Following the huge response we received to Reka Haros’ agenda-setting column last week that claimed most above the line wine communications “sucks” Joe Fattorini, co-presenter of ITV’s The Wine Show and wine consultant, takes on the challenge to look at how everyone working in wine can vastly improve how they are talking to their customers or consumers about wine, from the emails you send, the promotions you run, to any above the line work you do.
You simply cannot get away with second, never mind third rate, communication skills. Whichever part of the drinks trade you are in, you need to be able to communicate well just to get noticed. Joe Fattorini explains how you can then take those skills to another level.
Do your wine communications suck? Reka Haro has been uncompromising and accurate here on The Buyer arguing that most wine communications really do suck. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, here’s a quick test:
- Do your wine communications focus on your products?
- Do your wine communications describe those products?
- Do you use the product’s name more than the word “you”?
Answer yes to one or more of these, then your wine communications probably suck for all the reasons Reka argues. So how can you be less… sucky? Well, here are five things to dramatically improve your wine communications. They’ll improve your ads, direct mail letters and emails, product catalogues, invitations and even online content.
1 First let’s start at the end
Reka highlights how so much wine communication has no effective call to action. That’s often because it’s relegated to the end of the communication, and so also the end of the process. You have a lovely creative idea and spend lots of time crafting it. (That dread phrase “word-smithing”. More on this odious term in a minute.) It’s only at the end that you think “what do I want people to do?”
Instead, start with what you want the reader to do. Is it to place an order? Visit your shop? Subscribe to your mailing list? Make it clear, and ask directly. Once you’ve done that, work backwards. Make everything else you write do the work of persuading the reader to accept that call to action.
2 The Lost Cat Poster Theory of Advertising
In the Sell! Sell! blog ad man Andy Palmer described losing his cat. “I love my cat” he explained. “Looking back now, I applied every ounce of experience and ability to making the most effective poster I possibly could. I thought about who it was aimed at, what I wanted them to take out of it straight away, how it was going to catch their attention, how I was going to make them care, how to get them to act.”
If you’ve lost your cat you don’t care about witty wordplay, fancy buzzwords or impressing the reader. You just want to make people share your emotional turmoil and help you find your cat. Next time you write something, think “does this have the urgency and powerful appeal of the poster I’d write if I’d lost my cat?”
If it doesn’t, start again.
3 Put texture in your writing. (The emotion appears as if by magic)
Reka highlights how so much wine communication lacks emotional appeal. This is important because you – and your customers – are not rational. You may think you carefully appraise alternative purchase options and make sensible choices. But you have a caveman’s brain. Your limbic system decides what you do. Your rational brain kicks in later to try and justify what the caveman has already decided.
The limbic, caveman brain is emotional. It runs towards things that feel nice like sex, status and money. And it runs away from things that feel frightening like shame, debt and piles. You need to make that brain run. Fortunately, wine has a secret way to inject emotion in our communication. Words that describe how wines feel, also describe how things… well, feel. Smooth, mellow, refined, racy, austere, bright, cheery, gentle, powerful, rich, luxurious, simple…
Use texture when talking about wine to give it emotional appeal.
4 Longer is better. Let me tell you a story and I’ll show you why…
My friend Andy Maslen of copy writing agency Sunfish has been writing direct mail copy for companies like The Economist, TIME Magazine and Prudential for over 20 years. One of his insights is that long copy always outperforms short copy. This isn’t a hunch. This is the consistent result in years of testing. Running AB split tests comparing the effectiveness of long and short versions of the same campaign. Today you can test this yourself in email campaigns.
“But that can’t be right” you say, “everyone knows that peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter.” Actually, they’re not. Have you seen how long Game of Thrones is? People will stay with copy as long it’s captivating and engages them. The secret is often in storytelling. This is not the tedious “wealthy man has dream, buys vineyard, shows me round, ooh look some soil types, there are some fancy steel fermenters here, apparently his friend designed the label, this tastes of Meyer lemon and yuzu” storytelling we see in online content.
This is truly telling tales. For a primer on this read John Yorke’s brilliant “Into The Woods”.
5 Ignore everything I’ve told you. This isn’t your job. Now tell me your strategy. You do have a strategy, don’t you?
Want great wine communications that don’t suck? Then maybe accept you are neither qualified nor suited to writing it. You should know your goals, your marketing strategy and your market orientation so you can brief people like my friend Andy. Or me. If you have absolute clarity on the big stuff you’ll be able to brief someone else to write the specialist, tactical stuff. Because here’s a secret – the worst person to do effective wine communications is someone with a passion for wine. Or even a passion for words.
Professional copy writers are not “wordsmiths”. They often ignore the rules. They’re not product specialists either. They understand people.
“A diamond is forever” is maybe the greatest ad slogan of all time, written in 1947 by Frances Gerety. Yet it’s grammatically incorrect. (It should read “for ever”). And the phrase that put millions of gems on the fingers of breathless women was written by a woman who never married, “wasn’t romantic in any way” according to her biographer and lived her life alone. She had no “passion for jewellery”. Or weddings.
But as a professional copy writer she understood people who do. When she scribbled it on a pad by her bed at 3am a few hours before she had to present to the De Beers board of directors, she knew that the emotional appeal of “forever” rather than “for ever” mattered more than grammar. That’s what professional copy writers do.
Reka Haro is right, most wine communication does suck. But yours doesn’t have to.
- Joe Fattorini is the 2017 IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year and regularly writes copy for wine brands and merchants. He is speaking on wine communications and copy writing at CopyCabana, the UK’s leading copy writing event, on 27th September.
- What do you think? If you would like to take part in this debate then please email Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to share your views on this vital issue on The Buyer.