The Gentle Caress of Steve Jobs and Wine

Stevejobsyoung When I heard the news that Steve Jobs, 56 (56!!), had died I was in the process of syncing my Apple iPhone to my Apple iTunes account via my Apple iMac, while uploading Apple Pages, Keynote and Numbers software to my Apple MacBook Pro, and reading Wines & Vines Magazine on my Apple iPad with sounds of Ornette Coleman all around me via my Apple iPod. Upon digesting the news, I made the semi-crass move of checking what my Apple stock was doing in after-hours trading.

Now, while these might be the actions of an Apple fanatic, they are also the actions of a brand loyalist

And it was the death of Steve Jobs (56 years-old!!!!-Jesus, what a waste) that got me thinking about brand loyalty in the wine industry. You don't see a whole lot of it. If you look around the industry you can identify some brands and companies that seem to engender significant amounts of it: Cameron Hughes Wines, The Wine Spectator, ShipCompliant, to name only a few of the few.

What's interesting about brand loyalty is that it's easy enough to create it, but difficult to maintain it. If you do your job well at a winery, you can stir customers to talk up your brand to their friends, telling them what a great wine they had while up in Sonoma or recommending they try a wine they had while visiting the Willamette Valley. But getting this customer to continually buy your wine year after year without a fall off is the really hard part.

I've been buying Apple products for nearly 25 years. I've have seven Apple desktops, four laptops, two iPhones, two iPods and an iPad. I won't patronize another company if I don't have to. Not a day has gone by in those 25 years when I have not used an Apple devise. For the past decade I've used at least two Apple products daily. Today, I use four daily.

What Steve Jobs successfully did was keep touching me regularly with utility, peace of mind and elegance. And it's that regular touching of the customer with at least utility and peace of mind that is the true key to creating and maintaining brand loyalty.

For the winery, it's not so much a necessity that you keep putting wine in the customer's hands day after day in order to maintain brand loyalty. That's the result of brand loyalty. The key is being there, in front of the customer, being there FOR the customer on a regular basis. This is harder and harder to do successfully today not in spite of the various communications tools we now have, but because of the new and various communications tools that now exist.

Because it is easier and easier to reach out and touch a customer at no cost, everyone is touching that same customer, creating DTO (Digital Tactile Overload). What's necessary for a winery or any wine related company is that they don't just touch the customer…they have to caress them just the way they like to be caressed. As we all know, there is a difference between being touched and being caressed.


Touching: "Get 20% off a six pack of Cabernet if you buy in the next 48 hours"

Caressing: "Hey, Bob…thought about you and your wife Jill when I was going through our database. We have 4 cases left of our 2007 Pinot that you liked so much when you were here on your anniversary. Give me a call if you want any of it."

Touching: "Dear Friend—Download our new app and never miss a new issue of our newsletter"

Caressing: "Thanks for being a subscriber for these last 5 years. Here's a code to give a subscription to a friend at no cost. Thanks so much for your loyalty."


It's personal. It's making sure your customer knows you know the details of their loyalty to you.

Of course, Apple was something more. Myself and millions of others were grateful for Steve Jobs and his crew because they so desperately wanted to appeal to our need for elegance, ease, tranquility and peace of mind. It's as though Jobs was constantly creating new products that spoke directly to us.

This is attitude and philosophy. It's an attitude and philosophy that is not necessary for success as anyone who uses Microsoft products can attest. But, when the attitude of caressing the customer is part of the company culture, you do have the primary ingredient for a recipe for success built on brand loyalty.


18 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - October 6, 2011

    Yes, I almost feel like I’ve lost a friend, as I have been an Apple guy from its inception.
    As for your “loyalty” conversation, let me ask you:
    How many computer operating systems are on sale, and how many companies produce them?
    How many wines are on sale?

  2. David Topper - October 6, 2011

    Brilliantly written Tom. Thank you.

  3. 7and8 - October 6, 2011

    Fantastic article, and some great words about “loyalty”.

  4. Julie Brosterman - October 6, 2011

    Yes, Steve Jobs passing at 56 (56!) seems mind boggling to digest for a number of reasons.
    At 56 (yes 56!) look what he had accomplished – the ability to integrate technology into our day-to-day lives with products that made us HAPPY! Pretty hard to do for one product – much less an increasing array of products for every age and lifestyle.
    At 56 (yes 56!) imagine what ideas he wanted to execute in his next 25 years if this illness hadn’t cut him down in his prime.
    What is equally profound to me is that he literally stayed involved and committed to his vision up until his dying days. How many people given that situation would play golf, take a cruise, buy a vacation home on a beautiful island. But not Jobs.
    What’s so interesting this a.m. about his passing is that we really know so little about the person Steve Jobs. We knew him in the context of his work and we projected his persona onto the products we use everyday as ‘knowing him’. What was he really like? Did he drink wine? Organic, biodynamic and sustainable wine?
    So back to the brand loyalty he created.
    What makes Apple so different from the world of wine sales is that in spite of imitators of Apple products – or competing products by other brands – the customer knows and trusts that the product they are buying is the best in its class. They don’t need scores or ratings. WOM is the way they sell. There’s no substitute for a MacPro or the AirMac or the i-phone.
    Wine is fungible. Can’t find the wine you were looking for in your local retailer – they’ll recommend something else. Looking on the wine list for a particular wine and it’s not the right year? The sommelier will suggest something ‘just as good’ that you’re ‘sure to like’.
    There’s too much choice and so loyalty is thin.
    My personal belief is that there’s actually more loyalty to mass produced brands of wine because the customer knows that they can get more anytime they want to buy it. It won’t disappoint them – it’s in their local store at the price they want to pay.
    It doesn’t make developing loyalty in the wine business any easier.
    I wonder what Steve Jobs would say?
    [email protected]

  5. Ian Levine - October 7, 2011

    I agree with the assessment of caressing versus touching, however, I think it is more commonly known as personalization. All good marketing should emphasize what your product or service does to provide a better end state for the customer on a truly personal level. It should emphasize the buyer and not features, benefits or price unless that is what you know is relevant to that person.
    Wine is a highly unique consumer product in that a huge portion of the market shows loyalty to multiple brands. Pause on that statement and try making a list of other categories of products or services where consumers are loyal, but to multiple brands. Your list will be very short.
    I believe this is one reason 90+ wine cellars is becoming the fastest growing wine brand in the United States.

  6. James McCann - October 7, 2011

    I’m sure Tom can give you ad rates next time.

  7. Thomas Pellechia - October 7, 2011

    James, didn’t you know that’s what blogs are for???

  8. Cindy Friedman - October 7, 2011

    Thanks for the great article!

  9. Phil - October 7, 2011

    If wineries want to learn the lesson of Apple they also need to incorporate the fact that Apple is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) marketing company on the planet. The campaigns for the iPod, etc. were brilliant and built upon the reservoir of good will that people who already owned their products had. Most brands that generate extreme loyalty in their fans work very hard at it (while seeming not to of course, just like being the cool kid), so if wines want to have that impact, they need to work at it as well. The great product is not enough.

  10. James McCann - October 7, 2011

    I know Thomas, but how are they going monetize blogs when trollers like Ian get the milk for free?

  11. Brian - October 7, 2011

    I love the “touch” versus “caress”, Tom. To “caress” takes a good amount of time and effort, but people feel special when you show you know or remember something about their experience with you.
    Having worked in the hotel industry, a lot of emphasis is placed on guest recognition and knowing preferrences. It would be great to see that used more in wineries.

  12. Thomas Pellechia - October 7, 2011

    James, I was being facetious.
    Monetizing blogs? Someone, somewhere, show me how… 😉

  13. Tom Wark - October 7, 2011

    The formula for monetizing blogs is a very simple one: build a readership large enough that a set of advertisers will want to speak to.

  14. James McCann - October 7, 2011

    I was also being facetious… It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mind when people pretend to comment on a post and then turn on a dime and plug their company.

  15. La Casa de Antociano - October 7, 2011

    Great match between brand loyalty, Steve Jobs and wine.

  16. Thomas Pellechia - October 8, 2011

    Yes, James, and then there are the spammers who drop a praising sentence (see above), add nothing to the discussion, and make sure that their Web site address appears.

  17. Bruce McGechan - October 10, 2011

    Steve Jobs was a master of technology, internet, usability and design. I too mourn his passing.
    And understand why you’ve chosen the analogy of the Apple brand vs wine brands. However the wine industry has something that few others do – a majority of consumer segments who want to try different brands. Pick a consumer study, say Project Genome, it has two groups who are ‘loyal’ to the same brand, Traditionalists and Satisfied Sippers, the rest prefer to explore different brands.
    The exception to this rule is low priced wine where brands help reduce the risk of buying a bad wine as per research by some Aussie blokes called Bruwer and Johnson.
    Loyalty is more likely to be to a varietal or region than brand which is why cooperative marketing ventures and retail stores are so important. Just don’t expect too many loyal customers if you’re a premium winery (with the elite few excepted).

  18. web development USA, web development Florida - October 16, 2011

    Wine is a highly unique consumer product in that a huge portion of the market shows loyalty to multiple brands. Pause on that statement and try making a list of other categories of products or services where consumers are loyal, but to multiple brands…

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