Wine Marketing: Walk the Talk, Just Have a Voice

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, a few university graduates came by the office to talk about wine and the marketing thereof. Some were journalist graduates. Others had completed the BSc Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch. Two were bearers of MBA scrolls. But they all loved wine and wished to get into the marketing side of business.

We threw some ideas around: wine styles, packaging, grape varieties, new markets, the success of trusted old brands. Asked to talk from an advertising and communications perspective, my thoughts were the following:

First up, and not really a new observation, is that digital media is no longer the future – we are there already. Print is in the final stage of the traumatic haemorrhaging that began a decade ago. This was/is driven not only by the convenience the digital space provides, but by the fact that on a creative level the opportunities offered on paper appear fossil-like when compared to social media, apps, video and general gizmo-activity.

While not always cheap, there are digital marketing channels that allow products and brands – and here wine comes into the picture – to strut their message to an enormous and specific consumer base. And without having to break the bank in the days when glossy magazines, radio and television were the only options. A powerful message, pay-off-line or image via a targeted and relatively inexpensive digital channel can be just as effective in gaining face-time as an expensively produced piece of print, filmed or sounded creative work. If not more so.

Furthermore, digital allows you to strike potential consumers specifically whereas with print you are hitting a large percentage of readers with something they are never going to be interested in.

The wine industry has embraced video and graphics and chirpy missives, spread through the digital world. But attending a high-profile media event such as the Loeries or Cannes, you are reminded that to get a short video or soundbite or article out there is no big deal.

To capture the imagination of the recipient and to form a direct association with your product and brand, now that is where the crux lies.

Content is king, but voice is the kingdom. For the wine industry to have access to this fabulously dynamic on-line media arena and to be part of the conversation is not enough. To convey our messages and make the character of our category and various products appealing to the millions of on-the-go potential consumers, we have to up our game by creating better content.

During the course of this year’s agency pitches and show-reels I sat through hours of presentations and examples, and I am not going to say that what the wine industry currently offers is embarrassing. I just think the time is right for us to take a collective look at how we wine people can muscle into the consumer domain through better thinking, brightened creativity and proactive, planned execution.

This begins, obviously, with a better understanding of the digital media-sphere to ascertain potential and tactics. From my business’s point of view, I am going to jump into this boots and all. But am not going to forget that the sexiest of platforms is useless without great voice and content.

Wine is lifestyle, not liquid. Don’t tell the story – show it.

The second aspect worth mentioning is that market segmentation is passé. If there is one thing that I am now finding more outdated than ever it is this whole thing about “appealing to the black market”; “if we can only crack our brand into Soweto”; “let’s target the black hipsters”.

Forget about it.

South Africa is a glorious collective whole comprising a diversity of cultures, consumer profiles and personalities that have to be embraced inclusively. Use the “black” market as your target, and you might as well be attempting to aim for Eastern Europe or South East Asia as one area without considering the vast differences in culture, language and economic levels. It is a lost cause and outdated. Today’s consumer is like an eighties Benetton advertisement: the united colours.

And in any event, campaigns to specifically encourage the “black” market to drink wine have been around in South Africa since the 1970s and look how far this insular approach has gotten us.

Promoting wine’s diversity should remain in the uniqueness of our country’s regions and the variety of styles and cultivars. But if you forget about the importance of The Brand in the process, the best story is guaranteed to fall flat.

There is only one kind of consumer. And with so many wines to his or her disposal, they are going to be the ones to decide what is appealing instead of a marketer implying what they should be drinking through categorization.

It is in fact the aforementioned digital media arena that has rendered this segmentation obsolete. Today’s consumer sees media interaction as a tailor-made, personal experience where individuality is paramount and following the herd is as uncool as an outdated Blackberry.

Celebrate the individual though forming and sustaining personal relationships, and the rest will follow.

Of the many challenges facing the wine industry, holistic and quality marketing is right up there with leaf-roll virus and the high cost of production. But we have always maintained a degree of confidence by knowing we in the South African wine industry has the world at our feet. And it takes just one step.

·       Emile Joubert

 

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