Monday, July 29, 2013

Rant: Brand Loyalty & Wine Geeks

"...hard-core wine buffs...have no product loyalty. They like to sample a different wine every day, so they don’t support brands very well even when they love them."
--Postmodern Winemaking: Rethinking the Modern Science of an Ancient Craft by Clark Smith

How much brand loyalty do you possess? How many bottles of the same wines do you buy every year? If you truly love a wine, do you buy multiple cases of it every year? Or, despite your love for specific wines, do you generally spend most of your time and money exploring new and different wines? Are wine bloggers less brand loyal because of their desire and efforts to review numerous wines each year?

One of the most fascinating wine books I have read recently is Postmodern Winemaking by Clark Smith, a controversial figure in the wine industry because of his involvement in technological methods of wine making. Some see his efforts as over manipulation of wine, a charge he vehemently denies. The book itself does not shy from controversy, yet it raises many intriguing issues and should cause any reader to think about some of their closely held beliefs. At times, the book gets technical, and could confuse a non-winemaker, though Clark has tried to make it as easy to understand as possible. There is plenty in the book which any reader though will be able to comprehend and I highly recommend this book to all wine lovers.

But back to Clark's quote at the top of this post. Each year, we all drink and buy a limited amount of wine. We are constrained by our finances, by time, by our capabilities to drink. As I ponder my own annual wine consumption, I would have to agree with Clark that my own brand loyalty, in regards to repeat purchases and drinking, is low. I am definitely a wine explorer, always seeking out something new and different to try. If I go to a restaurant, I am more likely to try something new than I am to drink an old favorite. At a wine store, I more often buy something new rather than pick up the same old wines. And I don't think I am unique in this regard, especially among other wine bloggers.

However, despite my lack of repeated purchases of the same wine, I possess brand loyalty in another regard, in my promotion and advocacy of those wines, whether it be on my blog, in print media or by word of mouth. If I love a wine, I might not purchase it on a regular basis, but I will rave about that wine to others, encouraging them to try the wine. And those written recommendations on my blog remain available to everyone all the time. People regularly ask me for wine recommendations, and I will tell them about the wine I love, spreading brand loyalty.

To me, Clark's words have some relevance, but they do not address the complete situation. Even hardcore wine lovers who do not have blogs will spread their love for wines through word of mouth. Wine bloggers and writers have an additional forum to spread their brand loyalty. Though they might not purchase a specific wine often on their own, their advocacy is likely to lead to far more sales from others who take their recommendations.

Are you brand loyal or not?


robert mcintosh (@thirstforwine) said...

Totally agree - one of the things I repeat ad nauseam.


We ("experts") are looking for variety and novelty, regular wine drinkers are looking for consistency, value, reliability and a link to shared brand values.

We only talk about the features of the wines that interest us, then we despair when consumers stop listening.

I like your point about advocacy as loyalty, which is also very true, but even that gets limited by the fer of being too closely associated with a specific brand (it's not 'proper journalism' whatever that is for wine bloggers).

Anonymous said...

Fine wine is not a commodity, but a product of great variety and great variability. Even what's in the bottle changes over time. Why on earth would you drink a mass-produced brand day after day, except out of laziness and lack of imagination?