Gewurztraminer and Discomforting Sounds
Sometime in the 1970s, people changed from ordering "white wine" to ordering "Chardonnay. Between 1990 and 2007, shipments of California Chardonnay rose from 9 million to 50 million cases. Today, Chardonnay production and consumption is far and away greater than the total production of all other white wine in California.
So, what I'm wondering is this: What would have happened between the 1970s and today if Gewurztraminer was instead named "Gerdonnay" (pronounced with a soft "G"—it sounds nicer)
If this were the case, I'm convinced that the biggest selling white wine in America today would in fact be "Gerdonnay".
It's not the name itself that would have done the trick, but rather a combination of an easy to pronounce name and the Gewurztraminer grape's much more expressive and attractive (to Americans) flavor profile. And of course, there's that matter of Gewurztraminer's tendency to carry residual sugar in a much more balanced way than chardonnay does.
Some wine just seems to be held back by its name. And let's face it, "Gewurztraminer" isn't exactly the most easy to pronounce name in the world and, I think, the primary reason that the wine made from this grape isn't far more popular to Americans who tend to shy away from things sounding foreign.
Of course, the point is that where marketing (as well as nearly everything else from professional to personal issues) is concerned, language is important.
I"m struck by the effect language, words, inflection and the way we wield these tools in our business and everyday life can have a profound effect on our livelihoods and our lives.
The relative insignificance of Gewurztraminer is only one example, but a powerful one. Sales of the wine suffer because of the American indifference to and discomfort with the sound of the German language. This indifference and discomfort persuades them to move on to something similar, but different: Chardonnay, for example.
The lesson for marketers is easy enough. Be careful what you name it and be careful of the words and phrases you use to describe and sell it. For the individual, for me, for others, the lesson should also be simple enough to understand: Be careful what you say, how you say it, where you say it and when you say it because said in a manner not quite right or at the wrong moment or in a way that is indifferent or uncomfortable for some and you may find yourself marginalized.