WineDirect Admin
March 24, 2009 | Wine Industry Trends | WineDirect Admin

Trade Marketing: The Message about The Message

If you’ve not done so already, you need to watch Tina Caputo’s brilliant “Robert Parker’s Bitch”. Setting aside the controversy, one of the many great points of the documentary is that wineries should not let voices other than their own dominate the message about their wines and brand.

At about minute 8:40, Paul Wagner, one of the many very smart people interviewed in this documentary, says: “We have a distribution system in this country that puts the winery at one end; and any message, any marketing materials that that winery creates needs to work their way through a distributor, a distributor sales person, a retailer, a retail sales person and eventually get to the consumer (…) the wineries don’t have the leverage to communicate directly through the consumer.” - Now that really struck me.

So much of my day is spent thinking about more efficient ways for wineries to directly reach demand and control their sales. Our creed at Inertia has long been to help wineries sell more and better by enabling their online direct-to-consumer channel. But no matter how great your wines are, you better make sure to write some relevant things about your wine and let the words and facts read like the voice of your best salesperson (particularly if that’s your winemaker). So to Paul Wagner’s point, the first conclusion I hear is ‘have something good to communicate’. The second conclusion is ‘think about how to get the message out; don’t rely on others to do it’.

If the message is to say your wine should be successfully summarized to a pseudo-scientific 100-point scale so as to reflect the personal tastes and palate of a minority (hum…) - then maybe you don’t care so much about doing the talking…
Now, if you don’t want to be “Parker’s bitch”, find ways to spread YOUR story. To follow Wagner’s message about the message - getting from the winery, through 3-tier, and to the consumer - you need marketing materials (I mean this as a concept, not just as paper tasting sheet or a press book).

Paul Wagner is a successful PR man (owner and president of Balzac Communications), so he knows about marketing materials. Thanks to some great technology wineries are now able to reach consumers outside the tasting room, through their website and the cool platform powering it, and syndication of their content to marketing agents.

The reality is that some 90% of all the wine sold in the US is not sold directly to consumers. It must first be sold to those (wholesalers) who can legally sell your wine to those (retailers) who will sell your wine to the end consumer. Wineries need to get in/through the 3-tier system. Then they need to get their marketing materials through that 3-tier system to adorn the shelves of fine retailers and help sommeliers support their wine lists.

The message about the message struck me because I live and breathe is Direct-To-Trade. I’m quite obsessive about transferring the lessons of direct-to-consumer sales to the byzantine halls of the 3-tier system. Inertia’s DTT technology now gives wineries direct access to the trade, bypassing or supplementing the “find a wholesaler” hurdle. There is exciting technology in Inertia’s pipeline that will also give wineries, and importers, a very efficient way to get their unadulterated message to the trade in order to sell to a wider audience of industry buyers.

So the best way to control what is said about your wine, or to better influence wine buyers, is to take control of your content first. And when it comes to online trade marketing, you need “clean” wine data, because downloading tasting sheets just doesn’t quite cut it. After all, you would not expect Wine.com to try to sell wine online by sharing .pdf files, right?.. A brave new world of online winery trade marketing awaits…


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