Keynote speakers like Paul Mabray are right to point to consumer trends and mining customer data as a way forward for the wine industry in a digital age. The industry would do well to really embrace social media. But with so much emphasis in the wine industry now being put on being at the forefront of the digital media and e-marketing world, Mike Turner argues it’s worth remembering that easy wins can be had by finally bringing more of the reluctant members of the trade into the ‘dizzy sphere’ of the World Wide Web. On a recent press visit to the Médoc, half of the 36 producers visited don’t have websites and six didn’t have email addresses.
Surely trade associations could offer their members some basic digital training to get some easy wins, argues Turner
The ever-evolving landscape of digital media and the opportunities it offers is seemingly endless. Whatever trade you’re in you’re always looking for, and often finding, new or improved ways of communicating with your target audience. All kinds of e-marketing strategies, pioneered by the fashion trade or the music industry, has all us wine-os drooling over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the rest.
We take pictures of bottles and share it round our mates. Will that lead to a sale or increased brand awareness? Probably not, but right now it appears no-one gives a shit?! We’re embracing new technology and feeling like we’re a more engaging industry because of it. We’re shaking off the label of a stuffy camp of oenophiles in the salmon pink chinos and boldly telling the digital world that we’re here and here to stay.
I’m a huge admirer of guys like Paul Mabray. We don’t know each other personally. He wouldn’t know Mike Turner from Adam, put I’ve seen him ‘perform’ a few times now. He’s up there on the stage, in front of a room of winemakers and journos and showing us the endless possibilities of embracing digital marketing and the success that lies in wait for you if you just nail that online strategy. He’s also written a fabulous piece for our very own The Buyer on the joys of monitoring consumer trends and how he, rightly in my humble opinion, believes it’s the future of the wine trade. (The Buyer also posted a new Mabray piece about utilising customer data yesterday, after Mike wrote this piece – Ed.)
I wrote a piece a while back about embracing the value of social media to bring international winemakers to your very own screens through Google Hangouts, or Facebook Live events. No need for those expensive and ridiculously eco-damaging long haul flights when we can sit round a nice evening dinner in London, and rustle Kiwi winemakers out of bed in the morning and ply them with questions about their 2014 Pinot vintage.
Wow, what an age we live in, all these amazing things we can do…
…but I’m afraid I might have to slap the brakes on a bit here. We’re forgetting something. Or someone. Or both.
In July I was lucky enough to head off to Bordeaux for a few days with the Vins De Medoc people and a handful of top sommeliers from the UK. The trip took in a good mix of producers, from those gearing up for the new Cru Bourgeois system, all the way to a morning at Mouton Rothschild. Not a bad ride, eh?
We also visited the lovely Charles Brun from Chateau De Lauga, one of the 36 Cru Artisan. Actually, he’s two of them as he also runs Chateau Fleur Lauga in St Julien. For those who don’t know, very briefly, this is a collection of producers where the owner takes control of every stage of the business, from the vines to the cellar to the marketing side of things. It’s sort of saying “we’re a small group of small chateaux, working our arses off, and doing the business alongside the big boys of the Médoc.” Obviously I’m paraphrasing a bit.
You go on these trips, digest the info for a couple of days, and then head off to an editor with an idea or two about an article. For me, the Cru Artisan were not only definitely worth an article (it’s coming Mr Dean, I swear!) but also worth an investigation on behalf of a few importers that are always on the lookout for these kind of producers round the world. So I started digging.
Of the 36 members of the Cru Artisan about half don’t have a website, half a dozen don’t have an email address. I feel like a bit of a knob critising them, but when you think of where technology is up to these days, and that people like the Vins De Médoc are spending PR budget on promoting these producers, not having the most basic of digital marketing tools, i.e. a website or email address, is just crazy.
Obviously this is not just about the Cru Artisan (I still love you guys!) I’m happy to wager money on a startlingly high percentage of producers across the globe that don’t have a website or at least one that’s fit for purpose. There are various reasons for that.
I’m 36 years old and often reminded, mostly by stand up comics as it happens, that my generation is the last that will have memories of growing up without the internet. Watching my four year old nephew work his way around parental locks and order the new Lego Movie on the smart TV already makes me feel under pressure, and I’d argue I’m someone that is attempting to embrace technology. Can you imagine what’s it’s like for technophobe farmers in their 40s, 50s, or 60s?
The wine trade is also a very strangely structured industry. Effectively you have tens of thousands of small companies involved in providing that lovely liquid product. Can they afford the time or expense to start a website and maintain it? Things are a lot different now with much easier and more affordable ways to have a website, but we’re only a few years since being quoted £5k+ for a half decent website. These boys and girls can’t afford that.
I’m also a strong believer that the digital world is not for everyone in every gig. Do I expect my chef at La Ferme, who sometimes works 14 hour days, to keep on top of our Instagram Stories? He’s not got the time! As someone who suffers from mental health issues myself, would I push everyone into being glued to their smartphones? Absolutely not!
I get why some are being left behind, so this piece isn’t a criticism of those producers. It’s not a criticism of anyone. It’s just an observation that we shouldn’t ignore. But surely there are fairly easy wins to be had here.
Can we encourage trade associations to add a bit of digital education to what they offer to their members?
You importers out there, could you help your suppliers a bit more? How many press trips have I been on, come home, and it take days to work out who the importers are? Your links should be on their websites! It could push business or editorial copy your way and improve your SEO. Win-win, right? These aren’t tough things to do. We just have to remember to do them.
We can worry about wrestling wine on Instagram back from girls in bikinis asking us about “our favourite wine memory” later on. Let’s get this sorted first.
Mike Turner is a freelance wine writer, social media consultant, and web designer. He blogs on the wine trade under the moniker Please Bring Me My Wine