NOT a dirty word (Aug 2014)

August 27, 2014

Somewhere along the way,  marketing became the career equivalent of ebola.

But it really is not. What it is, is simply a part of the path to market. Which is to say, the path to your glass. So how is that a bad thing?

Because big business is a part of the wine world, and they pay for advertising, brash logos,  gloss and sound and fury. Signifying? Well, signifying dollar signs for the most part. Which essentially means that the marketing person, or department, has done an exceptional job.

But for most producers, marketing is a series of little decisions. Made every day.  And made with the crystal clear awareness that there are over two thousand producers in this country and we each need a way to stand out, to be seen, to be selected,  and to be tasted. In order to sell. To keep selling. And to be able to do it all again next year.

Choice of bottle? Marketing. Does it fit on a shelf (for a wines with an expected retail focus)? Screwcap (all, but especially those with an on-prem focus)?

Choice of packaging? Marketing. Six packs are better for premium products with an expected on-prem destination, dozens in lightweight glass are great for wines geared toward chain sales. Marketing.

Labels? Obviously marketing. But colours, words, textures – all researched and analysed to within an inch of their lives. To appeal equally to trade buyers as they do to consumers. And to be able to be produced at an appropriate price point, so as to not impact price (or profit) adversely.

Channels to market? Not just sales. Also marketing.

Wine competitions and critic review? Marketing. Choosing the best targets with the optimum exposure for each product or brand. Or those most exposed in a market the producer may be explicitly targeting.

Websites? Refining the story behind a brand? MARKETING. Not deception. Not manipulation. Simply the distillation of a dense, detailed story which may span generations, continents, experiences and anecdotes which are all brilliant, but are not concise enough to hook the casual eye. Or even the detailed eye. Labels are only so big. (And, sidenote, I’d rather see a list of ingredients rather than detail I can find on a website.)

Font? Colour? Logo to the left, right, or centre? Marketing.

And using these techniques to tell the story in no way diminishes the story itself.

The truth of the story is still very much there. And smart marketing types will make it easily accessible. And not buried under guff.

However, there is a vast difference twixt the guff and effective marketing. And as much as I can appreciate disdain for brash, flashy marketing – the bus shelter ilk – it serves a purpose. It is exceptional use of marketing dollars to explicitly reach its intended audience.

But for most of us? Marketing is not a dirty word. It is a required part of the business. And even those who claim no marketing dollars, those decisions have a story to tell and a market in mind. And certain choices are made because of this. Which equals: marketing.

And for this, I refuse to apologise.

Telling a story well is a part of bringing a wine from my winery to your glass. It is that simple.

There are oodles of wines out there. There are oodles of people buying wine. How to get them to pick up this new/different/whatever wine is the key. It does not negate the authenticity of that product, nor or the people behind it. Refining the story is something I have done for a few people over the years. It is a unique blend of my years in wine retail, distribution and restaurants, and my degree in literature. I would like to suggest that it should not merit me a dismissive, occasionally rude, and often inept shade from others who might regard themselves as somehow more authentic.

I make. I sell. I market. I drink. I purchase. I talk to everyday consumers, and sommeliers. I argue endlessly with winemakers and wine explorers. I listen. And I apply the results of these conversations to the base of my wine industry knowledge. I take notes. I might not agree, but that makes the comment no less relevant. At some point, it may be relevant to me. At the time of the conversation, it is certainly relevant to the person proffering the opinion.

I will argue until the end of time for the right of a brand to present everything in the way they choose. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, they might not be here next year. But it is their choice.

And they, and their marketing advisers or employees, deserve a little respect for a job which takes immense comprehension of people, wine, trends, impact, and the bottom line. Without them, the breadth of wines available in our world would be significantly lesser.

Marketing? Not a dirty word.

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