Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dare to be great situation

My all time favorite movie, "Say Anything" is full of inspiring, and hilarious moments, perhaps none more inspiring than the following:

Mike: I don't know you very well, you know, but I wanted to ask you - how'd you get Diane Court to go out with you?
Lloyd Dobler: I called her up.
Mike: But how come it worked? I mean, like, what are you?
Lloyd Dobler: I'm Lloyd Dobler.
Mike: This is great. This gives me hope. Thanks.

When I worked for a small distributor, I heard this sort of line from many of my small competitors. Being small, and boutique doesn't mean you don't deserve to play with the big boys. Sometimes a little unbridled enthusiasm and not knowing what you're not supposed to be able to do goes a long way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The lie in your sample bag

Wine samples are one of the best ways to demonstrate the character of a wine. As a rep, we take a bag full of different wines to show our customers. It is assumed that every day, we will bring a fresh set of samples, and the wines will show very much as they would if you opened it and drank the entire bottle in one or 2 evenings. In many cases, in an effort to save money, either from the distributor, or the sales rep (preserving their sample budget), the rep takes wines out a second day. This is one of the absolute worst things a rep can do.

Day 2 wine samples are very different than day 2 wine on your counter. Every time you open the bottle, pour a splash, you are decanting the wine. With that fresh oxygen in your bottle, you now take that wine, shove it in a bag, swing it for a walk to the car, stick it in the trunk, and then speed off to the next account. Silently, in your trunk, the wine is continuing to react to the new oxygen and agitation. A half dozen accounts later, and you have effectively aged this wine the same as spending 3 days of being open on your counter. Take that same wine out day 2, you are a) not really going to sell anything based on the tasting profile b) showing a wine that isn't acting like itself, doing a HUGE disservice to the brand and the people that made that wine. Many accounts won't really comment about a wine on the second day because they may not know how the wine is supposed to taste, they will just be underwhelmed and pass on the wine and the brand.

There are of course some exceptions. You can't kill Amarone or Ripassa. Many high alcohol, high acid wines do well on day 2. Warm weather wine that doesn't see much oak does ok, and the best for day 2 is without a doubt, great Mosel Riesling (ironic since it is such a delicate and seemingly sensitive wine). This is a limited list, and most aren't really optimal on day 2 (except Mosel Riesling).

If you have concerns about stretching samples, pull 2 bottles or squeeze in more appointments. You can always contact the supplier and ask for a free sample bottle, they will always prefer to pay for a bottle vs you showing a bad day 2 version of their wine. At the end of the day, it's a judgement call, and it's your judgement call.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The whole megillah

Steve Jobs is evil. Steve Jobs is brilliant. Steve Jobs is megalomaniac. Sick of hearing about Steve Jobs? Me too. However, he is the shining example of "user experience" for consumer products. Apples feel and act differently. The sounds they make, the package they come in, the store you walk into, the support you receive. He has defined exactly what your experience will be in regards to his sacred fruit, and for that, he is a genius. We need to approach wine in the exact. same. way.

There is a disconnect between what's in the bottle, what's on the bottle,and how we get the bottle into your hand. Using Apple as a guide, we should be rethinking how we deliver that user experience. A more distilled approach may be that we need to give affirmation of the correct purchase.

Since a bottle of wine is a decidedly smaller investment than a computer (usually), and more acutely judged, the experience needs to strike hard and fast. Every tiny decision that goes into the ultimate purchase and consumption can shape the experience of that wine.

Bad name? Difficult to pronounce? That wine will need to overcome these obstacles not only to find itself a home, but to get a repeat buyer. Wines you can't pronounce or remember will give you less bragging ability. Don't think this is important? Any day now I'm expecting Apple owners to start going door to door with cheap short sleeve dress shirts asking if I've heard the good word. Part of consumer satisfaction is the ability of the owner of the product to revel in the brilliance of their selection. Bad names make this difficult. Why do names like Jordan and Silver Oak resonate?

Fit and Finish is thrown around when describing Apple as well. This translates exactly to the bottle appearance. Not just the label, but the details, foil, closure, size and shape of the bottle, color of the glass, these all speak to emotional satisfaction just like brushed nickel and soft white light does. We've all beaten the topic of labels to death, but I will say this without hyperbole- The most important single decision you can make, marketing-wise is the label, and winery owners' hubris derails this faster than anything.

The way the wine is sold has an impact. Communicating an interesting story all the way down the supply chain can have a huge impact. The end consumer being able to tell the story of a winery is absolutely irreplaceable. This is part of that invaluable emotional connection.

The wine needs to fulfill all of the promises made. Promises as to what's in the bottle are made at every micro-decision deep within the brain. The package, the story, the name. they are all part of that expectation. This is not as simple as a checklist, but rather an emotional and mental bridge connecting all of the extraneous factors and the way the wine tastes.

When all is said and done, and true satisfaction is met, the consumer will want to affirm their decision by repeating as much about their experience as possible. This is evangelizing. See Guy Kawasaki for more about evangelizing a product. And this, this enthusiasm, this consumer selling for you, this proselytizing , this is what Apple does. If they just built great computers or OS, they'd be Linux, but because they control the User Experience they are Apple.