Two of the big breakthroughs we have seen during the Covid-19 crisis have been the big swing by businesses to digital and the need for companies, and individuals, to collaborate more effectively with each other. Both of which were exemplified by the recent Le Grand Voyage project that saw Bordeaux producer, Château Malartic-Lagravière, team up with wine and brand communicators, Robert Joseph and Polly Hammond and the new The Wine Show Creative team, to create a series of three minute YouTube vignettes that each tell a different story about the history, culture, art, politics and food and drink of Bordeaux, hosted by Joe Fattorini. Here, in the latest The Buyer video interview, Richard Siddle talks to them all, including Severine Bonnie from Malartic-Lagravière, about how the project came together, what it wanted to achieve and why it potentially offers so much for other drinks producers and businesses to learn from, and why a creative team all pulling in the right direction can produce genuinely ground-breaking work.
We’ve all had to embrace technology during Covid-19 but to produce quality videos that people want to watch you need to work professionals as Château Malartic-Lagravière’s Le Grand Voyage shows.
(Click here to watch the full video interview with the team behind Château Malartic-Lagravière Le Grand Voyage video project)
It’s only natural, and understandable, that when you ask a wine producer to talk about what they do they concentrate on the wines they make, their estate and what makes them so special. If pushed they will then go on to talk in more wider terms about their particular region, appellation or country. But rarely are they the other way round.
All of which makes a lot of sense if you have already have a committed buyer, be it from the trade or a consumer, who has discovered your wines and wants to know more about where they come from.
It quickly, though, becomes a big turn off to anyone who is coming across you for the first time. Why should they be that interested in how much oak you use when maturing your wines or whether you use whole bunch clusters in your ferment?
No, they ideally want to know – and quickly – what makes you and the area you come from interesting enough for them to want to know more about.
How to tell a story
To do that you need to know how to tell a story. Create pictures in people’s heads. Appeal to their emotions, their imagination. And unless you are a born comic, or novelist, that’s very hard to do.
Which is what makes Le Grand Voyage project stand out. A series of close to 40 short three to four minute videos that might sit under the umbrella of being produced by Château Malartic-Lagravière, but are actually each mini stories about what makes Bordeaux as a region such a fascinating place to discover. Stories that are, yes, loosely about wine, but only in the context of what influence it has had on the history, culture, art, music, architecture of the area.
What they are not are 30 plus short videos that talk about the individual wines and winemaking techniques used by Château Malartic-Lagravière and its importance to the region. (You can see all the videos on the dedicated YouTube channel here).
What they demonstrate is what can be achieved when producers are relaxed and confident enough with their creative partners to give them pretty much free rein to deliver. Which in this instance saw Robert Joseph and Polly Hammond, who had already forged an alliance during lockdown with their daily Real Business of Wine Zoom series, join forces with the new creative consultancy agency – TWS Creative – launched by the production team of television’s The Wine Show, with ready made host Joe Fattorini.
So how did the idea for Le Grand Voyage come about?
(Click here for Severine Bonnie explaining what she wanted to achieve with Le Grand Voyage)
Severine Bonnie says she wanted the videos to reflect how her own family got to discover and learn about Bordeaux, and all its intrigues and intricacies, for the first time when they came to the region to take over Château Malartic-Lagravière in 1996.
She likened that experience to opening a door “then finding 10 other doors behind it” and finding what lay behind them. Which is what she believes they have now created with the Le Grand Voyage short videos.
The collaboration is also a big plus for those who are willing to go the extra mile to put on wine conferences and bring different sectors of the trade together. For Bonnie actually first met Joe Fattorini and Robert Joseph at one of the recent Find Minds 4 Fine Wine, organised by ARENI, where they had initially talked about how they could potentially work together.
Once we went into lockdown and the usual ways of talking about and selling wine all moved online, they returned to that original idea to see what they could do together at a time when we can’t travel, and take part in usual trade and consumer events.
Again Bonnie deserves great credit for the pace at which the project went from concept stage to going live, not just with one video, but close to 40 of them. Rather than demand to be involved in every decision and micro manage the content to ensure the right messages about Château Malartic-Lagravière were being included, Fattorini, the team at TWS Creative, Joseph and Hammond were given pretty much a blank page to pull them together.
(Click here for Robert Joseph and the thinking and inspiration behind the Le Grand Voyage short videos).
It’s clear from talking to what you might call the creative hub of the project – Joseph, Hammond and Fattorini – that they had such a brilliant time pulling all these stories together. The sweet jar was open and they were given carte blanche to dive in .
Robert Joseph says his idea was to try and capture the successful parts of The Wine Show TV programme which are often not about the wine per se, but its role, its influence and its place within the community and regions where it is made.
Which is why Fattorini was the obvious person to host the series. In fact Joseph says it would not have been possible without him. “It really depended to a large extent on him,” he says.
Finding and then distilling relevant and engaging stories down to just three minutes is a lot harder than it sounds. But the team had a successful media model to work to. A History of the World in 100 Objects which was a collaboration between the BBC and the British Museum to produce what were 15 minute stories on BBC Radio 4 that were able, as it claims, to “retell humanity’s history through the objects we have made” – from a Ming banknote, to the credit card.
“That was as a close to a brief that we gave Joe,” he says.
A “brief” that Fattorini grasped with both hands and let his imagination and creative talent run riot. The result is a similar historical and cultural record of Bordeaux that takes in American Presidents, wars, Napoleon Bonaporte countesses, Dutch wine merchants, Elton John and Gene Pitney along its way.
He says he’s not sure he’ll get as much creative freedom on a project like this again – where he was only asked to change one line out of the close to 40,000 words used in all the videos.
(Click here for Joe Fattorini describing how he created each of the Le Grand Voyage video stories)
For Fattorini it was very much about finding a format that allowed him to “educate, entertain and inform” all at the same time. So as well as the 100 Objects concept he also was inspired by the line from Justin Howard Sneyd MW that “people don’t want wine education they want dinner party one liners”.
His task was to come up with 30 to 40 “dinner party stories” that encapsulated Bordeaux and its wine culture.
To do that he went back to what they do on The Wine Show and look at “universal human themes” be it migration, wars, famines, natural disasters, history and then look to weave wine stories into them. “This was a more distilled version where he had a whole series of themes,” he explains.
How to tell a good story
(Click here for Joe Fattorini explaining what it takes to tell a good story)
It’s fascinating to hear Fattorini give his take on what he believes makes a good story. For him it’s all about having some “grist in the mill” or “suspense and then release” which is how the best stand up comics works.
In fact he actually encourages wine producers, and those tased with telling their stories, to go and watch how stand up comedian work and how they are so good at building up tension before giving their audience a “release” through a punch line. Peel back a good story and it’s all about the structure around which it has been built, he says.
He also sees himself “like Little Red Hiding Hood” walking into the “mysterious” woods not sure what he is about to discover, but it’s how he describes that journey which will make it interesting to anyone watching or listening.
How to promote and push your story
(Click here for Polly Hammond and Severine Bonnie on how collaboration with Wine Show Creative has been crucial)
But it’s one thing coming up with the stories, and the scenarios that can make the videos work, you then have to know how to market them, and push them out to the right target audiences on social media – which is where Hammond and her experience of running her own brand digital consultancy, 5Forests, came in.
What excited her the most about this project was how “unwine-ish” it was and how fast it was pulled together. From concept, to filming, to having the videos ready to push out the door took only 14 days – unheard with a usual wine producer project, she says.
That was only possible, she adds, thanks to experienced media professionals working on the project, and, in particular, the production team behind TWS Creative, headed up by Melanie Jappy, who is also the lead producer on the TV show.
It was also a great example, she added, of the “collaboration” we have seen across the sector during lockdown as companies and people have come together far more than they usually would in order to make things happen and find ways to move forward in these extraordinary times.
“This is absolutely representative of what you can do if you are willing to work together, reach out to your network, to people you trust,” she says.
Trust your creative team
Which again is great credit, she adds, to Severine Bonnie and her team for having the “trust” in them to get on and make the project happen.
That for her is the “takeaway lesson” that the wine sector as a whole can learn from how this initiative was pulled together between a wine producer and creative teams that had not worked together before.
(Click here for Polly Hammond & Robert Jospeh on how they hope other wineries take the lead of Malatic)
The underlying theme that sits behind these videos, says Hammond, is that they have not just created a series of adverts for Château Malartic-Lagravière but stories that talk about the whole region.
For a Bordeaux producer, in particular, to have the foresight to embark on such a breakthrough project speaks volumes for the vision and approach of the Bonnie family, stresses Hammond.
She urges other wineries to look, listen and hopefully embrace the open approach they have taken. Particularly how they deliberately wanted to get away from going down the traditional route of using videos to educate and talk about their winemaking.
What difference TWS (The Wine Show) Creative hopes to bring to drinks industry
(Click here for Joe Fattorini on the difference professional creative support through Wine Show Creative can make to the wine industry)
Effective communication has long been a curse of the wine industry, but hopefully more projects like this that have been devised and executed by professional creative experts will encourage other wine producers and business to wake up to what is possible when you focus less on the wine itself and more on how you tell its story, says Fattorini.
One of the biggest lessons he has learnt making The Wine Show is just how important the producers are in making a TV show a success and what he has learnt, in particular, from the wide ranging TV production experience of Melanie Jappy.
For example, making the videos available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has enabled the Le Grand Voyage videos to be seen by a much bigger audience, but it’s how you then build on and “commercialise” those assets through websites, and other tie-ins that pushes it out so many more people – potentially around the world.
It’s how TV shows like Who Do you Think You Are, which Jappy also worked on, have managed to build such an international audience, he adds.
If you go back to the example of the ‘History of the World through 100 Objects’ that might have started as a radio programme, but it also became a book, and influenced a whole host of other similar programmes.
The Le Grand Voyage projects, says Fattorini, could easily take the 38,000 words written for the shows and turn that into a book, which, in turn, could introduce Bordeaux to people in a way that has not been done before.
The shared skills and backgrounds of those working on The Wine Show Creative is what makes its work, says Fattorini, where they will push and pull each other in order to make the best possible content for any particular client. TWS’s Charlotte Wilde, for example, who helped set up Sager & Wilde, helps Fattorini look at subjects in a different way.
What they are all agreed on is their job is not to go out and “demystify” wine, in fact they believe part of its allure is the “mystique” about wine that actually draws audiences in. But with a collective ambition of findings “different ways of adding value to wine”.
Creating and learning
Joseph says there is also an element of them as “creatives” learning as they go as well and understanding how they can work together better, and what sort of content works best for the producers and wine clients they potentially have.
But again it is the possibilities that open up when you are willing to experiment and collaborate and try different things, says Jospeh.
He explains how: “What has been so exciting is finding people, like Joe, like Mel, who actually get what we are trying to do and get the fact that wine communication, and communication in general, is different in 2020 from the way it was. We have all got to understand that the 35 year old who is going to spend £50 on a bottle of wine is actually used to engagement and information in a different way and we need to talk to them in a different way.”
Or, as Hammond puts it, having a “mentality of creative problem solving”.”How do we tackle this? How do we go beyond the average wine communication looks like, or the average wine drinker is hearing about the brands they are interacting with,” she says.
To get that right you have to put “aside the competitive BS” and focus 100% on the business story and how you can tell it in a creative and engaging way.
Which for Severine Bonnie was more a case of embracing the times we are living in and “thinking outside the box” to find new ways for the Chateau to tell not just their story, but to hopefully help their peers and neighbours too.
Lessons for others…and Raising a Glass to Le Grand Voyage
(Click here for the Le Grand Voyage final piece of advice for others to potentially follow and Richard Siddle “Raises a Glass” to their efforts)
In terms of the collective lessons learnt to take to other projects Hammond starts with the ability to be able to listen to what your potential target market is doing, how they are behaving, and work out what is missing from how you are communicating with them.
That is what the Bonnie family did and that is why it has been able to create something that has not been done before, she adds.
Joseph’s advice is to “think of your destination” and then work out the best way of getting there. “We all focus too much on the journey and not enough about what we are trying to achieve.”
It is also making sure you have a team together that can function just as well in the bad times as the good in making the project happen. Which all comes back to “trust,” says Joseph. Trust that you all have the skills, temperament and team spirit to make it work.
Let’s also not just rest on our laurels, he adds. Yes, Le Grand Voyage is arguably a breakthrough idea, but it won’t be next year, so it’s up to the wine sector as a whole to be constantly looking at new ideas of how to tell stories and communicate in ever more innovative ways. After all 25 and 35 year olds are not picking up bottles of wine and looking at it in the same way that their parents did, he adds.
That fits very neatly into the approach that Severine Bonnie says its family has taken in Bordeaux over the last 25 years, always looking to innovate be it in the vineyards, or with its marketing and promotions.
Bonnie says if a producer is in any doubt about what to do, then her best advice is to “just try it” and give it a go and see where a new approach might take you.
Jospeh says “don’t think about what you want to say, thinks about what an audience is going to find interesting”. To get that right then make sure “you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you,” says Hammond.
Fattorini’s final piece of advice is that when you are trying to tell a wine story ask yourself “what would appear in the ‘See Also’ section on your Wikepedia entry as that is always the most interesting thing”.
It is an outlook that has come to life spectacularly with Le Grand Voyage project, and one that The Buyer would like to mark by “Raising A Glass To” all the team that has made it possible.