Saturday, September 26, 2009

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Great post today by Dr. Vino with a link to a very good summary post by Mike Steinberger on Slate that gives a well written overview of what I've termed the "Parker Kerfuffle".

For those not familiar with the specific issue this was a watershed moment in the evolution of the modern wine industry. Steininger titled it the democratization of wine drinking but I think it goes much further than marks a tipping point in the democratization of wine evaluation, wine communications and wine marketing. And the ramifications are just beginning and will be felt far beyond our little wine and spirits industry.

OK, the king may not be dead, but Dr. Vino and Co. just pulled aside the green curtain and it turns out the king has what may become an incurable case of gout. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Social Media is Changing our World

Here's a great video presentation by Clay Shirky, Prof. at NYU and internet and technology thought leader on how the media landscape has fundamentally changed. What I like about this is his very clear, cogent and simple distillation of the tectonic shift we're witnessing.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wine Trade Survey Data Released

I participated in a trade survey recently for which the results were just released at the Wine Industry Financial Symposium in CA. There were some interesting conclusions, none of which were new or surprising, but it is nice to have the stats to evolve opinion to fact. They’re publishing data from a consumer study next week.

Here are my summary comments on what the trade opinion survey data show:

-Category growth is in under $20 wines, over $20 is getting hammered and $10-$15 is the sweet spot
-In the under $20 category, Chile, Argentina and Spain in that order are the most rapidly growing import countries
-In the over $20 group, most respondents reported volume is “same or less” with out a few countries cited as showing any growth at all. And it’s the same countries and order
-On premise, significant growth in BTG under $8 and BTB under $30, with corresponding decreases at the higher end
-Australia continues to show the biggest declines at both the low and high end
-Regions selling value wines now, will prosper in the recovery (meaning Argentina, Chile and Spain)
-Consumers are more price-driven than ever
-Distributors' top priority is reducing inventory
-Social media is avery important tool to communicate with the trade (that’s interesting…we’ve known that to be the case with consumers for a while, but this is significant in that it’s the trade.
-Top wine bloggers are Eric Asimov, Eric Orange, Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer, Tyler Colman, Alder Yarrow Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kahlua Coffee Cream TDN (Thursday Drink Night)

Last night we held TDN at the Mixoloseum, a chat room of the bloggers, by the bloggers and for the people. About 40 cocktailians convened in cyberspace for an advance taste the new Kahlua Coffee Cream and create and share new drink concepts. For those not familiar with TDN it's a great program developed by the OCSWG (Online Cocktail and Spirits Writers Guild), a consortium of 20 or so of the top cocktail bloggers.

TDN is open to anyone and the model is to feature a particular spirit, have attendees create drinks, post them live in a chat room and compare, contrast, discuss. There's a parallel twitter feed with the recipes (@Mixoloseum) and last night we also had a live video feed from Malo bar in LA where we hosted a barful of LA cocktail enthusiasts and local bloggers. Matt Robold of Rumdood organized the physical event at Malo in L.A. and Gabriel Szazko of Cocktail Nerd and Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin. Sam Harrigan of Cocktail Culture worked with Matt to set the gig up. We also had a videographer there and will be making a video for posting on YouTube shortly. Andy Nash, Marketing Director at Pernod Ricard for Kahlua (and Pernod Absinthe)joined to answer questions about the limited edition product (only available in O/N/D this year and officially launching to the public next week. KCC is made from real coffee beans grown, roasted and brewed in Mexico.

What I particularly like about TDN is the collaboration we've had with the blogger community. We've turned it into a Social Media Marketing program that benefits the bloggers, their readers as well as the brand. Great interactive content in multiple media channels, appropriately commercial but not too, and a whole lot of fun for the cocktail community. Everybody wins.

There's a counterpart on the wine side called Twitter Taste Live, and we'll be working on that for Jacob's Creek wines over the next few months. Oh, and speaking of Jacob's Creek, we're holding a "Meet the Winemakers" tasting in NY on Monday next week (Sept. 14) for bloggers and the trade. If you're interested in attending please let me know and I'll fill you in on the details. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do Medals Matter?

Alder Yarrow of Vinography and Tyler Colman of Dr. Vino both posted today disparaging the value of medals from wine competitions based on a study published in the Journal of Wine Economics by Robert Hodgson professor emeritus of oceanography at Humboldt State University.

I commented on both posts from the perspective of a marketing guy. Bottom line, while Dr. Hodgson's paper makes a compelling point, it ignores the more practical side of the business.

In the U.S. the three-tier system has effectively put a roadblock in front of products from new or small producers. Without the leverage of the big multinationals at the distributor and by extension the retail level, the big challenge is not to produce a quality product; that's simple (but not easy!). Rather it's how to get through the distributor and retailer gatekeepers to get the product on the shelf and in front of the consumer.

And in both spirits and wine, a medal--whatever its provenance--is often an effective tool to get the retailer and distributor to take on the product. It is third party validation of quality that a small supplier can bring to bear that his own economic clout can't.

So at the end of the day, do medals mean anything even if they are not statistically valid evaluatons of product quality?

Call me narrow minded, but my answer is yes. So we recommend our clients take the practical conclusion from Dr. Hodgson's paper...that winning a Gold is a matter of chance as much as quality...and enter as many competitions as they can, and promote the gold medals they get to the trade. And once they get a gold...don't enter the competition again.

Need proof of this strategy? Look at Grey Goose. They won a gold from the BTI in 1998 and rode that medal to a $2 Billion sale. Valid award? Maybe. Good marketing strategy? You bet!

So, my POV is that in today's marketplace, a gold medal is a necessary but not sufficient tool. What Grey Goose did was brilliant for its time, but its not a repeatable strategy by new competitors.

The role of a medal in today's market is more for the trade than consumer...a tool (just one of many you'll need) to convince a distributor or retailer that your brand warrants a place on the shelf. Sphere: Related Content