give credence to all the naysayers, then I’m thinking that we would all be building underground bunkers in our backyards. But clearly that’s not the case. In fact a few of my friends with large holes behind their homes insist that’s just for their new pools. Umm hun! I just ran into a friend at the local 7-11. He was buying a couple of quick pick Lotto tickets, and after the purchase he held them up and said, ‘this is my new 401 K. Yikes! And he’s the CEO of a very successful wine business. Well here’s how the eyes of a ‘seasoned wine veteran’ see this world in these transformative times.

Sign of the Times

NYSE Market Chart August 20, 2009Yes, the times and consumer behaviors have indeed changed. Millennials seem to be still experimenting with their beverage choices, and have recently migrated back to gastropubs and craft beers, and are driving a movement to more casual dinning. Boomers have seen a tsunami-like movement in their retirementWorried Boomer Reviewing Finances account charts, a devaluation of their housing assets, and a lowering of their credit lines, and as a result their rate of savings has increased from less than 1% to more than 5% of income. Credit card debt is being retired at record rates, and credit use has declined significantly. Eating-in Donald Trump 'You're Fired'has become the new cool, as white table cloth restaurant rethink their formulas and presentations. Businesses are enacting what my UK friends refer to as redundancies and T&E budgets have been slashed, all impacting the sale of wines above $50. So, just what are you the winery’s chief marketing officer to do? Actually, all is not lost. Yes, the economic thermostat has been reset. Reset to perhaps a more realistic temperature. The case for the return of the great depression has been somewhat overstated as we focus on the greed and hubris of the worst in the financial marketplace. The rebound seems to have started even as we assess our individual spending behaviors.

1934 Chateau LatourToday’s conspicuous consumption may be met with significant societal approbation, but perhaps there is identifiable pent-up demand in the marketplace. Some signs point to this. Even though the restaurant segment of the fine wine market has been in decline in this period, data seems to support the continueSonoma Market Wine Displayd consumption of fine wines, albeit at home with wine purchased in a local wine store or where legal in a grocery, at price points obviously lower than wine list pricing. Smart sommeliers are constructing more diversified lists with wines from lesser known varietals and/or regions, creating opportunity for new brands by engendering consumer exposure and trial. This idea of creating trial has been around for quite sometime. One of the primary tactics was to participate in wine tastings. But as the wine marketplace has become brand saturated and wine tastings have indeed become grand, what is the best way to now engage potential wine consumers, and to convert them to customers and then to be loyal clients. It’s time to rethink this experience, and to now, as Steve Jobs once compelled us, think different.

Open Your Eyes

Steve Jobs 'Think Different'Like the young girl at the end of the Apple ‘Think Different” television commercials, are you ready to open your eyes and see the possibilities, to lead and create change for your brand(s)? While there may be political motivation behind the participation of wineries in large tastings that attract crowds in the thousands, the question remains, ‘what’s in it for your winery.’ In these challenging times, the need to imbue your events calendar with a healthy dose of pragmatism seems obvious, and the necessity to ask just this question – ‘what’s my desired outcome for 2009 Pinot Days at Fort Mason, San Franciscomy participation in this event?’ Awareness could be an answer, but is that possible at a tasting with hundreds of wineries multiplied by 3, 4 or more wines per table? Your interaction is minimized. Your ability to capture names rendered impractical by the crowds and short interaction intervals. And, if a consumer has difficulty remembering the name of that wine they had at La Toque in Napa for their anniversary while shopping just down the street at JV’s, do you expect them to remember your wine days later after a 30 second tasting? Marketing research tells us that the average Quintessa Napa Valley Grand Tasting for WBC09wine consumer has a limited set of brands in their personal brand set, somewhere between 5-7 unique brands. More often than not this preference is overridden by merchandizing techniques within the store. So, Don Sebastiani or David Mirassou spending a Saturday standing in a store somewhere in America signing bottles from an end-cap display while talking to customers on a one-to-one basis, forming an emotional bond between vintner and end consumer, seems to be a more efficacious use of resources and time, then standing in a pavilion at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center with 250+ other wineries. Well, an end-cap display was sold into the store in advance of the tasting. Lift and velocity (increased sales/depletions) over normal shelf placement was achieved, leading to future display activity and perhaps additional shelf facings.

A Few Short Case Studies to Get You Thinking

Eric Sussman hosting the HBS group at Radio-CoteauEric Sussman of Radio-Coteau has a rustic facility (think Aloxe-Corton 30 years ago) on the edge of Sebastopol, in the Green Valley not quite guest ready. Eric’s artisan production Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is limited, and more than 50% of this production is sold on a DTC basis. Like all wines with retails in the $50 range, broad market sales, while still strong, have at times required more oeric Sussman of Radio-Coteauf Eric’s presence in the market. Eric has a good understanding of creating and forming relationships with key lighthouse accounts in the broad market. And he has an understanding that large wine events are not a good use of his small wine company’s resources. In an effort to maintain his visibility and to grow his relationship with Four Seasons Hotels he elected to participate in the Four Season San Francisco’s Second Wine Maker Series. On August 4th, supported by a Facebook post, and an email blast to Radio-Coteau’s local mailing list members, the Radio-Coteau event turned out to be the most successful tasting in this summer’s series. The relationship with the Four Seasons was solidified, revenue was created for the account, and depletions were created for Radio-Coteau. As a side-note, executives from Facebook HQ saw the Facebook post and drove up from the Peninsula, and are now new R-C mailing list members.

Chuck Hayward & Randall Graham at Hospice du Rhone Taste Live Event at Estate SonomaSomeone who’s mantra must be ‘think different’ is Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz. Randall has been an innovator and an agent of change in the wine industry from day one. When I think of Randall, at least my first impression,  is his persona as wine’s philosopher king. He chose to make wine out of Rhone varietals, when only a few were and no real market existed for the wine. And then Reisling fromRandall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard the Pacific Northwest, when the category was shrinking. He valued his customers and refused to talk down to them by elevating the conversation while attracting a loyal set of passionate clients. Randall and Bonny Doon have had many iterations, and I’m not sure what version this is, but I know it seems to be working. By chance I sat at Randall’s table for the Hospice du Rhone Taste Live Event at Estate Sonoma, where he talked about the necessity for his increased presence in the market. I next saw Randall at the Wine Bloggers Conference pouring his wines and conducting one on one conversations with those that could replicate his message. Randall is on Twitter, and I follow his in-market travels. His communications are a masters class in wine marketing. He gets it and holds conversations in the ether and engages those of us in the wine trade in meaningful dialog. Randall’s micro-posts also happen to be literate and quite funny. Randall is renewing old friendships and winning fans and clients one at a time. What’s old is now new again.

“I want to put a ding in the universe!” … Steve Jobs

Jeff Stai of Twisted oak Winery at Winery Collective, SFSo you’re not Don, David, Eric or Randall, but if it was ever time in our wine business lives to be creative innovators that time is now. Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak has found a way. Lisa de Bruin of Hahn Family Wines has found a way. Chris Donatiello at C. Donatiello has found a way. David Simpson aChris Donatiello conducting a wine tasting of C. Donatiello wines for WBC09 Bloggerst the Mendocino Wine Company has found a way, and so have many other of our peers. Find your own example and then mirror them, or better yet use your innate talent and think of new ways to identify and capture customers through an insightful strategic analysis of your event strategy. Spend your human and capital resources wisely, and with specific expectations of a tangible return on the investment of your time. The rote way of marketing your wines, engaging in group think, or repeating activities because ‘we’ve always done it this way’ no longer seems to be effective. Make your mark. Think Different.

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

CRUVEE Names Think Wine Marketing Founder to BOA

The Appointment

cruvee logoHaving written and proposed the adoption of a number of available useful technological advances for wine business marketing departments seeking to optimize their efficacy, I have an announcement to make concerning my recent involvement with one new wine business technology company. On August 13, 2009 I accepted an appointment  to the Board of Advisors at Cruvee. In this past week, Cruvee.com CEO Evan Cover named Michael Wangbickler and John Corcoran, Think Wine Marketing Founder and Chief Marketing Officer to the Cruvee BOA. As a wine industry participant, I have been a tireless supporter of the wine industry’s adoption of technology under the mantras of  ‘best practices’ and ‘utilize every tool available.’ I look forward to working with Evan, Michael and the BOA at Cruvee in an effort to increase the adoption of this timely and critical wine marketing intelligence platform.

As a note to new and regular readers

John Corcoran Think Wine MarketingAlso, having previously written about Social Media with occasional Cruvee mentions as part of the story line, I felt that I should update my readers regarding my new appointment to the Cruvee BOA. This seems important to me, and hopefully to you, the reader, within my personal ethos of transparency. Please also note that this is a quick post and that my regular weekly Think Piece article will be posted this Thursday Evening 8/20. So, staMargie Tosch (OTL), Russ Beebe (California Wine Hikes), Randy Hall (Wine Biz Radio)y tuned! The intent of any Think Piece post is an effort to create  a discussion revolving around identifiable current wine marketing issues. Your involvement and comments are a critical part of the process. This is meant to be a conversation and not a lecture. I’m gratified that to date I’ve received more than 250 comments in my first series of Think Pieces. Many of my post have been the result of ‘what-if’ questions from friends and contacts in the wine business, sometimes on the phone but often over a glass of wine, or possibly a local craft brew. Hopefully the content has been helpful to some, and of value to many, but that determination will be made by you, the reader. Please feel free to contact me by commenting on this blog, or please click on the blog contact page to call or email me directly. Looking forward to a robust discussion on the topics over the next  six months

The Cruvee PR Release

Pioneer in social media intelligence for the wine industry, announced today the appointment of two wine business experts to their Board of Advisors

08.13.2009 – Napa, CA, August 12, 2009 – Cruvee, the pioneer in social media intelligence for the wine industry, announced today the appointment of two wine business experts to their Board of Advisors (BOA) selected to assist and advise the company in strategic developments, marketing and outreach within the wine community.

Cruvee’s BOA will thoughtfully work to advance Cruvee as the leader in social media monitoring and information aggregation for all online conversations surrounding wine and wine brands. And in order to do so, Cruvee will look to these two recognized leaders and innovators in the wine industry to draw from their experience bolstering Cruvee’s mission and aspirations.

Founder and Chief Executive officer, Evan Cover, asserted, “It is an honor and absolute privilege to have these forward thinking wine business leaders as part of Cruvee. They bring so much passion and knowledge to our company that will undoubtedly aide in our success.”

The two initial appointees to the BOA are:

Michael Wangbickler is the Executive Director of the Academy of Wine Communications and currently holds the position of PR manager at Balzac Communications and Marketing in Napa, California. Prior to that he was at Franciscan Estates (part of Constellations Wines U.S.) where he was a wine educator/program specialist with responsibilities for trade relations and special events. His credentials include the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Sommelier Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is a Certified Wine Educator. He has been a judge for various wine competitions, and has taught courses on wine and wine marketing.

John Corcoran is the Owner & Chief Marketing Officer of Think Wine Marketing where he works to assist wine businesses maximize market awareness through market modeling, strategic planning, promotions and digital strategic initiatives. John has been in the wine industry for over 25 years focusing on marketing and sales. He is an active voice online through his blog and social media participation, extending his reach as a well-respected resource for insights into wine business.

Cruvee’s BOA will consists of four total members. They will be announcing two additional members comprised of thought leaders and veterans within the technology industry soon.

About Cruvee

Cruvee is a customer acquisition vehicle that is designed for wineries to connect with consumers through social media monitoring services. It aggregates all the conversations and tasting notes from around the web including:

• Over 19 Million blog posts with over 1,000 dedicated wine bloggers

• Over 15,000 forums – both wine related and non-wine related

• Over 3 million tweets a day

• 100’s of social networking sites and wine groups

• Major wine related tasting note sites

This tool helps to promote and protect a wineries brand by effectively monitoring, measuring and interpreting the online chatter, clutter and its inherent viral effect. They help their clients leverage this consumer-generated media as a competitive advantage in today’s online marketplace. Cruvee not only gives wineries a unique view of their brands public perception in near real-time, but they also enable wineries to engage consumers to continue brand loyalty and sales efforts.

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

Yes We Can

Rosanne & Johnny Cash“The key to change… is to let go of fear” … Rosanne Cash

Change, Change, Change

Anyone who has lived through the last 3 years, has an awareness that in these transformative times fundamental social change has occurred. You were along for the ride whether you wanted to be or not. Oh, this isn’t the Woodstock Nation’s form of radical social change, or, even the Brown vs The Board ofBrown vs the Board of Education Education emotionally charged social change. In this current period symbols of change were not as visible. No long haired flower children in strange colorful clothes, no angry mobs, no Lester Maddox with his ax handle, and no burning Woodstock posterstreets. The agents of change fit-in as well as ‘The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit’ fit into his era. Most likely you woke up one day and saw that significant cultural change had occurred. Buried in the details of your daily existence, the greed and hubris of those that created the current economic conditions driving this period of change went largely unnoticed until the meltdown. The meltdown which hit as quickly and as surely as those planes hitting the TwinTowers on 9/11. And, as this was happening an evolution of just how it is we communicate concepts, ideas and beliefs rapidly evolved. Into the void stepped a political marketing machine whose brand plan was consideredChris Matthews News Sunday on MBC revolutionary, and was widely disregarded by most professional political pundits. It was an often repeated Sunday broadcast network news analysis that the candidate and his team using these new symbols and social media platforms had no idea what they were doing. And then came the Iowa Caucus. Without regard to your personal set of political beliefs, it seems to be obvious that you as a wine marketer should be studying the observable lessons of the Obama Presidential campaign marketing tactics and the campaign’s use of new media tools with the understanding that how we as wine MarCom managers now communicate and market brand has fundamentally changed.

A Short Case Study in Contemporary Brand Management

Barrack working the crowd on the Campaign TrailIn any brand marketing campaign, the essence and essential truths of the brand must be distilled into a viable message. The message must be replicated and repeated through the use of images, words and symbols. Through the message a visceral connection must be made between the brand and the targeted audience for success to be North Carolina Rally for Barrack Obamaaachieved. In an effort to achieve this success, through effective marketing research, the campaign was able to identify a target audience based on demographics and attitudinal predisposition. A significant portion of this identified audience had a presence on social media. The Obama campaign was an early adopter/implementer of social media platforms. MySpace was dominant in the social media space at the beginning of the campaign, and so an Obama fan page was created, and interested individuals rushed to join the club. As Facebook and then Twitter gained traction, accounts were created to engage voters, and as the Shepard Fairey's Barrack Obama 'Hope' posternumber of fans grew so did the channels for communication and a pool for fund raising was established. Individuals who contributed to the campaign were given an opt-in choice to receive important updates about the campaign and election. YouTube was also a major factor with numerous short videos featuring endorsements, narrative story lines and music like the Will.i. am. ‘Yes We Can’ video featuring the mantra of the ‘Change’ message for the campaign.Will.i.am, Yes We CanThe iconic Obama ‘HOPE’ poster was created by street artist Shepard Fairey, and became instantly recognized as the visual image of the campaign. Third party endorsements, utilizing the ideas of co-branding and borrowed interest, were achieved, with Oprah’s endorsement gaining worldwide press coverage for the Obama campaign. A masterful use of message, image, social media, endorsement and third party advocacy. There was significant push-back against this campaign, but the execution of an integrated brand management plan through the fidelity to the perceived authenticity of message, the engagement and involvement of the many, and a transparency of the process, insured the successful conclusion of stated goals. So, are you to going to mirror this model and move your brand(s) forward towards the adoption by your targeted audience resulting in purchase?

An Even Shorter Conclusion

writing a checkAs I stood in line at the local Safeway this morning the three customers ahead of me all paid by personal check, and I’m thinking ‘people still use checks?’ If you want to live on a cash basis, haven’t ATM cards been around all of our adult lives. This slow adoption of tools made available through technology, even in this technologically sophisticated area of the country, seems to be endemic in the marketing arena of the wine business. I’m not sure if this is ego, uncertainty, or fear of the unknown. But I am sure that those that are frozen by fear will likely not survive in these uncertain economic conditions, or have afrozen in fear chance of thriving in a turnaround. Given the vision allowed by the distance of time and with my apolitical marketing mind-set, I can see the clarity of vision of the Obama presidential campaign, and their effective use of all the current tools available to even wine marketers. Ones that are available for use without the necessity to build a war chest on the scale of a political campaign. Difficult times should light the fires of our creative marketing imaginations. At this time in history, we have to be thinking better, faster and cheaper. One of the key lessons to be learned is that ubiquity doesn’t trump authenticity. The basic idea that I’ve learned sometime in my marketing experience is that while political skills matter there are no magic bullets, or one size fits all solutions for today’s wine marketing challenges. But, identifying, targeting and engaging your consumer audience before, during and after the sale is essential, essential to conceiving and executing your winning wine marketing brand plan.

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

Video as an Effective Emotional Branding Medium

Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.” … Scott Talgo, Brand Strategist

The challenges facing today’s wine brand marketer are daunting. In what brand communicator, Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications refers to as a saturated wine market, how do we communicate the passion to excel as evidenced by our vintner partners? How do we consistently maintain and elevate the real value of our brand(s) in today’s marketplaceSafeway wine set, everything is on sale? And, how do we create a community of passionate fans? Well, my observations tell me that the lessons that you memorized in marketing 101, and then actualized early in your careers as wine brand marketers – creating a positive consumer interaction, then consistently and credibly delivering an authentic brand message engendering trust and hopefully loyalty – have not changed. But, the methods incorporated and the mediums utilized in this age of permission marketing certainly have accelerated brand evolution, and reshaped the ability of wine marketers to consistently maintain message and elevate inherent brand value.

Don Draper, Emotional BranderVideo as a tool in brand marketing kits has been around for a long time, since the golden age of television changed how the Mad Men utilized emotional branding. But that was in a time of 3 networks and low resolution TV signals received by antenna, and shown on sets limited by CRT’s and tube technology. Now we live in a world of flat screen multi-media receivers featuring 3-400 channels delivered via cable or satellite, increasingly in an HD format. We all have our iPhones, smartphones, net books,and laptops connected to the ether of the internet via wifi or laptop broadband connect cards. FlipHD cameras have becomLisa filming Keth Hock w/FlipHD at Keefer Vineyarde ubiquitous, and the new iPhone 3G-S is capable of recording video and sound. Consumers are empowered to capture and then replicate images through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo. As a marketer desiring to incorporate innovative best practices as part of your integrated wine brand marketing tactics, it would behoove you to not only be aware of and master contemporary and evolving video technologies, but to observe others in wine biz marketing incorporating video as an effective emotional branding medium; and then, within the culture of your wine business mirror the most successful applications utilizing consumer driven video applications to deliver and hopefully maximize the dissemination of your core message.

Carl SaganVideo to effectively make a connection with our, as Carl Sagan describes, reptilian brains it must maximize emotional impact through the use of images, sound and narrative. Story matters, even more in a visual medium. Story always matters. We, as consumers, have developed keen message filters, accepting some messages, disregarding others as junk mail, or sending many directly to the trash as cynical exercises in marketing voodoo. The narrative often determines the tenure of the video, and the visuals tend to follow the story. Although, Diane Ackerman advises that “the visual image is a kind of tripwire for the emotions.” And, Scott Bedbury of Nike and Starbucks states, “Great brands taps into emotions. Emotions drive most if not all of our decisions. A branSteve Jobsd reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product.” “A great brand is a story that’s never completely told. A brand is a metaphorical story that Blake Mykoskie of TOMS Shoesconnects with something very deep. Stories create the emotional context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience.” Within the context of wine brand marketing, to make this connection with and to make an imprint on our limbic brains, the story needs an inherent legitimacy, and needs to exhibit a ‘realness,’ to create emotional brand capital with the power to translate experience and awareness into action (purchase). Your goal in this saturated wine marketplace is to create a compelling brand identity, by using your whole marketing tool chest, including video, and by creating an emotional connection between your brand promise and your targeted set of consumers…and, then delivering on that promise. Some examples of this are Steve Jobs at Apple, Blake Mycoskie at TOMS Shoes, and now, within our own wine industry, Wilson Daniels Films.

Wilson Daniels FilmThrough luck and circumstance I had the opportunity this past week to follow Bret Lyman, of B-Napa Studio, and Lisa Mattson, of Wilson Daniels Films , shooting the Schramsberg Documentry , and to post tweets in real time documenting the Documentary. Having had the chance to interact with Lisa Mattson,Lisa Mattson w/ToxBox at Wine 2.0Wilson Daniels Director of Communications, at two Taste Live events, an Earth Day teleconferencing session with Bernard Lacroute of WillaKenzie in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Nigel Nigel Greening of Felton RoadGreening of Felton Road in New Zealand’s Central Otago, and observing Ms Mattson’s TokBox live online discussions with Australian winery Owner Grant Burge at this Spring Wine 2.0 event at Crushpad, SF, I knew that Lisa gets it. This is someone that industry should be watching and mirroring. Whip smart, professional, accomplished and with a work ethic that is unmatched, I knew that this would be a good shoot. The bonus was local B-Napa Studio Principal and Director of Photography Bret Lyman, who first came into focus with the wine marketing community with his award winning film “CRUSH” for Don Sebastiani & Sons. Although a local Napa Valley kid, Bret migrated to New York City to work in the production of commercials, where he earned his chops in production and editing.

The Schramsberg Documentary crew at Standish Vineyards, Anderson ValleyMaybe it’s the big city experience or the Malcom Gladwell 10,000 hours to competence theory, but working with these two, Lisa as Producer, and Bret as cinematographer, editor and visual story teller provided another take on the creative process. I’ve often said, I don’t know all the answers, just most of thSchramsberg Documentry Grip Holding Tree Branch for Bret Layman shote questions. On a ride back from the shoot in the Anderson Valley, I asked about Bret’s background helping with framing the shoot. His response was on-point that although he’s a commercial editor/producer by training, his foundation is as an ‘emotional brander.’ And although there was a scene schedule outlining the shoot, Bret, reinforcing my experience with the creative process, said the scenes revel themselves as he shoots.Watching these two pros function as a unit at each location was another lesson in getting the job done correctly. And yes the resulting thought-provoking visuals were revealed as part of the process. This wasn’t a video being shot, but a real film shot by consummate professionals, capturing the visceral images and rich details at each location.

Lisa Mattson Slatting the shot for Bret Lyman at Juster, Anderson ValleyMy emotional connection with Schramsberg goes back to my days at Disney when I was promoted out of food & beverage and assigned responsibility for Village Wine & Spirits. I knew that I had to differentiate the shop to be successful. One of my plans was a wall of Methode Champenoise wines. Schramsberg was my first domestic sparkler and my best seller. It didn’t hurt that President Nixon took Schramsberg to China on his visit tKeith Hock & Lisa Mattson in Juster Vineyard Filming Schramsberg Documentaryo establish detente. Since my Disney days, I’ve visited Schramsberg on several occasions, but over these two days I had unfettered access to the backstory of people and place. Riding from Sonoma up to Mendocino’s Anderson Valley with Keith Hock, I was able to ask any question that I wanted, and was surprised to learn that he sourced 92 separate vineyards in multiple appellations in the Napa/Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Marin Coast, and Mendocino/Anderson Valley AVAs for Schramsberg. And these are not just any vineyards. In Anderson Valley we stopped at Juster, and Standish, and had a meeting with Paul Ardzrooni, Schramsberg’s Anderson Valley Vineyard Manager, in the Savoy Vineyard. After lunch at Underwood, where Keith reveled that he was a professional bike racer who lived for a period in France Keith Hock, Schramsberg Winemaker checking the Pinot in Keefer Vineyards, Green Valleyriding in races such as the famed PariBret Lyman & Lisa Mattson shooting Schramsberg documentary in Keefer Vineyards Roubaix, we headed to the Green Valley and the Keefer Vineyard. Watching Keith walk around through the vineyard, looking at the fruit, I noticed that his eyes lit up like the Sebastiani Theater marquis at dusk. He was at home and in his element. Then off to the wilds of the Sonoma Coast and the Saltonstall Vineyard, where the grapes shared space with the wind, the fog some sheep and a white border collie that keep between the film crew and his flock. The light faded before we had a chance to continue to the Hyde/Carneros location. BTW: these aren’t any vineyards, but vineyards that supply fruit to some of the most revered Chardonnay and Pinot Noir still wine producers in Northern California. Great wine takes great fruit, and with these sources Schramsberg’s quality is assured.

Riddler, Ramon Viera scene set-upDay two of the shoot was at the winery. I’ve been around wineries for the last 25 years, and there are certain cues that I observe that tell me the real story. First are the grounds, then the cellar, then bottlinBret Lyman filming shoot positioning at Jack's Block of the J Davies Estateg and most importantly the people. I came away impressed. And as I’ve said before I’m somewhat jaded. I was impressed from the start, first with Scooby of Rios Vineyard Management, to Marketing Manger Matt Levy, to Ramon Viera, the world’s fastest riddler. What I liked best when I asked Ramon about Hugh Davies, he replied that ‘Hugh is one of us.’ There’s a cultural context to what Ramon said. Hugh is respected as the boss, but this respect is reinforced by his not setting himself apart from his team. Great Hugh Davies at Schramsbergcompanies, and great wineries are the work of a team. This is a lesson that we must learn as marketers. The best wines come from an emotional connection by the team. If we can visually convey this, then our customers will bHand Labeling J Schrame part of that connection. I can’t wait to see the finished Schramsberg Documentary film from Bret and Lisa. I know it’s going to be good. When I left, Bret and Lisa were still filming, so, Bret posted the last scene shot that day on my Facebook wall, a long view of a Schramsberg cave tunnel. He said he dreamed of the shot the night before, This almost obsessive attention to detail, the philosophical mindset of this filmmaker, the creative intuition and passion displayed in B-Napa’s earlier work for Wilson Daniels Films, and the ability to draw out that essential visual narrative in consort with Lisa is so important to the ’emotional branding’ inherent in this 2 year long documentary process.

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