Advertising wine: time to take it seriously
Two articles point to the difficulties, but also the opportunities, the wine industry has before it in emerging from the Great Recession. The first, “Wine words baffle us, survey says,” was published in the British publication, the Telegraph. It’s one of those read-it-and-weep sob stories that makes you wonder if wine is doomed to forever be seen by millions of adults as the ultimate snob drink. After the thousands of how-to wine books that have been published, millions of words in newspaper and magazine wine stories, and even with all the wine blogs, consumers remain hopelessly muddled, baffled and intimidated by wine, and profoundly ignorant about it. Go on, read the story yourself. It’s scary: they don’t know how to pronounce most varietal names. They confuse a tasting sample at a restaurant with a full pour. They ask for a slice of lemon in the wine. They pretentiously swirl, then spill the wine all over themselves. And they’re terrified of walking into a wine shop.
I don’t think beer or spirits drinkers face anywhere close to the same problems. What it means for the wine industry is, collectively, it has got to re-think its whole approach to wine education. We’ve got to expand the consumers’ comfort zone. How? That’s where the second article comes in.
It appeared in the New York Times on Wednesday, and was entitled “Growing appreciation for P.R. on Madison Avenue.”
I have to admit it came as a surprise to me to learn “how much more interested marketers are becoming in using public relations to reach consumers.” I might have thought that, with the recession, companies had less money to spend on P.R., which could be seen as a non-essential frill at a time when they’re struggling to meet payrolls.
But no. Instead, CEOs are realizing how much they need P.R. specialists to help them with a growing array of fields: T.V. commercials, social media, database marketing, analytics, print advertising, search-engine marketing, brand management, crisis management, reputation management, issues management.
I’m sure my P.R. friends, like Jo Diaz, won’t be at all surprised by this. When I think of winery P.R., I think of a one or two person shop, either in-house or hired, in which the P.R. person has too much to do and too little time and money with which to do it. That’s why winery P.R. can so often seem clunky and anachronistic. It’s not that P.R. people don’t have good ideas; they’re just not given the budgets to realize them, the way, say, Coca-Cola, Weight Watchers and BMW are (to name but a few companies cited in the Times article).
Gigantic wine companies have the deep pockets to launch massive advertising campaigns, but how about everybody else? That’s why, I think, the majors keep on being major, while 95% of all the other wineries are in a continuous scramble for existence.
The lesson to be learned, IMHO, is not a new one. It’s an old idea, one that’s been around forever. But it’s never been fully resolved. Why don’t the smaller wineries collaborate? They could all pool their resources until they had a budget that might not rival Constellation’s, but would be enough to hire a big Madison Avenue P.R. firm. Then that firm could go about educating consumers in exactly the areas the first article talked about.
Can you imagine it? A 30-second commercial during “Mad Men” on how to pronounce Viognier and Pinot Noir. An insert in PEOPLE magazine on how to order wine in a restaurant. Frank talk to consumers about how the industry has let them down and is now ready to make amends and try again.
I know it sounds crazy, but there are thousands and thousands of little family wineries in all fifty U.S. states. Couldn’t they collectively raise $20 million? How about a commercial during the Super Bowl? Remember, one Apple commercial — the famous 1984 ad — launched Apple Computer to where it is today. That ad was only shown once, but it had a huge, lasting impact on America’s, and the world’s, psyche. Aren’t there some creative minds out there that could do the same for American wine?