Wine and the Seduction of Drinkers
How can wine be an emotional trigger point for drinkers? How can it invoke emotion in its users that in turn provokes them to invest more time and money in the product and, potentially, a brand? These were the questions left unanswered by Reka Haros in a recently published and well-circulated article in which she admonishes the wine industry for a lack of emotionally engaging content in its advertising and marketing.
Ms. Haros’ case is best summed up when she notes that numbers correlations can’t get at why consumers gravitate toward a wine or brand:
“We are pushed to rely on data, on Big Data, and look at numbers that represent correlations between them, but in our fast-moving days we forget to look at what Big Data can’t explain. The why of consumers. We know the who, what, when, where, and how of our consumers’ habits and behaviours, but we are not digging three layers under for their “why-s”!
Numbers are not feelings nor emotions, and feelings of nostalgia or pride, for example, cannot be measured through digital action. We need to remember that and make sure we connect with our consumers through their emotions, not only through their digital behaviours.”
Haros does not mean to identify “nostalgia” and “pride” as the primary emotional motivators of consumers’ dedication to wine and brand, nor of course as the only motivators. Identifying what that primary motivation is, however, is a pretty good idea if we are going to rectify the problem identified in the title of her recent article: “Why Wine Communications Sucks”.
Wine can and does invoke emotion in its users. I’d argue that this invocation happens at a deeper psychological level than can be identified in surveys, polls or observations by marketers or consumer test panels. The source of this emotion that has and always will stir wine lovers is found in the base nature of the product’s creation and then in the primary impact the product has on its users.
In a word, the source of wine’s ability to invoke emotion is “alchemy”.
Mirriam-Webster defines alchemy this way:
…a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way…
…an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting
While winemaking is indeed a science built around manipulating the chemical process of fermentation, it clearly is much more. It is as Messrs. Mirriams and Webster say, the transformation of something “in a mysterious or impressive way. Put another way, Magic.
But equally important is the other mysterious and impressive transformation inherent in wine: upon consumption, it alters the mental state and reality of the user. Again…magic.
Both these magical properties of wine serve to form the foundation of the ardent consumers’ attraction to the beverage. The grape itself is pedestrian and yet, when transformed into something altogether different in form and substance and when placed into its special vessel, the resulting wine possesses a unique power to make the drinker new, different, augmented.
This all explains the “romance” associated with wine and always has explained it whether appreciated and marketed today or in centuries past. The talk of mystical terroir, a wine’s dense mixture of aromas and flavors, its ability to lubricate the social milieu, and wine’s ability to enhance a meal all derive from its magical and alchemic nature. And it is from this that Haros’ craving for emotion in wine communications must originate if consumers are to be properly seduced into brand devotion.
Change and transformation are the constant in the life of human beings and it always has been. Change and transformation are unavoidable and often understood as the enemy, as occurring against our will. Change and transformation of the soul lie at the heart of the great religious traditions. The power to harness change, to bring it under our control, to make it work for us rather than against us is fundamental to the human spirit and to our spiritual life. Wine, as an object that is derived from magical and alchemic transformation and as the change agent providing us with an altered and different view of our world, is a strikingly important symbol that easily penetrates man’s core motivations.
My 25 years of experience marketing wine and telling stories about wine informs me that Haros is right, that wine communication must trigger an emotional response in order to be effective. But this is not a brilliant insight. The more important insight is the subject matter that will incite that emotion.
If the wine communicator is able if only for a moment, to inspire consumers to contemplate the alchemic and magical properties of wine they will heighten the odds considerably of the drinker developing a more intimate disposition toward a brand.
It seems to me that the romance or a positive emotion from wine involves many factors that are mostly out of the control of the consumer. Let me explain. A few years ago I was interested in understanding the factors that impact a customers positive and negative emotions in a wine bar; or any other type of beverage bar. Without resurrecting all of that detail, here are some of the factors that effect emotions: temperature, background music, aromas, noises (laughter versus traffic and sirens), quality of service, company you were with, the occasion, etc.; in reality there were more than 100 factors in the emotion of the wine you chose to drink.
In my opinion, a wine tasting-at a winery or even a large independent tasting event, is not a great environment to attach an emotion to a specific wine. And by-the-way, how often have you left a restaurant and been so impressed emotionally with a wine’s aroma, finish, taste, mouth-feel and a week later buy that same bottle of wine for dinner at home and it left you completely deflated. Nothing seems to be replicated at home like at a restaurant.
Emotions involving wine seem to be, maybe, romantic, fond memories, a taste that was pleasing, a specific vintage that worked, the way the wine was presented and impressions when you met the winemaker at a winery tasting room. One thing for sure, once an emotion has been established the first time and was able to be replicated again later, an emotional bond will be established. The trick is to keep profiles consistent between vintages.