Many limited production wineries use “the mailing list” as a marketing and loyalty program tool. I have watched with interest as wine drinkers sign up, remain on mailing lists, and continue to buy the wine in fear of lifetime banishment for passing up even one vintage’s allocation. Could that finally change?
There are three good reasons to hang in with a winery’s mailing list program:
1) Your luck or early instincts landed you on a cult wine mailing list and you have coveted access to wine you love to drink at almost reasonable release prices
2) You actually like the wine, it is available at retail, but don’t have regular or convenient access
3) You visited or had a positive experience with the winery and you want to stay connected to their world
The other story could be you hold a spot on the list forever, never even taste the wine, resell your allocation for significant profit to have it sold again at a ridiculous price point at retail or auction, leaving the winery unable to participate or control fair pricing. It’s understandable that limited production wineries with full mailing and waiting lists don’t abandon the strategy and possibly offend their loyal customers by revoking steady access. It is also not in their best interest to walk away from direct-to-consumer distribution for higher price points and margin.
But, the system is far from perfect and limits distribution forever to just a few, and secondary markets form as retailers and grey market resellers recruit list members and tap into their allocations for big profit. All this defies wineries’ intentions to provide their limited production product at fair prices to all those that crave it.
So enter social media. Murphy Goode winery is currently recruiting through the blogosphere for someone to Twitter, Facebook, blog, and post videos. Promote Murphy Goode, promote California wine country lifestyle, and of course the unspoken, sell wine. Come on out to California for $10,000 a month, a free house, all the wine you can drink, flexible work hours, etc. The ideal candidate does not have to be an oenophile, just someone comfortable with social media and an interest in wine and learning would be perfect.
Imagine if all wineries took this route of creating loyalty and community around their content and wine and abandoned privileged, lifelong mailing list membership as a marketing and loyalty program. It would serve their annual or twice a year direct-to-consumer release and distribution needs and would allow more fans of the wine to experience the wineries’ cultures in deeper ways than the annual release newsletters that accompany pricelists and allocation news. On Facebook pages, fans could share tasting and lifestyle experiences. Winemakers and farmers could Tweet progress of unreleased vintages in vineyard and barrel, or report on the state of library wines as they taste them to keep collectors aware of the progress of those wines that still sit in their personal cellars. Recipes could be shared, tips on traveling to the winery can be offered, and those that are really interested and follow regularly would have the best shot at buying the wines direct.
Of course, professional grey market resellers, like professional sports ticket brokers, will figure a way to crack the code again. Still, this would open access to more people and allow wine producers to stay connected with a larger community, more often, and with deeper and legitimate relationships.
Social media represents one more challenging front for a wine industry tainted by an antiquated distribution system. I’d like to think that Murphy Goode is onto something and that the traditionally conservative wine industry will notice and respond to. Dave Ready Jr., who runs Murphy Goode with his father, ran around a bit with the Grateful Dead during his youth, and that could be an indication that he is still not representative of the mainstream. He is clearly zagging while the wine industry continues to zig. It’s an interesting job description he has created. Anyone want to apply and change the world of marketing wine through loyal communities?