Monday, July 21, 2008

Interactive Wine Sites

Over the next few days, thanks to their well established brand and their PR muscle, you'll probably see several headlines like this one:

Roederer champagne launches new interactive website

I don't know about you, but the interaction I want with my wine involves drinking it!

I don't understand these Flash-based websites (you might want to go off and start the page loading, then return to read the article while you wait - but remember to turn the sound off).

The vast majority of people browsing the internet for wine are looking for:
  1. background details
  2. stockist information
  3. a 'deal'
  4. fun
(check out Able Grape's take on this too)

Using Flash to promote your wine brand is like hiring a stand-up comedian with ADHD to be your spokesperson - however amusing he may be, he is getting in the way of the message.

Sure, with Flash you get bells and whistles. In fact, the Louis Roederer site is like a unicycling bear that is playing La Marseillaise on his bells and whistles, but what are they doing to address the needs of the customers? What is the goal of the 'interactivity' on this site?

(oh, and by the way, that unicycling bear keeps falling off and his bells are out of tune - the sound on the site is awful and I keep getting stuck, unable to go back)

Joel Vincent made an interesting observation on a recent post on his blog Wine Life Today:
My bottom line points are simple. I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer. The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it. So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Flash CAN be a great tool to aid this relationship, but all too often it seems to be used to create a barrier between the people behind a wine and its consumers - something akin to a prestidigitator's distraction technique.

One might argue that this is exactly how Champagne has managed to create a strong stylish brand, separating itself from its plain and homely still wine cousins - we're missing that 'magic' ingredient. Maybe that is why it was used and I'm the one who is missing the point.

In any case, my preference is for sites that engage me in a meaningful relationship, that have answers to my questions and encourage me to commit myself in some way to the brand in the way they are doing with me.

The interactivity I seek is knowing that the winery, or winemaker, cares what I think, and helps me to both taste and understand their wines. Here are a couple I have come across recently that make me feel this way.
Neither of these sites has spent anything like the amount of money Louis Roederer must have done, but I get so much more out of them because I feel I know the wine, the people and the reasons for their existence so much better and on a more personal level.

And talking of interactivity, I'd love to hear your comments on these sites as well. Have I missed the point on the Champagne site, or am I too committed to blogs? Let me know.

(Photo Let it Float, courtesy of hashmil)


Alex said...

So often flash is just to look pretty and (as far as I can see) wind up 50% of a site's readers! It's so overused and do any of us ever actually watch a full introduction or do we all just hit skip?!

What I want from a wine producer's site is some information about history, location (some good pictures!), our vineyards, our winemakers, and then details about the wines, where I can buy them and finally, technical information about the wines (preferably that I'm not forced to download a pdf).

Oh, and I also like the opportunity to join a mailing list!

Moon on a stick?!

Alastair said...

I never knowingly let an opportunity pass to obscure a good message with pithy and flashy presentation.
In my PowerPoint driven world they call it slide candy...

Andrew said...

I am blessed with quite a fast internet connection so this specific site loads fast. It offers me nothing however - why would I be interested in an exhibition that ended a month ago? More importantly where are the details of the wines - the composition, the posh food to accompany etc?

Flash intros I skip (they are but barriers to the content) but that doesn't mean I dislike flash. I love the animations, the little buttons that do stuff but unless it leads to the info I am looking for it is pointless just like this site!

Robert McIntosh said...

I love useful stuff too - but as I say, too often those who choose flash do so for the wrong reasons - after all, funky navigation does not really require flash.

Flash can make a useful tool for fun parts of a site, but these parts are more like watching a film. You see them once, like or dislike, and never visit again. Surely a site for a brand can do better than that?

Anonymous said...

Amen! well said.

Philip James said...

Good post - it got me to go read the links to ablegrape as well as joel site.

I do defend a careful use of flash though. Snooth, Yelp and many other sites use such a tiny bit of flash that the average user doesnt notice it.

Clearly no one wants a minute long intro with music though.

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Philip - as I do say, I am not against flash in, and of, itself. If it is well used, it could add value (and I'm sure yours does) but those who use it almost always use it for the wrong reasons