Hung out yesterday with the marketing guy from a winery who told me he wishes his budget was bigger, but most of the money goes to sales in these tough times.
I’ve always been fascinated by the marketing and sales sides of the wine biz. Marketing, to my way of thinking, is building brand awareness, affection and loyalty among consumers. Sales is not only getting them to fork over their hard-earned cash, but getting the bottles to them, which involves the bizarrely antiquated three-tier system. So they’re really very different functions, even though they’re two sides of the same coin. The marketing guy was telling me he wants to put more energy into things like social media. He loves building brands. I couldn’t imagine building a brand any more than I could build a spaceship in my kitchen. It’s really hard to break through the information barrage and capture the consumer’s attention, much less hold it. And it’s getting harder. We talked a little about the role of critics and how they have been instrumental in the past in building brands through reviews. And we both wondered where that whole thing is going. Anyway, we didn’t break any new ground, just went over the same uncertain terrain, but I left feeling once again that marketing wine is a very hard job, one that goes largely unnoticed by the public. Which, come to think of it, is just as marketing managers would prefer.
* * *
Readers of this blog know that I’ve tried multiple times to acquire the Twitter habit. I’m now in my third iteration–or it it the fourth? One forgets. One thing I always wonder is whether to follow people who follow me. At first I did, thinking it merely polite; it’s like you see something coming down the street with their hand extended to you for a shake, so you extend yours. But then people who are far more knowledgeable about Twitter than I (and it doesn’t take much Twitter knowledge to qualify) told me that, no, you should only follow people you really, truly want to follow. So I stopped following my new followers, most of them anyway. I wonder if people who follow me expect me to follow them. The truth is that I spend very little time on my Twitter feed (actually none at all, since I use Tweetdeck), but I still wonder about the wisdom and propriety of following. Now come two articles with opposite viewpoints. This one argues that you should be a Twitter snob (nice term) because if you follow everyone who follows you, you’re basically an indiscriminate Twitter slut. It also makes you look a little desperate, like Tiffany in the comic strip Luann (one of my faves), who has a disturbing, probably pathological need to be liked by boys.
On the other hand, this article, “Bringing down the Twitter snobs,” says you should follow everyone who follows you because “There is an amazing person behind every single Twitter picture.” You never know, this person says, who you’ll meet. Why, it could be someone who could change your life.
I can see it both ways, but I’m still fairly virginile (virginic?) about Twitter and have yet to have enough experience with it to decide conclusively either way. One thing I do think, though, is that you could meet some life-changing person anywhere, not just Twitter, and there doesn’t seem to be more likelihood of meeting a life-changer on Twitter than in, say, Starbucks. The other thing I think is, Do you really “know” people from Twitter? Is it possible to learn about “the amazing person” behind a tweet of 140 words or less, in a feed that changes by the minute if not by the second? However, two dear friends, Joe Roberts and Jo Diaz, attest to Twitter’s charms, so I’m keeping an open mind.
* * *
Speaking of social media, Eminem Surpasses Lady Gaga As Most “Liked” Person on Facebook. When Lady Gaga makes a movie as good as 8 Mile, maybe she’ll regain the title.
* * *
And reverting back to the theme of brands is this musing on re-branding. Even if you build a successful brand, like McDonald’s, you have to morph it every now and then so it doesn’t get stodgy. This has serious consequences for Ronald McDonald (“McDonald’s continues its march into a more mature market, one not all that in love with clowns.”) One of the most interesting aspects of the entire wine industry for me is to watch the boutique wineries of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s (mainly Napa Cabernet houses) and see how they rebrand themselves. Some do, which ensures a healthy future and succession to a new generation. Some, sadly and patently, do not. I could name names, but to what point? The hardest thing in Hollywood is to build a second career, but some people–Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler is a great example–manage to do it. But for every Mickey Rourke there are 50 Burt Reynoldses (no disrespect; Boogie Nights was awesome, but that was 1997). It’s interesting, speaking of The Wrestler, that Boogie Nights starred Mark Wahlberg, who began his career as a Calvin Klein underwear model and rapper and just produced and co-starred in The Fighter, which won a bunch of Oscars. Now, there’s a career, and the dude is only 39. When we talk about brand building, look at Marky Mark, who did it, not by simulating a pseudo-career by amassing 1 million Twitter friends, but by actually developing his talent and accumulating a body of work.