Tag Archive: honesty

The prevailing wave of wine is brands created to fit certain markets and niches. These wines aren’t necessarily different from one-another in the bottle, it’s all a matter of manufactured perception through labeling and target marketing. These wines are almost wholly the stock-and-trade (they are merely commodities, after all) for the growing number of large wines conglomerates that have taken over our head-space (and retail floor space) thereby all but eliminating the impact of the largely unmarketed products of integrity. (These themes are touched on in some of my prior posts here and here and here —sense a pattern?)

Certainly, smaller, independent wineries; distributors/importers with vested interest and genuine love for their products; and retailers with passion to engage consumers on the front-lines are doing their parts. The problem lies with the efficacy of the marketing of flashy, lifestyle-focused branding (with, at best, pedestrian product in the bottle) on a highly susceptible public. This new wave of highly-focused target marketing is successful because the target audiences have not become so inundated with it yet that they have built up a subconscious immunity.

With so much white noise—and that is what almost all traditional (read: passive) media marketing has become—it can be nearly impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. The new target models subsist on feeding into the venues with which their targets interact with most. By creating mini-games centered on the product, full-webpage encapsulator and cursor-activated ads, manufacturing a “community” (make no mistake, you’re not a voice, you are simply a paying resident) via social media apps, etc. what once was solely passive becomes active—active engagement requires consciously giving oneself over to the ideas and ideals presented. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!

Dystopian? You bet!The antidotes are fatigue and broader consciousness. Fatigue just kind of happens in many people, but not all. Eventually, the effects of any marketing (particularly ones that require action on the part of the target not just to buy, but to simply function as marketing) become subconsciously burdensome. Sometimes (though, oftentimes, not), once that has happened the target becomes more broadly conscious of what has been perpetrated upon them. Others have an innate sensitivity to this from the start and realize when the marketing master control system is gaming them and manage to stay one step ahead.

The latter group needs no help from people like me on the front-lines, though it is always wise to encourage them to “spread the gospel”. For the former, however, it is possible to make in-roads. The keys are being cognizant enough of your customers (listen) to determine where they are open to counter-suggestion and to, little-by-little, chip away the marketing-generated barriers to experience. The wonderful thing about those so easily swayed by target marketing is that they are clearly open to suggestion if you can just squeeze in on a one-on-one level. It starts with a simple “if you like this, I think you’ll really enjoy this” proposition and an agreement of future conversation about that new experience. Whether that experience was a hit or a miss is largely irrelevant as you have now made at least an exit ramp onto an in-road to direct human interaction over force-fed virtual interaction.

This is the first step to trust. Trust doesn’t exist in the new marketing model—it trades only in fear. Fear of the new, fear of not fitting in, fear of self-challenge, fear of dissatisfaction, et al.. Trust exists only through tangible experience and is far harder to shake than fear. Fear is something to submit to or overcome—trust is something to be gained or lost. The negative results of both are fed by passivity. While it sounds a bit lofty, I believe, that if a consumer is passive, it is incumbent on me as not just a salesperson but as an ethical, socially responsible human being to be proactive and foster trust as one tiny step to help ensure that we are not left with a race of mindless automatons.

This active engagement has permutations across all levels of wine sales (from winery to distributor to retailer/restauranteur). Just making/recognizing/carrying a good product and hoping for the best is insufficient. We are all responsible for helping our customers (often, our friends) to have genuine experiences that they enjoy and will share with others. The receptivity is there waiting to be engaged. Do it!

So, I challenge you—wine salesperson, winemaker/winery representative, consumer—to be less passive and save humanity. 😉

Mike and Ike in Pastels

The New York Times broke a story yesterday about the new $15M marketing strategy by Elevator Group for candy maker, Just Born’s venerable Mike and Ike brand. It got me thinking about corollaries statements I made in my last post here:

“Hopefully, as a result, I will live to see a day when beverage purchase decisions are made by virtue of real choice between one honest product over another rather than having to sift through what is lab-generated and cleverly marketed to even get to the “real stuff”.”


“The winners of this new consumer model will be those that don’t have to spend millions constantly sourcing new fruit contracts and creating new brands and ridiculous back-stories for wineries that don’t really exist.”

The new Mike and Ike campaign uses, essentially, the same tactics that the large wine conglomerates are using to capture millenial drinkers. The specific premise of the campaign is to create a back-story about Mike and Ike (two non-existent characters) as long-time friends whose relationship has gone sour and are openly vocal about their disagreements. This will play out in traditional print and billboard media as well as, most importantly, via carefully orchestrated social media flamewars on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and whatever the kids are into these days.

Large national and international wine concerns—Constellation Brands, Diageo, E & J Gallo, Treasury Wine Estates, and a host of others (I’m sure I’ll post lists of the household-name brands owned by the major conglomerates at some point)—create brands every year. This is done, in large part, to profit dramatically on excess juice produced by same-owned vineyards or purchased/contracted fruit from other growers. Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with this. In essence, these products fill a void for cheap, everyday wine for a large base of consumers for whom a low price outweighs any measure of quality and help those companies keep their premier brands afloat. My concern with many of these pop-up products is the way they are marketed.

The conglomerates know that most consumers simply do not pay attention to where their favorite wine comes from, who owns it, or how it is made. This connects to what I always say is the greatest wine lie ever sold: wine is a natural product (a topic for a dedicated future post, to be sure). Very little about these wines is natural from production to sales. Part of the fabrication process is the marketing. This often starts with focus groups to get some sort of feel for what a specific demographic wants, is followed by brand creation, image development, and target marketing. Somewhere in there, the least important step, wine formulation (don’t be fooled, many of these wine products include flavorants and colorants), takes place.

The latest example of that methodology is Beringer’s (via owner, Treasury wine Estates) new Be. brand. This clever bit of board-room wine making is meant to appeal to millenial women—theoretically, young, impressionable, easy-to-capitalize-upon 20-somethings who respond to simple, emotional cues like “flirty” and “radiant” and, apparently, wines that only come in pastel colors. And it will work, because Beringer had a focus group of their core audience for this stuff pretty much create the brand image from scratch. But what happens when that core audience grows out of the brand in a couple of years? Another with a different image will take its place.

Mike and Ike is doing the same thing. Realizing that their core audience has forgotten them, they are throwing an extra 120-times the cash over last year at capturing a similarly impressionable demographic (slightly younger on the whole, and slanted toward male, but there is some overlap into consumers in their early 20’s).

As I said, it’s all fair-play in my book, but at some point this teeters on the edge of flat-out lying to get your business. Personally, I prefer a wine from a specific place, made by a specific person with no agenda other than making a good product at a fair price. The best I can hope for with these target brands is that they will be gateways to something better as the consumer grows.

How do you feel about being pandered to in this way?

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