Wine + Digital: If This Doesn’t Blow Your Mind, You’re Not Paying Enough Attention

Vinted on July 3, 2012 binned in commentary, wine 2.0, wine industry events

My friend Paul Mabray, of Vintank, recently gave a keynote address at an event held in Dijon, France, called “The Perfect Storm: How digital tools are forever changing the way we sell and market wine.”

I didn’t attend (alas), and I’ve no affiliation with the event apart from a random one: its organizer (another friend, Eve Resnick), showed a photo of me when presenting her findings from a recent study of U.S. and Chinese wine bloggers (see inset below – ironically, that picture was presented adjacent to text describing the average wine blogger, and apart from being male I don’t actually meet the rest of the criteria on that slide!).

Anyway, I’ve been beating a similarly-toned drum to the one that Paul has been sounding when it comes to how to approach wine online, so it’s nice to see that Paul’s keynote struck a resonant chord with the attendees in Dijon (with a few tweeting that the figures and ideas Paul presented “blew my mind”).

What I sincerely hope is that Paul’s slide deck strikes a similar chord with wine brands here in the U.S., because the fact is if Paul’s presentation doesn’t blow your mind, then you are not paying enough f*cking attention to what is going on in and around the wine business right now.

Mind-blowingness embedded below for your enjoyment – and if you’re in the wine biz, please do yourself a favor and read EVERY slide; then go out and be awesome. Paul’s deck clearly demonstrates in the included figures alone that the time to debate whether or not your online social presence is important is long, long past. That time is much better spent on testing those online waters, connecting with your consumers, and finding out what does -and doesn’t – work online for you and your brand.

Wine + Digital

Cheers – and have a safe & happy 4th!





  • Lin

    As a social media winery rep, and a "digital native" myself (making HTML websites at 14 in the garage, et al), you'd think I'd love this. I guess I sort of love it. But I wouldn't say my mind is blown.

    All the tools—and the people who invent and operate them—are good. But they're just tools… From Twitter to blogging and beyond. It's stupid to ignore good tools, but it doesn't make them anyone's salvation. My reaction may be the result of having seen things like this presentation, or thoughts like this, bandied around alongside statements like "if Paul’s presentation doesn’t blow your mind, then you are not paying enough f*cking attention to what is going on in and around the wine business right now." It feels condescending.

    I should admit there's an element of jaded internet-ter in me too, because when I see new things like VinTank the first thing I think—just before I think, "How can I use this?"—is "Another person trying to muscle old school industry into paying them money." I'm certainly suspicious of a presentation by an online media person for online media people that goes out of its way to show graphs portraying 'print is dead.'

    I don't argue that wineries ought to be interacting online and through social media; online presence for wineries is key to growth if that online presence is A) active, and B) authentic. I just wonder if they're as terrible at in, compared to other industries, as is sometimes being portrayed. Maybe I'm just not seeing it.

    • Nick

      Lin FTW. I don't agree with everything you say here. It's a solid comment that adds to the discussion though.

      • Lin

        Thanks, I was a little worried about coming off as a disagreeable troll. Like I said, I do believe in social media for wineries, just not all the hype and jargon (god, especially not the jargon).

        • 1WineDude

          Lin – not at all. I agree with a lot of what you're saying actually and I know that these posts can be viewed as condescending when viewed in a certain light.

          The issue with the wine biz, in my view, is that it remains 8+ years behind the curve on this stuff. The 3-tier alcohol distribution system in the U.S. for example has created a scenario in which it's a lot easier and probably more productive NOW for wine brands to cater to and court customers, not consumers. But the time to debate whether or not brands (including wine brands) ought to start to shift that focus is LONG gone, yet instead of trying to figure out the best ways to do that for their individual brand(s), wine producers tend to instead want to argue the merits of doing it AT ALL (not all of them, but most of them).

          That is a huge waste of time, and I think Paul's presentation in the figures alone ought to help "shock" some of that out of the producers who are at all paying attention to the underlying message there.

      • 1WineDude

        Nick – I agree, I love reasonable discourse here, and that includes different and/or dissenting opinions, and Lin's was artfully stated!

    • Paul Mabray

      Apologies I didn't blow your mind. As I stated to Mike, the context and real "sizzle on the steak" came from the actual speech that surrounded the presentation. Hopefully someone will publish it and I plan to do this speech again since the audience responded that they were amazed at the perspective and story arc.

  • Nick

    This presentation by Paul Mabray is a wake-up call to the new rules of advertising / mindshare which is being driven by social conversations taking place on facebook and other social media and which is displacing the power of the old wine-biz media / power brokers.

    True as that may be, the presentation stops short of what this means to producers. Let's see the follow-up.

    Much like what Lin says above, simply participating is not enough. Social media is particularly good for some things and its inherent functionality results in predictable distortions in how people react / think / etc. Everyone sort of knows that facebook / twitter / etc. like reality tv tend to cater to the self-absorbed and celebrities and does not in any sense reward merit or meaningful or quality content. It rewards content yes, quality content, not necessarily. Authentic content, yes, MERE celebrity, no. There's something tabloid-y underneath it all–which is not to say it's not extraordinarily powerful too.

    Does reducing a producer's wine to the "story" or the content mean that it's not so much about the wine? And what does this imply about the legion of small individuated producers?

    • 1WineDude

      Nick – great point about authenticity. Reminds me of a conversation I had with a wine producer in CA about 2 years ago:

      Producer: "So what works best on twitter and Facebook in terms of reaching out to people?"
      Me: "Reaching out to them; being yourself, representing what you're doing as human and authentic."
      Producer: "What does that look like? Being authentic, I mean? What's the best way to do that?"
      Me: "Uhm… you might have more pressing problems than figuring out your twitter approach…"


      • Lin

        Ha! I can imagine a lot of producers asking similar questions actually, if only because I think many of them, being of a different generation, feel like there must be a catch, or a "trick" involved. So many marketers have sold themselves as 'wizards' and 'gurus' that now we have people who no longer trust themselves. They think that because PR and marketing now inherently involve technology that they're out of their depth. That's why I hate jargon and "marketeers" (as I call them), they destroy authenticity for the sake of personal profit.

        Winemakers/producers are, by and large, highly relatable people. Selling themselves shouldn't be that hard. Of course, that gets us back to the issue of selling the story vs selling the wine.

        • 1WineDude

          Lin – and you have touched on one of the great ironies in wine: cool people with cool products and cool stories not telling other cool people about their cool stories and cool products! :)

      • Nick

        There's no question that people in the celebrity + politics businesses need twitter + facebook. That's the most relevant fit, IMO. Just look at the top 100 followed tweeters to see what's really moving the needle there. You see a lot of best practices too–especially authenticity.

  • Nick

    There's also an interesting counterpoint made yesterday over at Forbes by Patrick Spenner that adds to this discussion. He's arguing against relying upon engagement and telling marketers more what they want to hear regarding the more transactional reasons people follow brands.

    I'm sure Ford is not followed for the discounts. Neither is Coke or Red Bull. So with consumer brands like that, it's going to be quite different than with actual SELLERS of products. Coke, Red Bull, and Ford don't have actual selling relationships with consumers. That happens through grocery stores, gas stations, and car dealerships. So these are manufacturers cultivating an audience for extremely widely available goods. Great success stories. Without the widely available part, the audience isn't there and cannot really develop well. This is a major obstacle for wineries. If you're Middle Sister wines and you have your wines available at Target, it makes a lot of sense to cultivate a "community" of fans. Otherwise, IMO, it's better focus on getting that distribution or the direct customers in the first place.

    • 1WineDude

      Nick – I suppose that puts wine producers in an odd sort of hybrid position: they can sell directly in most cases, but sell indirectly as well. The mix depends on a lot of factors but the fact is that it is a mix and therefore a bit more complex – particularly becuase, as you point out, they are dealing with several small markets (cellar door/local, individual states, etc.).

    • Paul Mabray

      I agree with you. There are multiple strategies/tactics/uses of SM and digital depending on your brand, your volume, your distribution, and more. But in the end, we can not ignore that digital is pervasive in our society and ignore it at your own peril.

  • Jeffrey Slater

    Great discussion on wine marketing and the challenges for brands. When a typical grocery store carries north of 1000 SKU's, how is a brand going to stand out to large mass audiences. You have to build a tribe who really gets you and loves to repeat your story to friends. The authentic personal narrative always overcomes the hype if it can be heard. As Joe and others have commented, if consumers don't know your story, how are you going to build your brand? Social media, like other tools, can enable you to amplify your message and to listen to people within the wine consuming category. I think a little more listening is a great place wine brands to start.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Jeff! The thing that I think most miss in all of this is that they have such power to tell their own brand story, for very little outlay outside of time. But SO many brands just leave that opportunity on the table…

  • Nick

    I don't subscribe to the "tell your story" motif. Red Bull has been an amazing growth drink in the beverage business. Go look at their 28,000,000 fan-sized facebook page. Then come back and tell me about how their story is what propels that company to sell hundreds of millions of cans of the stuff. There's a message for sure, but I'm not sure it's authentic and it's not really a story–it's both simpler as well as more nuanced and involved than that.

    • 1WineDude

      Nick – it's not one size fits all. For a lot of small producers I think story IS the selling point. The identifying context is powerful. A big brand rarely has that, but it's how much smaller ones can leverage a share of hearts and minds.

  • 1WineDude

    Mike – thanks, and I think that's exactly the point. Brands need to work this stuff into their plans, and those numbers I think underscore the pressure to present a brand story and reach out to consumers so that their brands aren't viewed as interchangeable by those same consumers (see… ). Cheers!

  • Paul Mabray

    Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately the presentation lacks my context from my speech. I really enjoyed sharing my perspective.

    Thanks for featuring and sorry for the delay jumping into the debate due to moving my house and the holiday week. But I am here now!

  • 1WineDude

    Paul – no worries, bro. You RAWK it.

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com