An example of how social marketing works for a winery–maybe
I’ve been something of a debunker about social marketing advice companies that claim they can help wineries increase sales through the use of social media. Whenever I see such claims, I usually think that the only sales that are going to be increasing are those of the social marketing advice company!
Their claims are often hyperinflated, based on taking advantage of the ignorance and insecurity many winery personnel feel when it comes to social media. They may take a single instance of success, and use it to imply that you, too, can achieve similar results–if only you hire the company. There’s something of the late-night T.V. infomercial about it: get-rich-quick real estate schemes, lose weight instantly, tone and harden those buttocks! Call now, operators are standing by!
I’ve asked, many times on this blog, for concrete evidence that a professional approach to social media (whatever that means) can increase sales. And to tell the truth, nobody’s risen to the challenge. Oh, here and there someone will talk about some anecdote, or they’ll argue, on purely theoretical grounds, that it works. But theory and reality don’t always agree. If they did–well, I better not get into politics!
But then I was reading the N.Y. Times on Tuesday and saw this article describing how a social marketing advice company called BzzAgent is apparently succeeding in boosting sales of Black Box, the Constellation-owned 3 liter wine to which I’ve given plenty of Best Buy reccos (and even the occasional and highly valued Editor’s Choice) over the years in Wine Enthusiast. (I’ve also panned their wines. At the equivalent of $6.25 for a regular bottle, it’s not likely they’re all going to be good.)
Black Box/Constellation hired BzzAgent (clever name, with hints of “buzz” and busy bees) to jack up sales, after the company concluded that it did not want to do traditional advertising, for a number of reasons. So I guess this is a form of guerrilla marketing: the article tells how a BzzAgent representative, who seems to have been hanging out at a supermarket, accosted a stranger who was about to buy another brand of boxed wine and warned her, “Don’t do it!” Instead, the agent told the woman to buy Black Box. The Times story implies that she did.
Never mind that there are all sorts of bizarre inconsistencies to this version of events. Did the BzzAgent person (who is described as “an unemployed lawyer”) just happen to be in the supermarket wine aisle when this event transpired, or was she trolling there? If the latter, did the supermarket management know that a weirdo lady was lurking in the wine aisle, approaching innocent strangers and interfering with their shopping? If I had been the shopper, I would have told the lady to stop bothering me. When strangers stop you in public and start talking at you, the general instinct is to assume they’re crazy or panhandling, and move on.
Still, I’ll take the Times story at its word. It tells also how the BzzAgent lady hosts “blind tasting parties” for her friends at her home and serves them Black Box. When those friends see how good the wine is, they buy it, or so the article suggests.
Supermarket encounters and blind tasting parties are not, of course, social media, but they are birds of the same color: they all bypass the traditional marketing and P.R. approaches in favor of what might be called consumer-to-consumer communication. The supermarket approach is one on one; the blind tasting party approach might be one on twenty; and a Tweet might be one on a hundred thousand: but the principle is the same.
I checked out BzzAgent’s website. By this morning they already had a lead link to the N.Y. Times article, a good sign that their people have a fast reaction time. There are also a lot of interesting articles, including one on how not to waste time online (which is something I think a lot of people and companies do). Number 4 is “Mix it up. Dull content is like Spam.”
That is so true. The biggest mistake most wineries make online is to establish a website, put some stuff up, and then let it molder for months if not years. I routinely get tasting samples in the mail for which the accompanying information is inadequate. So I’ll go to the website for info, only to find that the vintage hasn’t been updated for two years! That would be a scandal in the Heimoff household. When I missed a post last month due to my hangover, I heard from some angry readers. I almost expected mobs with pitchforks to hunt me down here in Oakland. So, yes, “dull content is like Spam.” In fact, it’s worse than Spam. With Spam (I don’t mean the meat, I mean junk email), you expect nothing, which is why most of us set up spam filters to weed it out. But when you deliberately go to a website expecting something new and useful, only to find a bunch of old, boring stuff, it’s an insult. You actually feel resentment to the company for being lazy and uncaring and unprofessional. Not good.
So in the case of Black Box, I’d have to say they’re being pretty smart about it. I’m not clever enough to say whether or not traditional advertising would or wouldn’t work for them. But if they can get buzz going at house parties, in the supermarket and online, more power to them. Just keep those unemployed lawyers away from me!