The Grapevine

Wine Shop Marketing: Ease the Fear

March 16th, 2016

One theme that’s been popping up a lot in our conversations around wine shop marketing lately: you’re doing it wrong. Not the marketing. The actual drinking of wine … People are afraid of looking foolish. Not just when it comes to wine – in just about everything. (The exception being folks who star in their homemade, YouTube versions of the “Jackass” movies. Clearlly, they want to look as foolish as possible.) [level-members]

But wine has a particularly tough balancing act, at least in the American culture. On the one hand, there is something special about how wine is viewed in our culture. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though it makes things more difficult than they are in France and Italy, where wine is more a natural part of life at home. It’s not just for a fancy night out or a special occasion.

Of course, go too far in the other direction, and wine becomes groceries, just another staple in your pantry. Can we market to find the middle ground?

We can. The most reliable way to do so is to focus on the connection between wine and food. Not fine wine and fine food. Not dining. Dinner. Meals at home. Eating with friends.

Ditch the fancy glassware. Focus on what you’re drinking, who you’re drinking it with, and where you are. I’m not sure I’d always ditch the stemware for jelly jars or those little juice glasses that you sometimes see in French cafes, but I’d certainly do it if the wine fit. (A modest French wine, a rosé in summer time …)

Forget the “this goes with that”rules. Encourage people to drink what they like. Take chances. Pair what you’re in the mood to drink even if it “doesn’t go” with what you’re serving. Not being huge white wine fans, it took us years to find something that works with Asian dishes. We had some bad combinations along the way, but the experimentation was fun and, in the end, worth it. We really love what we pour with various cuisines that aren’t red-friendly. Not that we did all this experimenting when we were entertaining the proverbial boss and his wife …

Make it personal. It’s no accident that I didn’t share what we pair with Chinese or Thai or Indian just now. (And not just because I fear your ridicule.) It’s because that’s what works for me and Laura. Doesn’t mean it has to work for you.

And that’s the real trick. Yes, it’s hard not to look down our collective noses at those who prefer their wine mixed with club soda – or even ice cubes. And maybe those aren’t the kinds of folks we can ultimately build a retail wine business around. But if you can ease the fear people have of doing wine wrong, whatever that means, you stand a chance of getting them to explore enough to find out how to do wine right – for themselves. [/level-members]