The Losh Cause
Having seen New World wine producers overtake them in so many markets, one would imagine that the Old World must surely by now have realised the merits of modern wine marketing. But Chris Losh believes they still need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Old World vignerons might be waking up to the concept of fruit in wines, and New World winemakers falling over their surfboards to espouse the importance of terroir, but in some areas the two seem to be as massively divided as ever.
Back labels are a case in point. Fashion, rather more flippantly, is another. But the biggest difference between the two worlds, without a shadow of a doubt, remains marketing.
For the New World, it's a necessary expense, an opportunity, a way of getting your product 'out there'. But for much of the Old World, it's an unnecessary luxury, an esoteric drain with no tangible benefit, a waste of money…
This last week just about sums it up. First, I was speaking to the UK brand manager for a fair-sized, and very good Champagne house, who was gloomily predicting a second year of negligible marketing activity.
The problem last year, it seems, wasn't having his promotional budget cut, but of never having one of any description agreed in the first place. The result: our UK brand manager eventually stopped all promo activity, however successful it had proven to be in the past, in case his French paymasters (rightly) claimed they hadn't authorised it. Let me repeat: this wasn't a conscious budget freeze, simply a case of no marketing decision being made at HQ and things being left to hang.
This would be jaw-dropping enough in any industry, but in one such as Champers which is so heavily dependent on image for its success, it is nothing short of astounding. Can you imagine any other reasonably sized business that simply omits to sign off a marketing budget in one of its biggest export markets? The mind boggles, though I suspect this isn't as uncommon as we would think, but rather axiomatic of the attitude many in the Old World have to the dark arts of trying to persuade people to drink their product.
Now, people criticise companies like Gallo, Constellation et al., but they do, at least, understand the power of marketing. Indeed, some would say they have more interest in it than in actually making wine. In their appreciation of the importance of selling, though, they are reasonably representative of the New World.
Just look at the latest tie-up organised by the Californian wine company Wente, which has set up pre-concert wine tastings with the (ahem) rock band Foreigner. Presumably they'll be playing 'I Want to Know What Cab Is' over the speakers.
Leaving aside the question of whether any band whose audience likes to kick-start a gig with a nice cool Sauvignon Blanc can really be called (as the blurb claims) "Rock Legends", this is, at least, an imaginative association, and all credit to Wente for spotting the opportunity.
It's not something I can imagine too many Old World producers doing. And such innovation is of course entirely impossible if there is no marketing budget in the first place!
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