Thursday, September 18, 2008

And the beat goes on

It has been an embarrassingly long break between posts recently for someone who helped to organise a Bloggers' Conference, but that's the price you pay for getting involved in so many exciting projects.

In fact there are so many, I'm finding it hard to focus on all the opportunities out there, so let me give you a little run down of what is afoot:

1. Tonight (18 September, 2008 for future reference) is the 3rd edition of Twitter Taste Live, the coordinated tasting of wines by wine lovers across the world. Unfortunately this month is a little less coordinated due to the sad reality that we do not all have access to the same wines as everyone else. Tonight the event celebrates the wines of Michel-Schlumberger that are unfortunately rarely exported, so those of us not in the US will merely be peeking in the window of tonight's event ...

2. Which brings me to the next project which is to create a version of this event more suited to the UK and European audience, possibly involving starting earlier and maybe even different wines. I am in talks with some very exciting potential partners, so sign up to the event site and keep an eye on this site

3. Another good reason for the delay in posting is that I'm working on the transfer (at last) of this blog to a new platform. This will inevitably mean headaches for me, broken links for you, and tumbling technorati ratings, but I hope to keep these all to a minimum with help from my friends' blog marketing expertise. However, the result will be a more exciting blog with the flexibility to put in place even more features. Did I mention you need to keep an eye on this blog?

4. I'm off to spend a few weeks in Rioja for vintage, and hope to have LOTS of information on the vintage there, and ideas from the people I meet. This time you can keep an eye on this blog AND my Rioja specific blog (sadly neglected of late too)

5. Later in the year I will be helping to run a series of wine tasting events ... with a social media twist. I have made some very interesting new friends in the last few months that have opened up my eyes to quite how many exciting things are happening online in London and around the UK (check out Qype, Unchained Guide, TrustedPlaces and more) - and things we can probably take around the world too, so my head is buzzing with ideas. Erm, ... check this blog!

6. Some older friends of mine (sorry guys, I mean I've know you longer) have just launched an exciting new site called The Wine Gang. I want to give it a proper review and share my thoughts on it, ... you know what's coming next, so I'll not bother saying it again.

I could go on, but I've probably lost you by now anyway as you know you'll just be coming back again soon anyway.

Exciting, and busy times.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Beer Conversation

I hope you will indulge me and allow me to change the regular subject away from wine for a short while.

The subject today is beer. To be specific, it is Stella Artois and their marketing and PR activities. THIS is what I was inspired by!

I did not set out to think about beer marketing, but I had been trying to get along to a regular London Bloggers get-together for many months and I had failed 7 times already (that's almost a year of events) so I made a special effort for the summer party.

To help celebrate the event, Stella Artois made the brave, and far-sighted in my opinion, decision to sponsor the event. Not only did they pay for drinks, but they also offered a quite unique prize - a trip for up to 6 bloggers in their Star Over London airship (or zeppelin) as seen above. Each of these seats cost up to £360, so it was no small prize!

Stella Artois managed to tie in this prize to their sponsorship of "Love Your Local", a campaign they are supporting to highlight pubs that are at the heart of their community. To win the bloggers' prize we had to describe what we liked about our favourite local. I happen to have a great local pub (The Honor Oak), so it was no effort to write about them - and it so happens that I won one of the prizes.

[You can see my pictures here]

I also discovered that, as well as their long-standing and well regarded television commercials, they have a new interactive site with a game and other goodies (not sure about the game - it looks wonderful, but is it a game or a movie?) that includes a great collection and presentation of their adverts (I think these are the cinema-length versions).

It is a sign of a good campaign that you can conduct several different activities but still manage to tie them together, keeping the brand profile high.

Stella Artois emerges as a well recognised brand that cleverly manages to sell itself as a "premium" brand whilst still managing to compete on the mass market in pubs and supermarkets (i.e. it still discounts!). As far as wine is concerned, only champagne has managed to achieve this.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a similar branding concept in the wine business?

There are many reasons you won't see a wine brand pay to brand a zeppelin or shoot some of the most beautiful cinematic ads, chief of which is that none can afford it, but the impressive link up between the promotions, and the single-minded (although no longer "Reassuringly Expensive") and cleverly humorous presentation is something that would be wonderful to see.

[I ought to point out that Stella Artois is not immune from criticism either, with regard to its branding, but I don't think it negates the point that wine brands who want to succeed, as well as surviving for somewhere between 82 and 642 years, can learn from this sort of consistent branding]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lots of Wine Conversation at the EWBC

There is a LOT I need to think about, do and write about following the success of the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) this weekend - so much so that I have neglected to put up a post on this blog since my return, which rather misses the point!

So, what does the EWBC mean for The Wine Conversation? Here are some very early thoughts:
  • The wine conversation needs to be less insular. We talk about wines we know and have access to, but there is so much more to learn and experience. We need to find ways to broaden our horizons, and listening to wine lovers from other countries is a great place to start
  • Wine bloggers are as diverse as wine drinkers. Very few of us are doing the same as one another (wineries, marketing, tastings and more), which gives great scope for sharing ideas for conversations and exploring our different takes on them. We should find out what readers want to know more about and explore it together and maybe get debates going
  • Let's stop being too introspective (says a great offender) and be more innovative, particularly with media. Enjoying wine is NOT all about tasting notes and points systems. We need more video, audio, imagery and other creative content
  • Honesty is not just the best policy, but essential to the trust bloggers need to build credibility. This doesn't come from Codes of Conduct or Terms & Conditions, but from action. Let's get on with doing the kinds of things that will really surprise and delight readers (like winery bloggers sharing details of the harvest and even tasting each others wines - coming soon!)
  • Wine brings people together. Naturally. We must continue to get across that drinking and enjoying wine is more than getting drunk and avoid playing into the hands of those who would kill off the wine culture
All of these topics are ripe for their separate discussions and I already have ideas of new friends to contact to explore them further.

There will be some concrete actions coming out of the conference, including some further gatherings (maybe one in the UK for bloggers & our readers over here?), but these will have to wait for another day. In the interim, check out the videos of the conference on VinusTV or on the EWBC site, and follow some of the resulting discussions on - the site for sharing tips and thoughts on wine blogging.

Finally, let me say that the conference was hard work - getting it organised and running it took a great deal of effort. I want to thank all those who took part for the fun weekend, but I particularly want to thank 2 groups of people:

First, my friends at Dinastia Vivanco (my major client) who not only encouraged my obsession with this topic, but also agreed to sponsor the event. I'm forever indebted to you - thank you Santiago and Rafael Vivanco!

And last, but not least, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz at for being such great people, committed bloggers and wonderful, wonderful friends.
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