Thursday, December 14, 2006

Artisan Wines

Just a quick post on a more positive topic.

Although I will not be posting tasting notes here I thought I would congratulate Artisan Wines for a small selection I bought from them recently.

Although they seem to be a small operation they have done everything right to get me to join their list and buy interesting wines from them.

As well as offering some mixed cases so I can get to know their wines, they were well packaged, they kept me informed of how my order was progressing, and when they arrived they came with notes on the wines and the producers. Everything I need to get to know about my wines.

It is also everything I need to talk to others about the wines!

All that is missing now is an opportunity to build a conversation with them and others who have bought, and enjoyed, these wines. Very Web 2.0 of me, I know.

More people and wines like this please!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Great Christmas Giveaway

I may be naive, but I think i still remember when "Sales" in shops really were a way of moving old stock lines to make way for the new ones, and before they were just another means of driving footfall and pushing volume.
Wine on the sofa
Sales have now become so common, for everything including wine, that we have become sale junkies. There is never a need to buy something at full price because if you hold off a short while it will almost certainly be on sale. In fact, consumers must feel cheated if they buy it a the normal price, then see it on sale the next week.

Can this continue?

Look at the DFS model. They seem to have a permanent "sale" at 50% off. They obviously rotate the models on offer so as to have them at the full price for the required period of time, but you'd be pretty daft to actually buy one at full price.

This goes for kitchens too. And clothes. And electronics. ...

So we are always seeking a bargain, that's fair. However, we used to have to seek one out and the reward/effort ratio was such that many people would not bother and would therefore buy products at their 'real' price. Now the effort is minimal (in fact try avoiding a sale!) and the rewards are massive (Buy One Get One Free, etc.).

You would have thought, therefore, that time critical events such as Christmas would be an opportunity for retailers to avoid sales as consumers cannot just wait and buy cheaper alternatives in the sales. Instead we have the great Christmas Giveaway, where even the products we must have and are prepared to buy in volume, are discounted.

As a consumer I can see how this is benefitting me, but it feeds the habit and I wonder how we can break the cycle? Do we even want to?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cultural Bonus

I hate it when that happens.

I pretty sure it must have been when I was following a link of another blog, and I came across a short article about the benefits of having a stronger culture of wine. Then I lost it! Who wrote it and where can it be found???

The writer was suggesting that alcohol abuse was more likely when the history and culture of wine is divorced from the product. If you know something about where wine (or alcohol) comes from and how it has evolved, you are more likely to treat it with respect. Of course it was much more eloquent than that, but this was the overall point I got from it. And I agree.

What is wine, or beer, or any spirit for that matter, to an 18 year-old? In most cases, something they have only very recently started to discover, and have no context for. If they did experiment with alcohol it was probably in secret and as a way to get drunk for fun. If they had been able to experiment openly, or had been able to join in conversations about it, that bottle in Mum & Dad's sideboard might seem less mysteriously alluring.

I applaud the sentiment of the French governing party discussions about teaching school kids to appreciate wine, but I don't think that schools are the right places to do this. These are things that should be learned at home, with family and friends. This is not always easy, I realise, but replacing it with school lectures is not the answer. Seems to me that would be the fastest way to turn them away from it completely. This is one place where the media can play a positive role, and I am not talking about propaganda, just fun and informative content.

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that does need to be taken into account. A drunk fellow passenger on the last train home the other night, throwing up in the carriage at my feet was a stark reminder of this. However, demonising alcohol does not work, so why don't we try being more relaxed about it, allowing both kids and adults to see the positive as well as the negative aspects of alcohol is surely much better?

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Four P's

Product, Place, Price, Promotion

They hammer that one home in Marketing 101. To market effectively you must manage all four (plus a few others they added later on) and create the right combination to match your customers' needs.

So why is wine SO stuck on Price alone?

I know, I know. Many will say that it is all about the product, but in fact the real message about product is so often lost before it gets to the consumer, that it is ineffective. Those in the wine business will tell you stories about the apparently confident consumer asking for Red Chardonnay or what country your Rioja comes from, etc. To those with knowledge, these seems ridiculous. In practice they are often the real example of the level of Product knowledge.

So what about Place (the distribution channel). Well, 80% or so of wine is bought in supermarkets, just like all other products, and this is only going up. There are no strong competitive channels at this point. Independent merchants and online retailers are there, and getting better, but where is the concerted campaign to get consumers to switch?

Finally Promotion. "If only we had [product x]'s budget" is the usual refrain, and I have used it regularly myself. But in truth we lack ideas for this rather than the money.

Look at Magners. They are probably London's biggest marketers for ice. Cider didn't sell, so they switched their four P's around, rethought their product, invested heavily (and I mean heavily) in distribution (place) and promotion. Did anyone ask the price? I doubt it. It took guts, but it paid off.

So when Threshers (40% off), Sainsburys (25% off) and Tesco (a belated match of the 25% off deal), et al start talking about discounts AGAIN, I find it somewhat depressing. It only feeds the obsession and depletes whatever coffers there might have existed with producers, agencies and retailers for investing in talking about anything else.