Wine is a business where first impressions, quality and packaging mean everything. I recently found myself asking how can wine be marketed in a way which not only promotes the internal creativity of the product, but also looks for an innovative approach to marketing the product. Members of the millennial generation are increasingly becoming prominent consumers, drinkers and purchasers of wine. My research led me to consider the emerging importance of social platforms as a factor in developing the marketing strategies of wine and whether social media techniques are being used to engage with wine drinkers and successfully promote brands within the industry.
The wine-drinking demographic is changing rapidly with the inception of Generation Y or The Millennials; the young, cool, trendsetters with disposable incomes.
The US Wine Market Council sees this generation as encompassing 21-36 year olds, however they feel this generation is so important that it has split it into two groups: Younger (21-28) and Older (28-36). The research suggests that the older half of the group tend to drink wine several times a week at least, if not every day. Although Baby Boomers make up a larger percentage of wine drinkers, the Millennials collectively consume more than any other group with 38%. In the near future, we can also assume that the Millennial group will not only expand due to more people turning 21 but also that the Baby Boomer generation will shrink as they grow older and move into the 67+ group. If we consider the use of social media in this sector, the Millennials are a generation who have grown up with the internet, and more recently have been active participants in the emerging growth of social media. Therefore it is a fair assumption that social media marketing techniques would be a relevant and effective way of marketing wine to the largest demographic in a way that will directly engage and interest them.
Incorporating digital marketing and social media techniques into wine marketing strategy
If we take a look at the data above, in particular Total Engagement, we can see that the alcohol industry as a whole has generally seen huge developments in its engagement with consumers over Facebook in a very short period of time. Consumers are engaging on their terms, although brand posts dropped by around 50% between January and July, total engagement with the posts didn’t fall by anywhere near that amount and in fact some of the total engagement figures saw a rise. This demonstrates that customers are increasing their interaction with branded Facebook pages and in turn their engagement with the brand. It is interesting to note that there is only one wine producer within the top 15 alcohol brands ranked for Facebook engagement. The reasoning behind this is the majority of beer and spirit producers are owned by large conglomerates like Diageo who have larger pooled marketing budgets and brand profits year on year.
This led me to question why Yellow Tail has so successfully utilised social media marketing techniques compared to its competitors. For example, if we look at Jacob’s Creek, it has around 375,000 followers on Facebook, but this is dwarfed by the 1 million+ followers of Yellow Tail. The key to Yellow Tail’s success is its focus on cross-platform marketing so it has simply incorporated social media into a defined cross-media strategy. Essentially it doesn’t see social media as a quick-fix option but more of a marketing tool which can assist in its global marketing efforts.
The two quotes above are taken from a Yellow Tail marketing review and outline several reasons for Yellow Tail’s social success over other wineries. Firstly, reducing its brand pages to one overarching global page has allowed it to promote to its consumers swiftly and concisely while optimising levels of engagement and outreach. In contrast to this, it operates several Twitter handles allowing it to organise how it engages with users and at what time. It also works with AnalogFolk to ensure that there is always someone to respond to consumers’ needs and desires 24/7 which is great for an international brand dealing with timezone constraints. This leaves the consumer feeling like they are constantly engaged with the brand and promotes further brand loyalty.
If we look above we can see an example of the aesthetics of one of Yellow Tail’s social campaigns. The iconography suggests the campaign is aimed at the millenials with lots of bright colours and relaxed wording. The campaign also relies on the use of social media and mobile to enter again suggesting the desired demographic is the tech-savvy millenials. It is useful to note it also ties in with the colours used in the Yellow Tail labels thereby strengthening the brand recognition.
Consumers are now defining how digital media can work with the wine industry according to Vin Tank, a digital company focused on developing marketing solutions for the wine industry. More than 14 million consumers have mentioned wine online; this figure continues to grow with approximately 450,000 users creating new mentions every month. Additionally, 1.5 million people are having online conversations about wine daily. The majority of this content is posted to social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but can also be attributed to other sources such as wine blogs and digital apps.
Now that we’ve established that consumers are using social platforms to talk about and engage with alcohol brands and wine as a whole, let’s take a look at what producers and those that market the product are doing to develop their social presence. I have used data from ABLE, which has been surveying American and French wineries over the past three years on their use of social media as a marketing tool.
The above data clearly demonstrates to us that US wineries are utilising social media as a marketing tool much more. Unsuprisingly the social platforms that are being used the most by both nations are Facebook and Twitter. If we consider the US aka the New World’s willingness to adopt advances in technology in production of wine then we can see this willingness matched by marketing techniques.
Benefits of social media
The above graph depicts the main outcomes wineries see from utilising Facebook (and social platforms in general) as a marketing tool. It is interesting to see that around a third of all wineries found social media played a positive part in their business activities. Some of the key benefits they found were creating awareness, promotion of events and generating engagement with customers. In terms of ROI, 57% said engagement on Facebook drove customers to their wineries and just under half of the wineries said their interaction with Facebook generated sales.
The type of content being produced on all social platforms by wineries and marketers is fairly generic, tending to feature an image of a bottle with a promotional link to the product – fairly unimaginative indeed. Both the US and French wineries are utilising all forms of content, with text and photos being slight leaders. It’s interesting to note that videos still hold a relatively small share of content type. As the sector is generally considered to be fairly creative it would be fair to assume that producers and marketers would capatalise on this ethos and focus on developing more interactive ways to market wine such as videos. I predict that in the near future, the producers and marketers of wine will begin to include more innovative, creative content that is focused on engaging users further than the typical PR text content.
Case study – Tesco Wine: “The Social Wine” Project
An example of the wine industry utilising the power of social media was seen in 2013 when Tesco created the initiative “The Social Wine”. The concept is simple: Enotria’s marketing manager Harry Fawkes came up with the idea several years ago to develop a wine with the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), an initiative which returns profits to local African communities, which utilised social media to create the first ‘crowd-sourced’ wine. The idea was pitched to Tesco, which turned the idea into reality.
The desired outcome was to connect ordinary customers with wine, breaking down the high social barriers often associated with the wine industry. The wine was chosen from a blind tasting by Tesco officials; Tesco’s social media fans were then asked to submit ideas for a name as well as a design for the label. From there, Tesco created a shortlist of entries and the final winner was chosen through Tesco’s social media platforms. The winner, Rebecca Boamah, won a trip to the vineyard in Stellenbosch.
As we can see above, around 70% of wineries wished to increase their Facebook activity in 2012, highlighting the importance of encompassing digital media into marketing strategies. This demonstrates to us the importance wine producers see in digital marketing and its importance in the near future.
As the wine drinking and purchasing demographic changes, so does the marketing strategy for the product. Social media isn’t the answer to instant digital marketing success, but definitely a great tool that will assist in the move from traditional marketing techniques to global digital strategies that will improve a brand’s overall social outreach, brand awareness and consumer engagement. Alan Krompf of Mutineer Magazine summarised this concept perfectly: “Digital media has not only influenced the way Millennials receive information, it has revolutionized the way the wine industry communicates in general. Millennials are a revolutionary demographic for wine, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.”