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August 25, 2006

Hardy's - 'Best wine under the sun' or 'All that sun gone to their heads'?



They’d have been better off with the strapline ‘Best wine under the duvet’! At least I may have paid some attention to that, if not rushed into Threshers to see if it was true.

What am I referring to? Hardy’s, one of the world’s largest wine companies, has been running an ad campaign for the last few weeks here in the UK – print, outdoor posters, TV - the full monty, with the theme ‘The best wine under the sun’.

Now with such large advertising budgets (probably at least £1M worth for this burst I’d say), reaching so many people across the UK, I’m totally stumped as to why they chose such a meaningless, generic communication statement about the brand with absolutely zero call to action. In my experience, if someone has to say they’re the best, they’re probably not.

I’ll bet they fought tooth and nail to get the ASA to approve the line 'the best wine under the sun' after the Nielsen research apparently showed they are 'the no.1 selling wine in some UK markets'.

According to a spokesperson, " Hardys has been producing the 'best wines under the sun' for more than 150 years". Fighting so hard to get such a generic line approved doesn't allow much time to notice how times have changed in the last 150 years I suppose... They went on to say "The 'Best Wine Under the Sun' theme is very emotive, and very South Australian – and we make no apologies for that," (Hardys Global Marketing Manager, Ms Vicki Greaves).

A lesson in the perils of spending too much time in the sun perhaps?

Now, as a former Brand Manager for L’Oreal, of course I’m not criticising all forms of traditional marketing and media. They can clearly be very successful if well targeted with strong relevant messages for their target market.

But I fail to see how such a dull & bland ad campaign can really cut through, let alone build the brand’s identity positively, in today’s cut throat marketing environment.

Of course it’s entirely possible that I’m not Hardy’s target market, but surely anyone with even the most basic interest in wine is looking for something a bit more interesting and compelling than that? The wine you drink can say as much about you as the clothes you wear, music you listen to or car you drive - and maybe we don't all want to go unnoticed listening to easy-listening tunes in our Ford Mondeos and beige jumpers.

For me, being a bland brand is worse than being a brand with a bad reputation. At least those brands get noticed and have personality.

We shouldn't forget that Hardy's is, to date, a very successful wine company but they should dig a little deeper if they want to stay in pole position.

The acid test: would you take a bottle of Hardy’s to a dinner party? Didn’t think so.


Stormhoek UK

Posted by Jason at 2:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

stormhoek now available in sf and silicon valley


The groovy cats at K&L Wine Merechants are now selling Stormhoek.

Stores located in San Francisco and Redwood City [click on link for exact addresses].

If you could spread the word to all your West Coast pals, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

Posted by hugh macleod at 2:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Theory Of Consumption


Still mulling over the death last week of Aussie wine champion, Len Evans, I was reminded of his "winner takes all" view of life in an obituary by Brian Stonier of Stonier Wines in Victoria.

Len created his own 'Theory Of Consumption' some years ago. I think it's still relevant today and briefly, here it is:

"There's an awful lot of wine in the World but there's also a lot of awful wine. No sensible person drinks to excess, therefore, any one person can only drink a certain amount in a lifetime."

"To make the most of the time left to you, you must start by calculating your total future capacity. One bottle a day is 365 bottles a year. If your life expectancy is another 30 years there are only 10,950 bottles ahead of you, or 5 bottles a week by 30 years equals 7,800 bottles to drink".

"People who say you can't drink the good stuff all the time are talking rubbish: You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine it's like smashing a superior bottle against the wall; the pleasure is lost forever - you can't get that bottle back. There are people who build up huge cellars, most of which they have no hope of drinking. They are foolish in over-estimating their capacity, but they err on the right side and their friends love them".

"What part is wine in your life? 10%? Therefore, 10% of your income should be spent on wine"

I have no doubt he practised this wonderful theory himself.

Thanks Brian for reminding me.

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Meet Sam


Samantha Brown has been with us for about six months and is well known to those people who have sponsored one of the 100 dinners. Sam, is an accomplished marketing person and has been chomping at the bit to express some of her opinions on the state of the wine world. Sam will start on her view of Constellations's newest campaign for Hardy's, and we'll see where we go from there.

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August 22, 2006

Snakes On A Plane


This latest release starring Samuel L Jackson is, as the title, suggests about a bunch of snakes (let loose) on a plane. In itself, hardly remarkable. What's interesting though is that it has been rewritten and refilmed in line with the suggestions of hundreds of thousands of bloggers around the world.

In it's original form, the general view was that the film was set to become one of the great turkeys of the year, but now, reclaiming its $25+ million budget will be a breeze.

What happened was that as news of this "disaster" movie leaked onto the internet a whole conversation started about firstly the amusing presence of Samuel L Jackson in such a film and then bloggers started discussing how the film could be made better. The studio took note and acted accordingly.

A few more snakes? No problem.
A couple attempting to join the Mile High Club? Consider it done.
Bit more Mother******* swearing? F****** sorted.

And, so it went on.

Looks like the blogosphere has helped release the first truly Open Source movie. Might even go watch it now!

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August 21, 2006

Starbucks Simplifies Terroir

We all know that us wine guys are notoriously bad marketers. We take fairly simple concepts about the uniquenss that "place" gives to wine and spin it into obtuse concepts like appellations and terroir.

Unfortunately, many winemakers in the New World take their lead from the Old World and are creating a ever increasing morass of complex designations that future generations of winemakers and wine marketers will have to untangle for people to understand.

But the folks at Starbucks know how to take complex concepts like Terroir and make them understandable. While they describe terroir perfectly, I suspect that they would never use the word.


Sorry, the pic is a bit blurry, but the sign says

"Geography is a Flavour"

"The unique taste of each coffee bean is defined by the climate and landscape of its origin"

Why can't we do that?

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August 20, 2006

Goodbye Len Evans


We were all saddened yesterday to hear of the death of Len Evans. He was an inspirational person who was known as "The Godfather of The Australian Wine Industry". It is generally agreed that he did more than anyone else to raise the profile of Australian wine.

I was fortunate enough to meet Len on a couple of occasions and even in the short time I was with him you couldn't fail to be charmed by his wit, style and sheer passion for wine.

He died on August 17th in Newcastle, New South Wales.

We'll all raise a glass or two in memory of a great man.

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the techcrunch party


Looks like I missed a real shindig at Techcrunch party. The Flickr picture above was taken by Techmeme's Gabe Rivera, and it shows two chaps showing off their signed Techcrunch lithographs, that I drew on behalf of Stormhoek, to commemorate the event.

Robert Scoble did a good job blogging it, plus a good cluster of reviews can also be found here on Techmeme.

Photos: Flickr tag "techcrunch7", plus Guy Kawasaki has posted a Filmloop.

Congrats to Michael Arrington for putting on a heck of a show. Rock on.

[NB: This was originally posted on my personal blog, gapingvoid.]

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Stormhoek on Redmonk Radio


James Governor over at Redmonk recently did a podcast looking at how Stormhoek should blend our wine together with connectivity and open a chain of WiFi wine bars. You can down load the podcast here.

First port of call Cape Town?

Thanks James.

Posted by nick at 9:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 8, 2006

the new stormhoek labels


I've started designing the new Stormhoek wine labels, which like I said earlier, should be hitting the shelves by Christmas. This is one of my first efforts, an updated version of a cartoon I drew back in 1998.

To me, wine and the human condition go together like two peas in a pod. So I want the designs to explore that relationship.

Could you imagine something like this on a wine bottle? More specifically, a wine bottle you'd actually take off the supermarket shelf and place into your shopping basket? Yes? No? Maybe?

N.B. This project is still very new. Virgin territory. In terms of label design, I don't claim to have all the answers. Heck, I don't even claim to have a tenth of them. But this is one steep learning curve that I am thrilled to be on. Watch this space.

[UPDATE: To see the new lable designs as they're being rolled out, go here. Thanks.]

[NB. This entry was originally posted on my personal blog, gapingvoid.]

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August 7, 2006

A Clash of Cultures

non wine.bmp

BL Ochman, the web guru was in London earlier this summer to address a conference. Hugh and BL met up after the conference and invited me to come along. We talked about Web 2.0, marketing, the Stormhoek
meme and life in London.

We were sipping our waters (and Hugh his scotch) when I said to BL, she really ought to sponsor a Stormhoek dinner. Her response was, "I don't drink", and from there we went down the path of "Why do you need to have wine at a Stormhoek dinner anyway?", and then we came to the
idea, "Let's have a Stormhoek dinner for people who don't drink!"

We discovered this week that for some people in the wine business, this is their idea of a bad joke.

For lots of people who have done dinners, the dinners themselves have
been a lot less about the wine, and a lot more about how Stormhoek is
an example of how the web is changing the world. In fact, when we
first posted about the '100 Dinners', I asked prospective sponsors to
select a topic for the dinner that was SPECIFICALLY not about the wine.

Andrea Rodenberg sponsored a dinner back in May, and she passed along
the text of a speech that she had written for the event. The full
speech is here, but here is an excerpt:

"...here is the first thing that the internet actually changes: our
relationship with the products we enjoy is no longer that of an
audience. It is now a conversation. Stormhoek is a wine company that
gets it. They have provided the wine tonight, not because they have
something to say to their customers, but because they are interested
in what we have to say. They want to participate, here and now, not in
the story they are making for us, but in the story that we make for

For us, a dinner without drinking Stormhoek is a natural thing. It's
not ideal from a product trial, stimulation-of-demand-perspective.
But, unlike most wine people, we acknowledge that the whole world
doesn't drink, but why can't we fit into a little box in the minds of
those who don't drink? To those people, why can we not ask the
question: How can Stormhoek fit into your life? For them, where
Stormhoek fits in may be an interest in web 2.0, marketing, packaging,
open source, the technical aspects of growing grapes or South
Africa... From our perspective, it's all good. It's not just about
"Please try our product". It's also about making a social gesture
[or "Ooze", as Hugh calls it.]

So, for our friends in the trade who are afraid that we will offend the
non-drinkers of the world, we ask, why can't Stormhoek be the wine
non-drinkers would drink, if they did?

It would be the ultimate compliment, really.

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August 5, 2006

"The Other Guys" Release Podcast


Don Sebastiani through his Three Loose Screws and The Other Guys businesses, do some edgy marketing. So we were really pleased to see that they also are taking the video podcast route with the release of their first one this week.

High production values, well done, and a bit less edgy than the wines, but a great first effort.

In stark, stark, contrast, if you want to see a bit of bumbling spontaniety, take a look at Hugh and my first effort from a while back, which we did as a video welcome for some of the 100 dinners.

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August 4, 2006


I spent most of last week with Florent Dumeau, with whom we have been working on an exciting new project in Spain. Florent does great work for us and is one of the world’s most gifted winemakers. Florent was trained the the University of Bordeaux and has worked at a number of the Grand Crus. The week reminded me that I have wanted to do some posting about the Bordeaux market for a number of months and as that market goes from the outrageous to the sublime to the perverse, it’s just too juicy to ignore.

The Bordeaux market has been in a severe (and worsening) depression for at least four years. The situation is due to a complex combination of things: Reduced demand (market doesn’t like most of their products and French consumption is declining), overvaluation of assets (returns cannot service absurdly high real estate prices), arbitrary price controls (it is illegal to sell below certain set prices), subsidies (have eroded competitiveness) and over regulation (limiting the creativity of the producers).Needless to say, the result is absolute turmoil.

Other wine markets are or have been in turmoil over the last few years, but the free market tends to bring order fairly quickly to those markets. California suffered badly during the early 2000’s. Their response was: Two-buck Chuck, ripping out vines that were unproductive or unneeded, development of more exports and lots of consolidation (Constellation made many of their key moves during this time). The market now is in good shape.

The Australians are now in the same position as the Californian’s were. They are doing pretty much the same thing: Focusing on exports, cutting prices. There have been some major changes in ownership of assets.

Fundamentally, the problem with the wine market is that when it goes into oversupply in a given area, e.g., there is more wine than buyers, wine becomes worth close to nothing. Fast. Once wine becomes worth nothing, the value of all production related assets in that area become really depressed. Including vineyards, tanks, pumps, wineries, etc. The cycles tend to be long enough that people panic. On a trip to Australia earlier this year, I visited a $35 million winery has been sold for about $5 million.

The cycles are hard, but there is lots of money made during the good years and one of the challenges of the long term players is to average out their returns and make sure that they have the cash to weather the inevitable downturns.

Bordeaux is different however. Firstly, it is important to understand how huge it is. There are about 80% as many grapes planted in this little corner of France as all of California There are 12,000 wineries, 160,000 ha of grapes. It is steeped in history, which makes for great marketing stories, but also weighs producers down under old conventions and 19th century thinking.

There is a sea of wine in Bordeaux that is unsold. However, the price has now been regulated by Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (a growers organization), such that AOC Bordeaux cannot be sold below E1,000 per tonneau (about E1.10/litre). This price is self imposed by the growers in charge. So no matter how desperate any seller is, they cannot sell at a market price, if it is lower that the set price.

This effectively prohibits the Bordeaux producers from doing what the Californians and Australians do, that is, when wine is in surplus, lowest, higheset volume and cash generating part of the market. Instead, growers have opted to distil wine. There can never be a Bordeaux “Two Buck Chuck”. The Australians and South Americans now own the low end of the market in the UK, despite the fact that there are additional EU taxes levied on non-EU imports.

The arrogance of price controls is that the growers believe that consumers actually need their wine and will, therefore pay an above market price for the privilege. It doesn’t help things.

Bordeaux is partially in crisis because the more affordable wines have been really poor for a long, long time. But they once owned the premium wine market along with their Burgundian counterparts. However, by ignoring changing tastes, they failed to see that much better wines that were being made by all sorts of talented people in the New World and other parts of France. Today, they are suffering from generations of complacency.

In the midst of all this desperation where the ‘have nots’ are marching ever closer to precipice, there exists a small group of ‘haves’ that are reaping great rewards.

It is an amazing dichotomy and a stark contrast. The have-nots are marching in the streets and the haves are racing to the country club in their Ferraris. In some cases, only a few hectares separate them.

More about this later.

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August 3, 2006

Wine Expression

jathan Mackenzie.jpg

A while back, Jathan Mackenzie of Winexpression.com hosted an informal Stormhoek dinner in Pleasanton, CA.

Now he didn’t tell us at the time, but we’ve since discovered, that prior to his dinner he headed to the store to pick up a couple of stand by wines ‘in case the Stormhoek was undrinkable!’ Oh ye of little faith, Jathan. We’re assured he didn’t have to open those up…phew.

Jathan’s verdict was that the Pinot Grigio:

‘is a crisp wine with good citrus and fruit flavor, a nice finish and a great overall mouthfeel. The bottle is closed with a screwcap and has a drink by date to ensure freshness. This wine is refreshing and very food friendly’

He admits he was initially anxious about the Pinotage:

‘I opened a bottle from a different producer a few nights before and was greeted with an overwhelming aroma of ash, and a flavor that rendered the wine undrinkable. I did some research and realized that most people don’t like Pinotage, except for South Africans. I feared the Stormhoek Pinotage would mimic the first bottle I had, but I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. The wine had a nice blackberry flavor, with a smoky finish that wasn’t overwhelming at all. This was a great bottle that stood up to some of the more pungent cheeses that we had that night. I was impressed with some of the subtle flavors and would definitely pick up this wine once released'

The night turned out great and everyone had a blast, which is cool. Jathan’s final word?

'These wines speak for themselves, and I encourage everyone to pick up a bottle or two!’
Cheers Jathan.

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August 2, 2006

For Flux sake, do we really need another MySpace?


We’re big fans of social software, but wonder whether youth social networks such as the new MTV site, flux.com, will really last the test of time.

Flux is MTV’s way of reinjecting life into the 25 year old brand; a social networking site that combines a website and TV channel with user-chosen music videos, & messaging from mobile phones and communications using and Avatar.

But initial feedback isn’t overwhelming. Although the popularity of youth-target sites such as MySpace may seem in line with MTV’s market, is the appeal of this new site really engaging and different enough for them to establish a credible share in the marketspace? The idea of combining a website and TV channel sounds intriguing, but if their respective audiences are quite different, will it be sustainable?

What interests us most about this latest launch - combined with the recent axing of ‘Top of the Tops,’ the long-running chart TV show in the UK - is

If MTV, which redefined pop culture during the 80's, feels it’s struggling to keep with the times, what the heck does that say about the archaic wine industry... wine messages and overall communication tactics haven't changed in generations.

WIll the wine business ever progress? Or, will the strategy of Heads buried in reinforced concrete prevail?

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Q: How many animal rights protesters does it take to save the puppy?

Longfellows Greenhouse.jpg

A: 190 at Stormhoek Fan, Viaggiatore's greenhouse garden party!

Well, they weren’t exactly animal rights protesters – they were more interested in all things horticultural than anthropological, but even so they seemed to like the 'Buy me or the puppy gets it' prints sent courtesy of Hugh MacLeod.

Actually, the puppy’s not entirely off the hook yet. Rumour has it, famed London video podcaster, Lloyd Davis, has been trolling around pet shops looking for volunteer pups... Can't wait to see the vid.

We’ve had lots of enquiries about where people can buy Stormhoek in the US, but I’m afraid we haven't quite finalised distribution listings for all the States just yet. We’re working on it though so watch this space! Rest assured we’ll let you know as soon as we have final confirmation….

All the best things are worth waiting for, right?

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