Digital wine communications still a work-in-progress
How brands position themselves in social media remains a complex subject, with triumph and disaster never far away
Some of the themes at the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Logrono, Spain recently would not exactly be described as new: yes, we are living in exciting times; yes, the modern wine critic is everyone, everywhere, just a click or retweet away; and yes, a lot of wine companies still don’t “get it”. However, some old debates remain appropriately hot, despite the passage of time. Key among them is how a brand manages itself in this uncertain and fluid world.
Several speakers at the conference alluded to the idea that the new world of communication is actually a more prosaic return to the Old World of peer-to-peer recommendations and tribal behaviour. Peer and family recommendations are not only the most trusted, but are also one of the leading purchase motivators. As one speaker put it, “brands are not invited onto social networks, but friends are.”
Unlike the 30 second TV ad you had to watch in the analogue era, brands today can’t hog the limelight unchallenged. As with the servants in Downton Abbey, they need to know their place, do their job well, and only speak up when appropriate. Conference speaker Paul Mabray, CEO of Vintank, summed it up: “[as a brand owner] you need to be ready with the gasoline and the extinguisher at all times.”
Mabray expanded on his thesis: if positive content appears, companies have a great opportunity to amplify its effect and spread that message to more people. On the other hand, with today’s web space acting as an open forum for gathering and sharing information, negative press can easily spiral out of control unless it is managed as soon as possible.
The main concern among delegates was that wine businesses remain too ploddy and only interested in their own (often quite narrow) perspective. Wine brands often succumb to the tendency to speak very technically, from a high metaphorical pulpit. Until they learn to treat social media as a forum, rather than a broadcast mechanism, they will remain frustrated outsiders.
China is one of the markets with the highest proportion of wine drinkers who are looking online for wine information. Wine Intelligence estimates around 13 million
Chinese upper middle class adults aged 18-50 drink who imported wine & use the internet often look for information about wine.
But what type of information are Chinese wine drinkers looking for online? Sought-after information includes learning about wine styles and origins, pairing suggestions, and expert reviews. Producer information and generic consumer reviews are less important.
Author: Lulie Halstead