Last year we examined the Stockdale Paradox for wine marketers – believing we will prevail in the endgame while coming to terms with some brutal facts. We started with the most brutal of facts:  your biggest competition isn’t the other winemaker down the vineyard, but rather, indifference. You live in an industry with low brand loyalty, low brand awareness, high fragmentation and relative scarcity. It all adds up to consumers easily ignoring you, retailers (on and off-premise) replacing you, and wholesalers undercutting you. It’s not personal, it’s just business. The data is clear that consumers don’t need you, and will not have a problem replacing you. Ouch. Sorry, but this kind of reality check is what Stockdale was talking about.

According to shopper marketing data, the only aisle in grocery with more random decision making is canned vegetables. Imagine the romance and passion of wine being met with the indifference of canned vegetables. It’s not because consumers don’t care about quality, but rather because quality is predictable – at price point, varietal and geography. “Quality” is table steaks, along with great soils, great winemakers and incredible heritage. More than 1,000 wines got 90+ points last year. While quality breeds loyalty within other “luxury, lifestyle” categories (50%+ ratings), the loyalty rating in wine is less than 5%. Moreover, “price, varietal, and pretty labels” still drive 70%+ of the decisions in the wine aisle – and we all know the game of “eye level, middle price, pretty label” played on the shelf.  So, a year later, what’s changed? In this area, nothing. This remains the Stockdale Paradox.

So, given these brutal facts, why does the wine industry spend so much money on “pull” marketing? The “pull” marketing concept assumes that people are looking for you (or your service), and all you need to do is pull them towards you through banner ads, Ad-words, SEM, social listening or other pull methodologies. Industries with a handful of frontrunners – auto, fashion, insurance, travel – and tens of millions of potential customers, all optimize effective pull marketing. Unfortunately, wine is the antithesis of this model. There are several thousand wine brands fighting over the same meta-data for a relatively small group of adorers, while tens of millions of wine consumers continue to validate indifference by making random decisions in the wine aisle. It makes no sense.

Groove believes that “push” marketing is the game changer for wine, because it acknowledges all of these brutal facts and methodically creates trial to drive consumer loyalty.  It completes the Stockdale Paradox for wine producers. First, “push” seeks to build acquisition and engagement by marrying a focused set of end consumers (based on shared interests, lifestyles, needs, etc.) to a distribution and sales plan.  It transitions top-down marketing (sorry, Mad Men) into strategic drone strikes launched into communities where you have distribution, where you have trusted trade partners, and where your brand story intersects with interested consumers. “Push” marketing allows us to find and engage these people, and only these people, sifting and filtering until we optimize the audience and eliminate indifference. Why buy 1,000,000 impressions if only 1% cares, if you could purchase 100,000 impressions with 10% who care deeply? You’re saving 10X on advertising costs while creating dramatically more effective engagement!

This type of relationship modeling requires a big shift in thinking. You need to shift from “why I made this wine” to “why you will love this wine”.  When we speak to consumers, they see absolutely no difference between most wineries – it all sounds the same to them.  In fact, they see “the brand of Napa” and “the brand of Sonoma” much more than they see unique winery traits. Relationship modeling changes that. The brand becomes a person with whom the consumer can relate. It is holistic, and dives into common interests, needs, motivations, lifestyles and individual consumer wine occasions. It is wine fitting into their world, rather than them fitting into the wine world.

This is the future of wine marketing. World-class storytelling, 365 days a year, that is original, educational, personal, humorous and/or otherwise valuable. Multi-channel (Omni-channel, for those of you into hip new lingo) consumer engagement, including digital and social channel activation, micro-targeting, email, outbound and inbound call center, strategic affiliate and partner programs linked to in-market programs and trade calendars (off-premise, on-premise, national accounts). Facebook offers the largest and deepest focus group on the planet, providing almost any target consumers, grown up analytic data and an incredibly powerful storytelling testing ground. Wine producers must start leveraging this focus group to better understand which messages are resonating with which consumer groups, where they are and why they care.

Finally, you need to develop a deep desire to know everyone who is consuming your wines, and to thank them personally. Robert Mondavi used to say that the only way to sell wine is to pour wine. Well, today, the best way to gain trial is to keep consumers engaged and activated – or they will simply move on. The influencers no longer have much influence. Top-down advertising is no longer sticky or cost effective. And the gatekeepers no longer feel much loyalty to any one brand.

As we say in every pitch, “There are a million people who love your wine, who have never heard of it.” “Push” engagement will change that. It is your chance to transition your wine from unknown to unforgettable.