Wine and the Quietude Economy

Shhhh Before we had "friends", we had mailing lists—and they weren't made public.

We used to have to be careful when we followed someone for fear of being branded a stalker, rather than just being counted and sorted.

I used to be wary of getting invitations because I knew it meant having to get dressed up, while now I can usually attend all the "events" I'm invited to in the comfort of my boxers and along with thousands of other boxer-clad "friends".

But most important, the idea of "exclusivity" used to evoke in people feelings of envy or desire for being excluded from something unique. And for those that were part of something truly exclusive, it meant being a part of something finite and well chosen, whereas today "exclusivity" is often used to describe a club, organization or group that one needs to merely ask to become part of its exclusive millions.

My point is that in a "sharing economy" where our actions and thought and preferences and friends are broadcast with ever more sophisticated tools, the notions of "private" and "exclusive" and "discriminative" and "cliquish" and "preferential" have been demoted. It means the value of truly exclusive has fallen and has no where to go but up. Put in investment terms, "Truly Exclusive" is now undervalued and represents a "buying opportunity".

This is my marketing and public relations mind thinking now. This is me thinking that the winery mailing list model of brand development might have a great deal to teach us about how to build a profitable business in a world increasingly made up of lots of "Haves Less" and lots of "Haves More". One of the distinguishing features of the "Haves More" is the satisfaction they gain from having earned their way inside the ropes. Exclusive winery mailing lists that only have waiting lists and in some cases have even closed those down start to look very alluring to the "Haves More" crowd, particularly in a world where they are invited to join everything. They always have. But now is a very good time to remind ourselves of the value of exclusivity.

But there's more to my theory. The bulk of social sharing is today done by the 40 and under crowd. By the time this youngish demographic is old enough to afford something priced at exclusive levels, they will have spent many years opening and walking through unlocked doors rather than closing them behind them. They will have spent many hours, days and years living in the midst of an ever-strengthening social noise palace that will lead to them finding great relief in discovering a volume knob that only goes to 3.

There is a time coming, I think, where ultimate satisfaction and comfort is gained through being a part of something very and truly exclusive and that puts one within a group that is truly closed and walled off from the outside noise and where the idea of  "discrimination" is invested with it original meaning and valued.

For the producer of wine or even for the retailer of wine, the key to successfully participating in the "Quietude Economy" depends I think on the following:

1. Understanding "scarcity" and not giving in to the allure of expanding the storehouse of goods

2. Investing heavily in the best, not the better

3. Learning how to build attractive walls around a product and an experience rather than how to most effectively manage crowd control.

4. Eschewing electronic domains and investing in beautiful matter.

5. Embracing the the message and beauty of "no".

6. Valuing quietude over the shout

7. Understanding the difference in the "power of want" vs. the "power of need".

8. Appreciating wine not only as a product for consumption, but also as a mark of arrival.

9. Never promising anything to your clique that you don't plan to deliver by hand.

10. Promising members of your circle that they will always have to pay good money to remain within the beautiful walls you are building for their satisfaction.

The best winery mailing list models have always been those that are kept small; where the wines sold through them are truly scarce and not found in the general marketplace; that provoke in those that are not on the list and haven't access to the wines the sting of envy. None of these things match the growing cultural lean toward sharing and openness. But that's OK.

Sharing and openness doesn't seem to be in danger of running its course any time soon. In fact, sharing and openness will likely continue to snowball as a value to be embraced. But just as it does, there will be a growing number of "Haves More" willing to shut the door behind them and pay for the experience and comfort of being a part of the Quietude Economy.

4 Responses

  1. Doug Wilder - September 16, 2011

    I think you nailed the concept of exclusivity and how to handle marketing it. If you’re everywhere, you’re nowhere. Thanks!

  2. Tom M - September 17, 2011

    I do see the attraction to staying exclusive with mailing lists. But what about the thousands who love wine, who would love to experience some of the wines that are unavailable b/c of the exclusivity? Most of my friends are not fortunate enough to gain access to these lists. Do you feel at all that staying so exclusive only adds fuel to the stigma of the ultra snob wine crowd, potentially turning off some and intimidating others? I no problem with the exclusive wine lists, but wish there was a way for some of the average folks out there to be able to play once in a while.

  3. Chris - September 19, 2011

    It is interesting that almost every wine is already limited from the start based on it’s vintage, appellation , winemaker and a myriad of other factors..Most wines DO run out NEVER to be available ever again whether the price is $15 or $150 a bottle….yet most wineries market their wine as being “accessible”….I think Tom has hit upon a market segment that is a invisible and counter intuitive to most….It will be interesting to see attempts at leveraging these “Haves More” wine consumers…. Thanks Tom

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