Marketing strategies for iconic wines

There seems to be the common thread of achievement running through the post University of Texas career of BOND Estates Director Paul Roberts, MS. A career that has focused on being a standard setter in the wine business. Paul came into my field of vision during his days as wine director at Café Annie on Post Oak Boulevard in Houston. This was always at the top of my list of national goto food & wine spots. The wine list was not only innovative it had soul. Paul’s selections for Robert Del Grande’s cutting edge restaurant introduced wines that not only matched the food, but tended to light the fires of intellectual curiosity for both the wine cognoscenti and casual dinners. During his RDG tenure Paul advanced through the levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2002, becoming the first Texan and the 48th Master Sommelier in the world, Paul was awarded the Krug Cup as only the 6th person in the history of the MS exam to pass on first try.

Recruited to lead the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group wine program, Paul moved to the Napa Valley in 2003. As part of his responsibility, Paul managed the beverage programs at four TKRG restaurants, supervising 12 sommeliers and he facilitated the simultaneous opening of both Per Se in New York and Bouchon in Las Vegas. By 2007 Paul had come to the attention of Bill Harlan, in part thanks to the seven Michelin stars that he earned during his stint with Chef Keller. He joined BOND Estates as Director in August 2008.

Paul can often be found on the road sharing the BOND Estates journey. A compelling narrative that is Zen centered in the ongoing quest for perfection. Paul shared the BOND story earlier this year at the Taste of Oakville Master Class and most recently at the 2011 Aspen Food & Wine Classic. In addition to the key account tastings in which BOND is featured, Paul maintains a full travel schedule. Based on the strategy of connecting with consumers world wide Paul has  been featured at wine events as diverse as the 2008 Monaco Media Forum, the Davos World Economic Forum, and tasting with a group of diplomats at the American Embassy in Bangkok.  Fortunately for the readers/viewers of the AoD vlog, Paul has taken a short break from his travels to share some insights on the marketing vision of this iconic wine estate.

Marketing an Iconic Wine Estate (click on video to view or click here)

The Take Away

It’s the conventional wisdom of the B-School crowd that A’s hire from the A+ pool. BOND proprietor Bill Harlan is by any definition an A++, so it’s no surprise that he hired the talented Mr. Roberts. Paul shares Bill Harlan’s vision for BOND Estates, which first took form back in the Merryvale days when winemaker Bob Levy reported that a few of the 60 vineyards sourced for the wine program produced exceptional ‘first growth’ fruit. This started a journey that has now lasted 28 years, and the process has just begun. For the philosopher business man Bill Harlan there’s no rush. It’s the journey that matters.

The big idea behind BOND has been to identify and produce site specific Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon based ‘Grand Crus,’ utilizing sensitive hands on farming techniques and by using the same detailed wine making protocol for each vineyard. The intent is to produce wines that are differentiated from the crowd by quality. Quality in the sense that Robert Pirsig once described in his book Lila. So far, dating from the original release of two site specific wines in 1999, Vecina and Melbury – selected from a candidate pool of 27 vineyards, the classic label list after years of winegrowing and winemaking trials has now grown to 5 wines. The intended outcomes, if measured in time and money, may not in the short term be financially wise, but with an eye on producing timeless classic labels the short term is a non factor in the BOND decision matrix.

The indefatigable efforts of Director Paul Roberts, MS and the team at BOND have lead to tangible results. Despite the micro production of each of the five ‘Grand Crus’, the wines of BOND are distributed world wide. The ‘Membersmailing list likely could and would easily absorb the entire production within days of each vintage release. However, with a deep understanding that place (distribution) matters in the perception of any luxury consumable, the availability of wines in the worlds top wine shops and a place on the table at the best restaurants help to imprint and to reinforce in the minds of consumers the idea of a luxury wine experience.

Noted that the word ‘luxury’ has been adopted by wine marketers to describe wines that on the whole are not luxury products and the word has become “commonplace.” However, to a select sub-set of worldwide affluent wine consumers, the word ‘luxury’ still has currency. The best take on the idea of luxury marketing comes from a resource shared by Paul – ‘The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by J. N. Kapferer and V. Bastien. Kapferer and Bastien note that “true luxury products tend to be driven by a creative vision.” And it is a clearly defined vision that drives the ongoing search for ‘terroir’ that has positioned the “best expression of site” wines of BOND Estates not in the aspirational luxury CPG market segment but squarely as a centerpiece in the small circle of meaningful classic wine labels.

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in consumer engagement, marketing vision, wine brand value, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A study in improved online consumer engagement

An Agent of Change

Lisa MattsonCommunications Director at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, has taken a contrarian position to the online based chatter that the destination web is now at an end, by following the 1996 advice of Bill Gates that ‘Content is King.’ Lisa’s point of view has been more than confirmed based on the positive growth over the past eighteen months in consumer visits to the Jordan Vineyard & Winery reimagined web site. Further documented by the increased Journey of Jordan Blog views/reads and by the wine industry’s recognition of the Journey of Jordan Blog.

It’s not surprising that Lisa was hired by John Jordan who, after spending his first four years as CEO at Jordan working on winery and vineyard infrastructure build, wanted to focus on Jordan’s interactive online consumer communication efforts. The early focus by John on preparing the winery for the future was a practical application of his philosophy that “if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”  But perhaps a key to driving the decision to hire was the list of bleeding edge digital communication based accomplishments achieved by Lisa during her tenure at Wilson Daniels, Ltd., and by John’s view that “the Great Recession gave us permission to change.” Change has indeed come to Jordan with the adoption of technology best practices in the vineyard, the winery and with improved online consumer engagement.

A primary tactic to my remaining current with the latest developments in wine industry marketing and technology is to take the opportunity to sit down and talk, as time allows, with a small list of leaders in specific wine business relevant verticals. At the head of my MarCom list is Lisa Mattson. I’m not alone in wanting to hear what Lisa has to say. Lisa was a presenter on the ‘Technology at the Speed of Light’ panel for the January 2011 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium. Recently Lisa spoke on ‘Preserving Brand Elegance in the Digital Age,’ at the North Bay Business Journal’s 2011 Wine Industry Conference. And, at the upcoming WITS conference, Lisa will be speaking about integrating iPad technology into the Jordan Winery culture. In addition to her busy schedule (which now includes a soon to be published book), Lisa has agreed to share several on-point insights on how to effectively manage your winery’s digital online consumer interactive engagement efforts with the readers/viewers of the AoD vlog.

Effective Winery Consumer Engagement (click video to view or click here)

Shared Points-of View

“Family wine businesses typically don’t have splashy marketing campaigns. We have stories – stories about history, people, triumphs and the challenges of each vintage — and you have to be the best at knowing what stories are appropriate and interesting — and then tell them in a compelling and brand-appropriate way.” … Lisa Mattson

After each of my meetings with Lisa over the last 3 years, I’ve written down and saved many of the tips shared during our extended conversations:


  • “If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then a video is worth 300,000.” Nadira Hira said this during the Consumer Direct Wine Symposium keynote speech a month after I started at Jordan. It’s definitely my guiding philosophy in digital marketing.
  • If you want to make videos in house, you must take the time to learn the fundamentals – shot composition, lighting, audio quality and message delivery.
  • A great video can help your brand; a bad video can hurt your brand.
  • This is the year that video helps your digital marketing efforts stand out.
  • Two YouTube videos reflecting on Jordan’s Video Program – Part 1, Part 2

Social Media and Consumer Engagement

  • Wine is inherently social.
  • Social media is a great fit in the wine business by being a content development medium.
  • Adapt the tone of your social media assets to your brand image (not the other way around).
  • It’s not about the sell. It’s about the experience.
  • Four words: honesty, transparency, shared passion
  • There’s a memory with every wine. It’s contextual. Wine is shared.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Content is King

  • Think like a publisher, not a marketer.
  • Understand what value (beyond price) your brand can bring to your audience.
  • Determine your brand’s relevance to consumer’ lives.
  • Your content needs to be honest, relevant, fun, engaging and interactive.
  • Your content needs to capitalize on shared passions.
  • Use communication tools that break through the clutter and serve today’s short consumer attention spans.
  • We live in a Google centric world and your marketing strategy and content must adapt to the observable online behavior of search and discovery.
  • Journey of Jordan Blog
  • Estate Tales digital magazine

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in brand reputation, consumer engagement, digital marketing, social networking, videography, videos, vlog, wine communications, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s the value of my brand?

This past week I had a lunch meeting at the Rutherford Grill with Joe Orlando,  a Senior Valuation Expert with the Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP Wine Business Service Group. Our conversation centered on the recent acquisition of the Inglenook brand trademark by Francis Ford Coppola. Coincidentally the original Inglenook Estate sits just across Hwy. 29 from the restaurant. I mentioned a comment that I had just read in the June 2nd
Decanter article on the changes at this iconic estate winery. In the story, Mr. Coppola is quoted as saying that the extended brand negotiations with The Wine Group “ended in his paying more for the trademark than (he) did for the entire estate.”  This launched an hour long discussion focused on the question that we’ve both frequently fielded from winery owners, GMs, CMOs and senior brand managers: ‘what’s the value of my brand?’

There are two unique concepts that merge in this question, ‘value‘ and ‘brand‘. The idea of products (brands) creating value has continued to change since it was first formalized by Adam Smith
(the production theory of value), followed by David Ricardo (the labor theory of value). Both of these theories were further defined and differentiated by Karl Marx as use value and exchange value. These 19th Century constructs, conceived during the Industrial Revolution, are based on the tangible and identifiable costs (human and capital) of product production forming the basis of price, demand and profit as primary determinants of product value.

The idea and practice of brand is thought to have originated in Old Norse times (Old Norse ‘brandr‘ – to burn) with the branding of livestock that established the concept of individual ownership. Wealth and value were based on the size and/or on the perceived desirability  of the herd. Seen through the lens of current valuation best practices, branded products are now viewed through the prism of globalization layered with the idea of intellectual property and sifted through the filter of consumer choice.

The definitions of both brand and value have and will continue to significantly evolve. The terms iconic (Hanzell, Screaming Eagle, Scarecrow) and meaningful (Paul Dolan, Benziger, Humanitas) are two words currently associated with ‘brand‘, which I would define as a ‘promise of perceived and/or actual deliverables transferred through commerce from a producer to a consumer.’ Today’s valuation professionals now focus on the terms tangible (fixed or physical assets, and products or services that provide a flow of revenues and/or profits) and intangible (goodwill, patents, trademarks, intellectual property). So, any answer to this popular question has to take into account the idea of the qualitative and quantitative attributes of a winery’s branded products. Based on his 25 years of valuation experience, Joe agreed to take on this complex issue and share his knowledge of determining wine brand value with the readers/viewers of the AoD blog.

Brand Value (click on video to play)

Joe Orlando’s Brand Value Bullet Points

Every brand marketer’s key function should be to focus on creating, building and driving brand value, as the foundation of any successful wine business venture. After more than 25 years of valuing business and individual intangible assets, I always come back to the following key “nuggets” that drive the value of a brand:

1.     Qualitative Differences– What makes your brand different from others?  If 5 wineries source grapes from the same vineyard, what drives the brand value for each winery?

  • Winemaking?
  • Label?  Art driven?
  • Story?  Family heritage?
  • Buzz (social networking sites)?  Good old-fashioned word of mouth?
  • Something else?

2.     Quantitative Differences– Similar to the qualitative side of the equation, how do these differences translate into real numbers on how your brand compares to others.

  • Price point?
  • Wine scores?
  • Market share?
  • Visitors?
  • Percentage of sales per distribution channel?

3.     Real Value– While a real dollar value is difficult to conclude on, the key drivers include:

  • Profitability – Does your brand make money on a stand-alone basis?
  • Premium Built into the Price per Bottle – Using the scenario above with 5 wineries sourcing the same grapes, what is your price point over the other brands?  Does that price point come at a cost?  If so, see above.
  • Premium over Generic – Fundamentally, as I talk through in my “Bayer” aspirin example, are people willing to pay a premium over what they consider a generic brand or, as a wine example, another brand of similar quality that lacks any brand awareness?
  • Cost of Marketing – See above regarding profitability?
  • Method of Distribution – Also related to profitability based on blended revenue per bottle (not price but revenue generated on average for each distribution channel).
  • Inventory – While a bit counter-intuitive, a sold-out brand is worth more than one that has inventory to sell.  Iconic wines have the ability to increase their direct to consumer sales and as a result, their average revenue per bottle and up-front cash flows.

4.     What We Know but Can’t Quantify – There is a somewhat dated but very pertinent book called I Know it When I See It.  It was originally written in 1985 and updated in 1991, and has the subtitle of “A Modern Fable about Quality.”  In a very simple way, the book deals with what we all know about something in terms of its impact on value but can’t put into words or numbers.

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in intangible value, Real Value, tangible value, wine brand value | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Effective wine business lifestyle event marketing

Joel Quigley is a marketing communications visionary who has shaped the contemporary wine business cultural lifestyle event landscape. His  ability to discover, analyze, adopt and then utilize emerging MarCom tools, ones that have now become a de rigueur part of any successful CMO’s or brand manager’s marketing tool kit, is a model to be studied and emulated.

I first met Joel in the 1990’s at a Wine Brats event at a hip restaurant/wine bar in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley. I’d received an email invite, then confirmed online and printed my event ticket and confirmation via my desktop printer. While receiving, responding and printing tickets is a common occurrence today, these actions were revolutionary in the mid-to-late 1990’s. By early 2000, Joel had developed  the Wine Brats into a national wine marketing power, utilizing what we now recognize as social media and by keying on the demographic group that’s the focus of every contemporary wine marketer – Millennials. Not only does Joel understand how to develop an effective, integrated wine marketing and communications vehicle, but he’s also a master at identifying the cues that resonate with targeted consumers, press and the wine trade.

In addition to a full slate of activities, for the last 7 years Joel has worked his magic on the Rosé category as ‘Director, Rosé Avengers & Producers. I had a chance to catch-up with the busy co-founder and President of Creative Furnace at the annual Pink Out! event at Butterfly Restaurant to talk about the viability and effectiveness of lifestyle events as part of integrated wine marketing tactics. Even though the trade portion of this high energy event was off to a quick start, Joel wanted to provide some perspective on what he considers key to the successful execution of wine centered lifestyle event marketing. Sitting on the set of that evening’s Taste Live broadcast, and with the cacophony of the energized crowd in the background, Joel shares his ideas and upcoming projects with the readers/viewers of the AoD vlog.

Wine Lifestyle Event Marketing

I had the chance to both work with and observe Joel in his various incarnations for more than a decade. It’s been one of my most enjoyable and enriching experiences. It’s also been a source of knowledge that’s contributed to my wine marketing skill set. Good marketers are curious. Top marketers incorporate the best marketing ideas from the innovators in a given space. Here are a few of my insights that I’ve gleamed from Joel:

  • Identify and target specific wine affinity consumer groups, individuals and influencers
  • Take the time to do the research to understand the key touch points
  • Utilizing this knowledge, develop cultural lifestyle events that will engage this set of wine consumers in a memorable and meaningful way
  • Wine is a key part of our cultural life experience that includes art, theater, music, movies, architecture and food. Incorporate some or all as part of the focus of your events to create long tail connections
  • And, pay attention to every detail

Based on my prior interactions with Joel, I can say that he always throws a great party. He’s wired into the Southern California music and movie communities, and has produced the annual Musexpo, interfacing with the decision makers, artist and influencers from the major studios and labels. Joel has incorporated his deep music industry connections to produce a series of successful events for his clients. So, if you’re in Northern California on Saturday July 16th, and want to observe Joel live and inperson you should go to the Rootstock Festival in Santa Rosa. Knowing Joel, it’s going to be a rockin’ event.

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in brand reputation, lifestyle events, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Points of focus for winery direct to consumer marketers …

The Guru

It’s been almost one year since I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Christian Oggenfuss about the current key points of focus for wine business direct-to-consumer marketing. Our conversations usually consist of one or two questions followed by an on-point discussion of the topic at hand, that in-part seems like a post-doctoral lecture and in-part a clear, concise and actionable approach to a winery’s most profitable sales channel. We should all have knowledge gurus that, based on their specific areas of experience, are our go to reference sources. Christian Oggenfuss is my DTC guru. I’m the marketer with questions and Christian is the knowledge resource with answers.

I recently engaged in a phone conversation with a senior level wine business marketing executive about a certain winery’s direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, centering around CRM/POS integration and consumer real time engagement efforts. The discussion ended on an unresolved basis, and I wanted to get some additional insights from Christian to gain a fresh perspective on how to resolve identifiable points of friction in the consumer facing segments of this key winery retail marketing sales channel. Christian, appointed, in late April, as Director of Marketing at PlumpJack and CADE wineries, agreed to meet and offered to share his insights with the readers of the AoD vlog.

A DTC Tutorial

Wine Business Direct to Consumer Marketing Focus

Based on the direct-to-consumer marketing insights that I’ve observed and enacted during my wine business career, here is a short list of suggested DTC best practices:

  • Develop a brand specific strategic & tactical DTC plan within the capabilities of your winery
  • Develop trackable goals and visit monthly by reviewing your DTC KPIs
  • Develop and enact a frictionless customer information capture system, whether from an inbound online interface or outreach in-person interactions
  • Develop and implement a consumer focused CRM (relationship management program) with the ability to utilize, in actionable ways, all consumer inquiries, interactions and commerce
  • Insure that your consumer facing software development is shaped from the perspective of your winery sales and marketing efforts and not driven by back office accounting silos
  • Insure that your POS and CRM systems have a seamless interface and that both points of entry populate data (client information) without digital conflict
  • Design and develop your winery web site’s ecommerce portal to provide an intuitive eSales experience by avoiding points of friction and shopping cart abondonment
  • Create a business culture that is focused on customer awareness and retention by engaging your customers and building real, sustainable relationships
  • Excel in customer service
  • Outreach marketing is one of the keys to any viable winery DTC effort. Remember that the wine business is social, and that your winery brand customers like your wines and want to hear from you. Your clients want to be recognized and treated like insiders. So, pick up the phone and call and engage your customers in a conversation. Let them know the latest shipment info, that magnum offer or the members only wine library release. Follow-up with a contact email. This isn’t about selling widgets. The best DTC marketing practices are customer centered, and focus on the creation of visceral and memorable experiences.

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in CRM, DTC, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The skinny on SMO …

Search or Social?

If you want to get the skinny on Social Media Optimization, as it applies to winery digital marketing efforts, there is no better source than James Jory the CTO at Vintank. In addition to his role as the chief technology officer at the Napa, CA based wine industry digital think tank, James is the architect of the Cruvee Engine. James continues to craft an impressive career in software development as an agent of change. His past positions include time as the chief architect at Kurant for the StoreSense e-commerce solution for small business. Kurant was acquired by eBay in early 2005 and James transitioned to the role of architect for eBay’s ProStores e-commerce application. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and interact with James during my tenure on the Board of Advisors at Cruvee,  dating from mid-August 2009 until mid-March 2011, when was acquired by Vintank.

My observation, over time, is that James has the ability to take seemingly complex issues and cut through the clutter and clearly communicate the key actionable points. Maybe this skill set relates back to his UCSD days studying philosophy as part of his dual major. James is one of those rare accomplished individuals who has the ability to see the big picture while doing the hundreds of small things necessary to make that vision an effective reality. James recently agreed to share his insights on SMO with the readers/viewers of the Agents of Disruption vlog.

Insights on Social Media Optimization

The new social paradigm

We’re all challenged marketing our wines in this new and rapidly evolving digital environment. Consumers now determine how and where our brand messages are accessed and received. Search has become primarily local and contextual, helping to create and drive a new sales vertical, m-commerce. Social media continues to impact buyers’ perceptions and purchase behaviors across of all categories of consumables, but in particular the most social of all CPGs, wine. In light of this new paradigm, James has some sound advice for today’s wine marketers:

SEO people typically look at SMO as another means of driving traffic to their site. The end-goal is always the same–more traffic to my site. But I think social engagement is much different than search engagement, especially when it comes to consuming content. That is, if I’m actively looking for something (i.e. searching), I’m more apt to focus attention and time on the search results I come across since I have a goal in mind. When I’m consuming social content through feeds, something may catch my interest and I may click through to it but since that wasn’t my goal my attention is limited and harder to hold. The strategies have got to be different.”

  • Consumer expectations have changed: consumers expect your brand and product information to be easily accessible on the networks and via the apps that they use.
  • Prioritizing flexibility in the design of your brand and product information platforms over presentation will maximize your brand messaging reach. 
  • A Trade section on your website is no longer adequate and provides poor visibility into how your brand and product information is actually being consumed and used.
  • The traditional web (web 1.0) is only part of an effective digital marketing strategy. Smartphones and the proliferation of apps have crated a new digital landscape with the result that websites are no longer the ‘destination.’
  • Your customers now control your brand message. Inspire them with your story and then provide them with accurate product information… turning your customers into effective digital brand ambassadors.
Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.
Posted in change agents, CPG, SEO, SMO, social networking, technology, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lather, rinse & repeat …

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

… Jeff Bezos

Reputation Management

Tim McDonald is a cool cat. Spend a few hours with Tim discussing the current state of Public Relations and you’ll sense that you just attended a post doctoral course in wine business communications. Part Leo Burnett and part Ernest Gallo, Tim is focused on the pragmatic outcomes of his brands’ PR efforts. While his focus seems to always be on the end-game, Tim spends an incredible amount of energy on the 100’s of little steps that it takes to build effective marcom campaigns. Taking part in multiple trade and consumer events and judging in more wine and beverage competitions than most of us knew existed, Tim is out and about shaking hands and developing relationships with our industry’s movers and influencers. The efforts that Tim puts into pushing vintner messaging forward seem to reflect the words of the legendary marketer, David Ogilvy, ““If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Traditional CPG best marketing practices carry the day without regard to the communications medium utilized. To be effective in your social media or traditional media interactions it’s still important to always be interesting, consistent, honest, transparent, and personable. The feedback from those in the know is, that while the platforms for sharing information have continued to evolve, the rules of engagement remain the same. It’s still a conversation, and there must be an objective beyond brand awareness. It has to be about managing your wineco’s brand reputation, and facilitating commerce.

Wine Spoken Here

Reputation Engineering 

When I’m able to meet and talk wine business sales, marketing and/or PR issues with Tim, I feel a little bit like Grasshopper listening to the lessons of Master Po. And I relish these moments. Often the shared wisdom of others is just a reminder of what we all already know, and sometimes these discussions show the best route down the path of enlightenment. Here are a few on-point tips re. wine business Public Relations best practices shared by Tim during our last meeting:

  • be honest, available and authentic
  • be a resource for journalists
  • tell a good story
  • tell them something new and brand own-able
  • return calls and emails…
  • never send unsolicited samples
  • always ask the question is this a good time? what are you working on? got a deadline?
  • how can I help?
Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in brand reputation, CPG, wine communications, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve got a wine for that …

“… 78% of smartphone owners use their phones while they shop. “This is the future and everyone will adapt,” Schmidt said. “Because people are fundamentally better off with a better and smarter and more empowered, if you will, customer.”
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google

I’ve got an app for that …

Soon after arriving early at Waterbar SF for an interview with Hello Vino co-founder Rick Breslin, I overheard a guest at an adjacent table say the now oft repeated “I’ve got an app for that.” And this made me reflect on just how far we’ve come as always connected consumers, relying on our handheld computers (smartphones) to assist with the task of our daily lives. The interview was set-up via DMs on the Hoot Suite Twitter client app. I found parking near the Embarcadero using the ParkSF app, and booked the restaurant reservation on the Open Table app.

The first mobile phones, available for consumers in 1984, weren’t very smart, but boy were they expensive, heavy and the size of a brick. The initial user base was limited to a small group of affluent early adopters. Since these formative days in the telecom timeline, the continued miniaturization of components, and the improvement in processor capability, coupled with significant infrastructure build has now led led to the widespread use by consumers of smartphone technology. Nielsen reports that the the trajectory of adoption is equally rapid, and that by the end of 2011, 49% of USA wireless users will be smartphone users. And, these users download and use apps, that thanks to the Apple App Store and Google’s  Android Market, will exceed more than 950,000 app  selections by August 2011. To date more than 10 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple App Store alone.

In an effort to filter out all this noise and find a wine app that will engage consumers at the point of purchase, I’ve identified criteria for a solution set that merges the best in platform development, ease of consumer use with a significant identifiable installed user base and
verifiable analytics. One that combines technology and social networking to help drive improved m-commerce results and shape purchase intent during the wine selection and buying process. Hello Vino engages wine consumers as an integral part of the buying process. Buyers who, in our new world of pull marketing, choose at this specific moment in time to interact by launching and interfacing with the Hello Vino app, a food and wine pairing app that has achieved more than 500,000 app downloads and delivers more than 1 million recommendations per month. So, off to Waterbar SF to get the back story and the inside scoop on the soon to be released ver 2.0, from Hello Vino CEO Rick Breslin.

The inside scoop

The new wine shopper paradigm …

Rick has released, to the readers of the Agents of Disruption Vlog™, this closely distributed (existing clients only) demo video of the new label photo scanner feature in the soon to be released  Hello Vino ver 2.0.  The unofficial word is “any day now.” The official release is targeted for June 1, 2011.

A recent survey by Adology  shows that branded smartphone applications influence
consumers’ purchase decisions. The ability to view product information with your mobile smartphone on an opt in basis also tends to impact purchase intent. As a muti-platform wine marketer, you should be aware that the era of push marketing has come and gone, and the age of pull marketing has arrived, and your consumer is now in charge. This means identifying those tools that best provide the opportunity to achieve planned results. As we’ve all observed, the average number of wine SKUs in retail wine aisles have exponentially grown  over time, and the marketplace has become quite congested. The idea that most wine shoppers feel either intimidated or overwhelmed by choice is a significant point of friction that often negatively affects wine purchase decisions.

Rick Breslin has provided an on-point overview of the Hello Vino solution: “Hello Vino ‘Scales’ the Sommelier Experience – We’ve packaged the question-and-answer process that a wine professional conducts when assisting an overwhelmed consumer with making a selection.  Humans, unfortunately, can’t (always) scale.  But, an app to help with wine selections can exist on every shopper’s smartphone.”

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

Posted in Hello Vino, smartphone apps, social networking, technology, vlog, wine marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dreams …

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

… Oscar Wilde

I’m Shipping up to Boston

Conventional wisdom is just that… conventional. A way of thinking that’s far too safe for today’s most effective brand marketers, that small subset of dreamers who display an entrepreneurial mindset. These wine biz imagineers tend to be the ones with the ability to move the needle past the restrictions imposed by conventional wisdom. Through a Twitter friend request, I discovered a great example of this new wave of brand marketer in Máire Murphy, an Irish expat, who grew up in her mother’s wine and spirits distribution business in Belfast. After graduating with honors in marketing from the University of Ulster, Máire moved to Boston to run the marketing department for the Martignetti Companies, transitioning to sales after four years as the first woman, ever, to sell wine for New England’s largest distributor.  Ever the ground breaker, Máire moved to Sonoma County to work for the then emerging wine tech company,, which soon merged with With the bust of the dotcom bubble, decided to close their Napa based offices.

Everybody Takes a Tumble

When one door closes, another opens-up. Máire with her husband & business partner, Walt Averill,  launched the Sin É Wine Company, generating on-premise focused wine brands at a rapid clip. Noticed and then approached by Springfield, VA based Billington Imports, Máire and Walt sold their company, and Máire was hired to be the VP of the Billington Wine Studio, a portfolio of eight California based brands producing more than 40,000 case of wines. In 2008, though having lived and worked in the States for some time,  Máire was named one of the ‘Top 50 Business’ people in Northern Ireland.

Not willing to be be pigeonholed, Máire and Walt continued to  drive innovation by launching Wines West, a wine business focused sales and marketing firm, and introduced Rua, a new Napa Valley entry that is modeled on a wine that Máire remembered from her first trips to France with her Mother, the Saint Emilion Grand Cru , Tertre-Roteboeuf. With an awareness of the crowded marketplace, The Wines West team wanted to differentiate their wines not only in flavor profile and story, but in the presentation. After many brainstorming sessions, the idea of a new reusable capsule appeared in a dream, that resulted in the development and launch of Capabunga.

A Wine Marketer’s Immagination

The Sunnyside of the Street

Capabunga is one of those ‘why didn’t someone think of this before’ moments. But, isn’t that what dreamers do? They think of solutions to problems that everyone else knows exist, but they’re most often the first movers in identifying a niche market, and because they imagine the process through to completion, the execution leads to a new perspective. There are so many good examples in the history of the evolution of wine packaging moving the needle forward, but this is the first and perhaps best example to date of a new ‘once the bottle’s open’ reclosure solution. The loss of this talented individual by Ireland’s beverage industry has been a win for the USA wine business. Go raibh céad maith agat, Éire!

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Landmark Vineyards for providing the set location

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

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The Screening Room …

“Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
Marshall McLuhan

Market Movers

Visual media has long demonstrated the power to drive and/or change markets. On Sunday, November 17, 1991 CBS ’60 Minutes’ corespondent Morley Safer hosted a report on the “French Paradox.” The report supported scientific research that the moderate consumption of red wine tended to prevent coronary artery disease and heart attacks by as much as 50%. The ‘drink more red wine’ permission light was turned on, and red wine sales in the USA market zoomed. The US was predominantly a white wine market in 1991. Of note, Kendall-Jackson, founded in 1982, depleted almost 800,000 cases of Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay in 1991. Overnight wineries were caught with short inventories of red wines, and farmers started planting red wine varieties in all available potential wine grape acreage, puling out pears, plums and other formerly viable crops.

The power of movies to move markets was first noted by AoD in Ian Fleming’sDr. No,” when suave secret agent James Bond stated his preference for vintage Dom Perignon. Dom Perignon was little known outside of a few indie circles in the USA wine market. Overnight DP became the Champagne of choice during the ‘Mad Men‘ era for the emerging American aspirational consumer, helping  to create demand and awareness for the entire Champagne category.

Another interesting case study of movies affecting wine market dynamics is the movie “Disclosure.” In a memorable scene, key to the movie’s plot line,  Demi Moore  attempted to seduce Michael Douglas after sharing a glass of, the then obscure, Pahlmeyer Chardonnay. The movie was moderately successful, but the demand and price for Jason Pahlmeyer’s wine soon skyrocketed.

One of the best recent displays of wine markets being moved by a movie, is this example based on a single line of dialog in “Sideways,” that resulted in the noted ‘Sideways effect‘ when Miles shouted out “I’m NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!” The previously smoking hot merlot market slowed overnight. Sales of wines designated Merlot, without regard to price or origin, flattened. The resulting market dislocation and change in consumer perceptions caught the attention of young Napa, CA based filmmaker, Rudolf N. McClain. Some of his favorite wines were and still are Merlots.

Movies & Wine (please click on the above video to view)

Only the Lonely …

As a filmmaker and a wine lover, Rudolf McClain is a champion of the unloved, the disabused, the lonely grapes in our wine universe. His skill in creating interesting movies based on just a single wine grape variety, speak well of his ability to conceive, craft, shape and produce compelling narratives. The previously released and well reviewed documentary “Merlove,” may well have helped to directionally shift the tsunami of bad press, negative consumer sentiment and the resulting weak demand for Merlot wines. Since the release of “Merlove,” the Merlot broad market has fully recovered in quality, quantity and value. And now there’s a new project in production addressing the recently unpopular Syrah, ‘Que Syrah, Shiraz.” I suspect that many Syrah winemakers will closely follow the progress and release of  Rudolf’s new film.

Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

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