Humiliation Marketing

I've written a lot of press releases in my day, but I don't think I've ever penned one that relies on "Humiliation Marketing" tactics.

Maybe I'm behind the times. Maybe I'm just not that creative. Maybe I have a conscience. But it's doubtful I'd ever advise issuing this type of release for a client:

"Beware the Holiday Party Faux Pas: Wine Topped With Artificial Stoppers"

The release, which links to a semi-comical video produced and is issued by by the Portuguese Cork Association and the Cork Quality Council, leads off with this:

"Her career looked so promising until she committed the ultimate yuletide faux pas: showing up at the annual company holiday party with a bottle of wine – dare we say it?! — sealed with an artificial stopper.

Such is the sobering message from a video released recently at Party Faux Pas that depicts the sad tale of an office worker who fails to realize that artificial wine closures can undermine the environment.  Not to mention the fact that metal and plastic wine closures are about as festive as moldy mistletoe."

Twice I've been approached by various folks to engage in the battle between cork producers and arificial closure producers. Twice I've passed. The primary reason I've passed is because I'm not a big fan of Degredation Public Relations, the act of promoting your product by denigrating a competitor. And that's exactly what the cork producers and the artificial stopper producers have, in part, relied upon since the battle over the top of the bottle began a couple decades ago.

But now it seems the effort has descended into Humiliation Marketing whereby the cork producers are attempting, again in a semi-comical fashion, to heap humiliation on those that might choose to kill all life on the planet by purchasing a wine that is not closed with cork.

Very bad form.


14 Responses

  1. Marcia - December 15, 2010

    It’s a sure red flag when a client expresses a request to put down the competition. As a marketing consultant the hairs on the back of my neck spring up when I hear any request to compare a client’s product – and how much better it is than the other guy’s – to their competition. And it goes beyond Humiliation Marketing.
    First, it says more about the client than the competition – and all in the negative. (It’s the classic, ‘If you haven’t got something nice to say about —, don’t say anything at all.’) And yet they want to bash their competitor. Thus, letting the buying know the other guy exists as an option (and maybe they didn’t know that before!)
    Second, what it says to everyone is that the client is desperate. They’re entirely focused on what the other guy has (or not) instead of focused on what they’re bringing to the marketplace with their own product.
    Lastly, it’s basically a ‘we’re throwin’ up our knickers’ move because the focus is shifted to the competition instead of your own great product. You’ve basically said we’re not good enough w/o beating up the other guy. Bully tactics. So it ends up showing more of what the client lacks than what they bring to the table.
    And internally, it demonstrates they’ve taken their eye off the ball. They’re running scared ‘cuz the other guy has better market-share (as they perceive it).
    As to artificial vs. real McCoy corks… Well, there’s about a zillion different post-bottle closure uses I can think of for both types that don’t include landfill. It’s a big conversation that doesn’t have to include what’s wrong with the other guy’s product.

  2. Steve Heimoff - December 15, 2010

    Tom, with you on this one. While I’m not a fan of artificial closures, especially those nasty plastic ones that you can’t fit back into the bottle, I think the faux pas ad trades on consumers’ lack of confidence and insecurity when it comes to wine. Instead of taking advantage of those insecurities, the wine industry should be working to alleviate them through education.

  3. Matt (BoozeMonkey) - December 15, 2010

    It smacks of desperation too if you ask me: whilst there is less romance with a screw-cap, they are MUCH cheaper than cork ($1 per cork? seriously?!) and some of the more expensive screw caps I’ve seen (which are still cheaper than cork) are pretty classy too.
    But the biggest plus of all? I have NEVER had a spoiled bottle under screw-cap, compared to dozens under cork. If I was a cork grower, I’d be desperate too…

  4. Clintonstark - December 15, 2010

    Sure enough, I just received the same PR, and had a laugh as I had read your post this morning. Agreed, it doesn’t reflect well on those behind the campaign. And although artificial closures may not be perfect, I like the idea of innovation. I still prefer cork, but trying to improve closures is a good thing (although I suspect a lot of it is related to lowering costs).

  5. Alder Yarrow - December 15, 2010

    Not only humiliating to the competition, but to wine lovers and women. Can’t see how they think that making people feel bad about choosing “the wrong wine” is going to help them grow their market share.

  6. Mark - December 16, 2010

    Seriously Alder, how does that type of “marketing” make any sense. I think we can see that the demystification of wine helps sales, look at Gary V’s success marketing both Wine Library and himself as an easy example. Including people in the wine culture even when they can’t afford a $50 bottle or don’t know anything about stoppers is a nice place to start because we know over time, those consumers grow into better and better consumers.

  7. Kathy - December 16, 2010

    That’s funny because I saw that same PR and thought it was a gag. How depressing to think they were serious.

  8. Kery James - December 16, 2010

    $1 per cork is for the very highest quality cork available. There are great corks available for the same price as plastic stoppers and screw caps. Also I have never had a great wine under screw cap. I’ve had plenty of bad wine under screw cap and some ok wine. I’ve had bad wine under cork (not necessarily the corks fault). But most importantly I’ve had amazing wine (not overly expensive) under cork. Just my experience.

  9. Jim Gilmore - December 16, 2010

    Oh honestly, it was just another stupid ad. At least it was entertaining, but does anyone honestly believe that it will change the way any single person in the world will think about women, Iberian Lynxes, corks or anything else at all? So much serious huffing and puffing!

  10. Nancy Hawks Miller - December 16, 2010

    Bad form, indeed! I’m afraid lots of people will take it seriously and think “OMG, another way to look like an idiot – I think I’ll just bring a micro-brew”. If the cork growers and producers had gotten off their duffs and been responsive to the taint problem in the first place they wouldn’t “need” to take swings at the competition now!

  11. Andy - December 16, 2010

    and what do you think of this? “You won’t get nookie if you pull a plastic cork, but wood corks make women horny.”

    Really offensive and amateurish. An embarrassment for the cork producers. I think every synthetic cork and screw cap producer should post this on their websites.

  12. Andy - December 16, 2010

    Sorry, use this link instead from 100% Cork

  13. Bruce Patch - December 16, 2010

    Here’s what we have to say about that….

  14. Mike - December 18, 2010

    The Cork guys came to us and wanted to list us and link us as supporters of natural cork closures. OK, fine, we use all cork closures on our red wines. But they have a “requirement” that we Tweet about natural closures at least once a week. Weird and wacky. Gotta wonder who dreamed that up. We’ll continue to use natural cork for WINE QUALITY related reasons and not because it is a nice way to help save a specific set of businesses.

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