Why wine communication sucks - Industry Comment

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When were you last swept away by a piece of wine advertising? Compared to other drinks categories, the wine industry continues to push education and not emotion as its primary marketing tool. Please, pleads wine marketer Reka Haros, no more.

Why are wine brand owners still failing to connect with consumers?

Why are wine brand owners still failing to connect with consumers?

Wine communication sucks. Ads don't amaze consumers. Indeed, I doubt ads have an acceptable ROI against budgets spent.

Some of the reasons why wine communications suck can be found in a survey conducted back in 2013, which examined 30 consecutive issues of the Wine Spectator magazine between 2010 and 2012 - that's seven to five years ago! - and looked at 872 separate ad placements. If you pay attention to wine advertising, you might guess that most looked the same. In this case, there were 86% with an image of a bottle and 66% talked about some sort of geographical component. 

The ads fail to promote any kind of emotionally-relevant information to the reader

Open any well-known wine magazine today and the ad images aren't that different. Looking at today's images through an ex-advertising executive's eyes, they're not only boring, they also fail to stand out with whatever messages they might have. The readers' eyes have not only got used to seeing the same kind of images over and over again, but the ads also fail to promote any kind of emotionally-relevant information to the reader.

How can anyone remember any of these ads when none of them are memorable?

According to a report, Procter & Gamble Validates Emotional Marketing, from 2015, advertising with emotional content is on average nine times as effective at driving sales than non-emotional advertising.

It's not just about the product

But, in 2017, the wine industry continues to focus on placing the product on the frontline. Why do we think that putting pictures of bottles that all look the same except for the labels – and those usually suck, too – is an effective form of advertising? Why don't we make the consumer the hero of our brand story? When an ad manages to evoke any sort of emotion, or relatedness, then that ad automatically has higher chances of becoming memorable. Consequently, the brand name will most probably be remembered. Instead, in our industry, we love to make our bottles the heroes, the champions, the gods and goddesses of our communications.

The way many major regional wine organisations are dumping money into ad campaigns that are truly questionable makes me wonder how any communications executive or director would allow these campaigns to go live. I won't name names, but millions of Euros and Dollars are being spent on ad campaigns that do not call for action, that do not evoke any emotion and, most of all, are not memorable. They also totally lack any consumer insight or fail to translate the insight into creative work.

Why should a consumer care about your region, based on an ad that doesn't talk to him or her as a person? There are too many examples out there and I am yet to read about unbiased real positive results (not self-serving reports).

We need to ask 'why'?

We are pushed to rely on data, on Big Data, and look at numbers that represent correlations between them. In these fast-moving times, though, we forget to look at what Big Data can't explain: The 'why' of the consumer. We know the who, what, when, where, and how of the consumer's habits and behaviours, but we're not digging three layers under for the why.

Numbers can't convey feelings or emotions, and a sense of nostalgia or pride, for example, can't be measured through digital action. We need to make sure we connect with our consumer through their emotion, not only through their digital behaviour. As Martin Lindstrom, the author of Small Data, would say, rituals and community are very important for our sector's consumer.

I can't remember seeing many memorable ads that go in either of these directions.

Too obsessed with education

Then, there is the wine sector's obsession with education. 'How to be a wine expert – tips from XYZ' is a title I see everywhere. I get it, education's important and I believe in the power of education. I also believe it's gone a bit too far. This angle has created the notion that to be able to even say 'wine', one needs to be knowledgeable about wine; that if you don't know enough about wine, you're not good enough for the trade, and not good enough as a simple consumer.

This sort of communication has resulted in making wine appear exclusive, while our alcoholic beverage competitors are mainly inclusive and approachable in their communications. How are we, as industry, communicating with the new wine drinking generation? Here is a perfect example: 

Why not focus a bit more on creating experiences?

Instead of focusing so much on education, why not focus a bit more on creating experiences? Consumers don't pay for the wines they are tasting, but for a great story they will be able to tell their friends. That story has to make them look good and cool in the eyes of others. At that point, you and your brand become a memorable experience in the consumer's mind, and they will spread your story. And, guess what: They would not only be spreading the word about your brand, they will be recommending it and, in that process, they've also learned somethng new about wine.

Promotions – don't get me started

Wine communication sucks its worst when the message is all about price promotions. At a session I hosted at the International Wine Clubs Association's Workshop last year, I asked the audience to use their phones to check their own websites. All of them had promotions flashing on their home page. As US author and entrepreneur Seth Godin says: "In a competitive market, the quest for the bottom leads to brutality. The brutality of harming your suppliers, the brutality of compromising your morals and your mission. Someone else is always willing to go a penny lower than you are and, to compete, your choices get ever more limited."

And then, we complain about not making enough money in this industry!

Can you answer these questions?

Wine communication sucks when it is making consumers think about prices, discounts, payments, and about how they need to be experts to enjoy wine. Communications will probably be okay when they're consumer-obsessed, and that means having the answers to the following questions:

  • How are you making your brand memorable to your consumer?
  • What problem are you solving for them?
  • What is your consumer's 'why'?
  • Are you asking enough questions – digging three layers under?
  • Who is the hero in your communication?
  • Have you written a proper and effective creative brief?

Your wine communications will definitely not suck if you can move people emotionally. As brain and neurology expert, Jill Bolte Taylor, says: "Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think."

This article has been reproduced from its original appearance on The Buyer's website.

Reka Haros is global marketing communications director at closure producers and distributors Vinventions. She is also a managing partner at Sfriso Winery in Italy. Follow Reka on Twitter.

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