Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wine, Social Media, Sex and me - explained.

I've avoided trying to explain or describe or adequately define what's going on with media, social media, this blog, my wine work, Black Cloud and me up until now because I wasn't quite comfortable with my abilities to tie it all together.

But thanks to an old joke that I've mostly forgotten, I think I can give it a try.

First, if you're reading this, you've got at least a passing acquaintance with social media. Mostly if not all web/internet based, it's all those things (platforms, applications) like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, weBlogs that allow people (messengers) to inform others (message receivers) about stuff. Any segment of social media worth its salt then allows robustly active conversation around those messages.

How does that differ from old media?

Television, radio and print (even standing in the park on a soapbox) are mostly about one-way message delivery. The messenger crafts the message and then unleashes it on a mass audience, more or less confident that it will deliver the concept to most receivers most of the time.

As receivers, we just lie there and take it. Interaction has been limited to talk radio phone-ins, letters to the editor and heckling in the park.

So in the old joke there's a woman and a man having sexual relations and after it's over (as far as he's concerned) the man asks "Was it good for you?" (market research).

She responds, "Blue."

He asks quizzically, "Blue?"

She replies, "Yes, blue. I think I'll paint the ceiling blue".

Despite being confident he was delivering the right message, the messenger had no idea what the receiver was thinking or if she was even receptive. As they like to point out in the socmed world - message delivery = fail.

In new media, there's plenty of two-way communication from the start. Sure, things can foul up.

And social media won't replace old media but it will form a complimentary path.

By now you're aware that for the most part this is about selling things. But it's more than that. It's about giving people options in their lives and giving them choices. Its about those choices being qualified and vetted by their peers and other like-minded folk before committing resources. More than just dollars, those resources include time and something I like to call place of mind.

With so much information out there, having a band of brothers (and sisters) out there is like having your own socio-economic support group. Here's another sad attempt at an analogy.

Woody Allen is a recognized genius in world of cinema. However, there are varying degrees of Woody Allen fans. Some despise him and are not fans at all. Some will watch the movies but are critical of his off-screen life. Others will eat the whole buffet.

Social media allows you to surround yourself with the Woody Allen fans that approximate your degree of involvement. It's like going to the theatre and everybody is already on board the Woody Allen train. Not that there isn't the thrust and parry of criticism, but there is a genuine level of involvement not present in a random crowd.

As I prepare to launch my new wine brand Black Cloud, I'm considering what media to use to spread the word. In my mind, most old (mass) media is scattershot. You put out an ad in the paper or on TV and cross your fingers that you hit something. With social media, I think I can connect with people who have a degree of interest in what I'm doing. Using the right channels, I can talk to people who have already identified themselves as wine people. There's a focus in social media I don't see in mass media.

At least to start with, I'll be using social media almost exclusively to promote Black Cloud wine. I hope to make the suggestion, have a conversation and sell a few bottles of wine directly to the fans and winos who inhabit this world.

With a little luck, I'll avoid getting the answer "blue" when I ask the question.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wine Bloggers' Conference - It's a GO!

Looks like I'm headed to California in late July.
I signed up and paid for the second-ever Wine Bloggers' Conference to be held in Napa and Sonoma counties this summer.
Last time they did this, a couple hundred wine nuts (more or less attached to the internet) showed up and traded ideas, got up to speed, tasted an enormous amount of wine and generally had the opportunity to understand each others' unique perspective.
Participants travelled from all over North America and the world. They were extremely well treated by conference organizers and sponsors.
I was not able to go. (insert pout here)
It was in late October. Around that time, we here in the Okanagan are buried scrotum-high in grapes. It behooved me to remain at my post.
Other people in more gentle climes on the production side of things made some noise and voila! - summer in California for this version.
I'm really looking forward to this. That's the essence of understatement. I will have the opportunity to show off my wines and indulge in the following recipe.
1/4 geek
1/4 webjourno
1/4 wine maker
1/4 Californiaphile
Top with sun, pool, hikes, bikes and good food.
I strongly encourage my readers and associated wine folks to consider attending. Attendance is capped at 250 and I understand the sign-up has been brisk.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Newest Black Cloud Wine label mock-up

As we continue to refine the Black Cloud wine label design we get closer to what we think will work.

Still not exactly what we will end up with but it's getting there. This cut-out is a bit kicked because we've been tossing it around and packing it from place to place.

The actual paper stock is a more glossy silver that will give some of the cloud detail more 'light'. The words 'Pinot Noir' will have more jump as well. The colour are close, but we still won't get the true representation until it start to roll off the press.

Since it's a Canadian label, we don't have to have the surgeon general's happy message. But we do have to adhere to regulations concerning English and French for certain key elements. Our final approval or checkpoint is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which is now looking it over. They make sure all the federal regs are being met.

Anne O'Grady at Magpye Productions is who we are working with to get this done.

Okanagan Wine Services - Finally!

A couple of entrepreneurs have stepped up and will soon fill a void in the Okanagan Valley - especially in the south end.

Okanagan Wine Services (OWS) will begin offering warehousing and host of other services to area wineries in an area that seems to be chronically short of dedicated wine-friendly capacity.

Larry Stranaghan and Jeff Keen dropped by my neck of the woods the other day to introduce themselves and let Township 7 and Black Cloud wines know what they have to offer. The plan is to get started immediately. While they will consider using an existing building, they are prepared to build from the ground-up to satisfy the needs of their customers. Penticton seems to be the prime location under consideration.

Among the many features local wineries will find attractive:
  • Climate controlled Storage: many wineries use off site storage but a lot of times you settle for less than ideal conditions to just get the stuff stored. OWS will be addressing the temperature, humidity and, hopefully, vibration issues.
  • Custom packaging: it's old news in other jurisdictions but not here. The plan is to offer wine club shipping services and custom pick and pack. For all intents and purposes, a wine industry fulfilment centre.
  • Inventory control through secure client access on their website. Shipped and received; barcoded and electronically recorded on your account.
  • 24 -7 access and operation.

The website is operational at this time but there's still some detail to come. Use the phone number or email address under 'Contact us' to get more information.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Black Cloud Wine Label Sneak Peek

A quick Bberry phone pic of one of the the mock-ups we've been playing with.

A lot has changed. Colours, paperstock, the vintage date is wrong, etc.

But it gives you a rough idea of the concepts we've been working to make this happen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Heading to Kamloops, Wine in Hand.

In early February, I'll be heading to Kamloops, B.C. to talk to Township 7 fans at a couple venues and to try and present the wines to some new customers as well.

The way the schedule is starting to align, it looks like my Black Cloud 2006 Pinot Noir will make it's debut on this trip as well.

So far the schedule looks like this:

Tuesday, February 3 - 7:00 pm
Gerry O's
2900 - 30th Street
Vernon, BC
(250) 542-3333

On my way to Kamloops, I'm stopping at this great store that sells our wine in Vernon. Once a month they put on these special tastings complete with food accompaniment. I suggest you call if you want to join me and taste a selection of Township 7 wines.

Wednesday, February 4 - 7:30 pm
Kamloops Winemakers

I think this is for members only but check with me if you're in the area and I'll try and sneak you in!

Thursday, February 5 - 3:30 to ???
Lansdowne Central Liquor Store
450 Lansdowne

I'll be at the store for a few hours, talking with wine drinkers and pouring a nice flight of Township7 wines. Drop in and meet!

Still working on: a trade tasting for Kamloops restaurants and license holders in the city and quick trip to Sun Peaks to talk to folks there. Will try to get a day in on the slopes Friday!