Alan Kropf and the 4 pillars of wine marketing
My favorite under-30 mover and shaker in the American wine world, Alan Kropf (who’s 29, so he’d better get busy preparing to be one of the most important 30-40 year olds) is the publisher of Mutineer Magazine. He also has this traveling roadshow he calls the Millennial Wine Marketing Circus, a sort of pop-up that features speakers on various aspects of all things marketing.
Alan’s a smart, ambitious guy who’s achieving a solid foothold in wine media. I don’t know exactly where he’ll end up, and probably neither does he, because the future of the field he’s chosen to play in–which lies at the nexus of publishing, social media, event management, public speaking and consulting–is so obscure. There’s a lot of jockeying on the part of a lot of people to succeed in this nexus, and the way I see it, Alan has as much of a chance as anyone, and maybe better.
Anyhow, according to the article, at the Circus, “speakers will discuss notions such as authenticity, affordability, rejecting elitism and ‘inspiring’ consumers.” Alan didn’t invite me to be a speaker, but if I were, here’s what I’d say on each of these topics.
authenticity What is “authenticity”? It’s awfully hard to define, but I think most people recognize it when they see it. I think authenticity is based on the person’s personality. A strong personality that registers as authentic is perceived as honest, knowledgeable, incorruptible and opinionated. It also is free of contradictions. As we see all around us, people whose positions change with the weather are widely viewed as inauthentic. For an expert in wine, authenticity is very important, because it is the basis of credibility.
affordability Of course the world is searching for affordable quality wines. It’s impossible to argue with such an assertion. But stressing “affordability” can lead down a slippery slope, as I’ll explain in the next part.
rejecting elitism Let’s jump right into this. While I am first to admit there’s plenty of snobbery in the wine world at the top, I firmly reject the notion of “elitism.” What do people really mean when they criticise “elitism”? Usually, they’re people who are younger, less exposed to the great wines of the world, who can’t afford expensive wine, and often have an ambition to succeed in their field. In order to accomplish the latter, they have to knock off those ahead of them who already have succeeded–and an increasingly common way of doing that is to accuse them of being “elitists.” Needless to say, if these people eventually succeed, they themselves will someday be accused of being elitist.
Now, if what Alan means by “rejecting elitism” is simply that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find good wine, I’m onboard with him! That’s obviously true. I recommend Best Buys all the time. But the “slippery slope” I referred to is that this anti-elitist attitude can lead to a dumbing down of wine understanding and knowledge. I don’t think that’s a good thing.
‘inspiring‘ consumers Let’s break this down. On the surface it sounds a little silly. Religious and political leaders inspire us. Sometimes a work of art can inspire us. Can wine inspire us? Not really. So what does Alan mean? If I can crawl inside his head, I’d say he’s talking about average Joes and Janes who have an interest in wine, but are intimidated by what they perceive as its complexity. From their point of view, there’s so much rigamarole around wine that they shy away from it, even though they really want to get into it.
Enter Alan. He’s very good at public speaking. He’s a good-looking guy who pays attention to what he wears. He’s hip-cool. He’s like the old-fashioned circuit preacher who travels from prairie town to prairie town, exhorting the masses to Come to Jesus. In this he has his finger on a certain pulse of the masses. I think he means to inspire people to not be afraid of wine–to start by taking baby steps, which is where we all start all of our journeys. He tells them, “If I could do this, you can too,” which is the message all charismatic preachers deliver. So, if this is what Alan means by inspiring consumers, then he’s the perfect person to do it.
That’s what I’d say, anyway.