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Center of the Universe?

Center of the Universe?

We’ve been thinking about small. The sorts of places that don’t really matter much to most people. The kind of place that folks have maybe heard of, but will never find the time to visit. The fact that they are ‘out of the way’ doesn’t make those places less special, or interesting, but it in the eyes of some, it does tend to marginalize their importance.

For most folks in London, Shanghai or New York, South Africa is one of these places. While that doesn’t sit well with us, it is a fact of life. But, we come to realize that once you accept the fact, then the world looks like a much different place. We see the potential of small. The beauty of simple and the promise of an elegant idea that could make a difference.

What’s this got to do with wine, you ask?

Well, we are doing a launch for our new label in the US. But, we’re thinking: Why do the usual? Why beg the people who view us as being from a place that doesn’t matter to pay attention to our wine- let’s talk to people who actually view the world more the way we do. People who have rich lives in small towns, who make a difference every day and yes, who still “Dream Big” from little places.

So, we’re off to Alpine, Texas, not far from Marfa and just up the road from Valentine. We’re looking for Dreamers and people who stand out from the crowd. We have great hope that these folk by Dreaming Big, can Change the World.

Stay Tuned.

“The one with the back label on the front”

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[The new Stormhoek front labels. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

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[The new Stormhoek back label. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

After many months in development, Stormhoek has finally got its new label designs.

The front label is a fairly classic look [our customers like that a lot]. We had a ball, however, with the back label. Notice how we put both the Blue Monster logo on the back [without any explanation], and also, the Unofficial International “Hacker” symbol. Oh, yeah, we also borrowed the “Change the World or Go Home” tagline from the Blue Monster [Disclosure: gapingvoid is more evil than Microsoft. Just so you know.].

The vast majority who see our wine on the shelf have never heard of us before, have never read gapingvoid, and don’t know us from Adam [The same is true for the vast majority of other wine brands]. So most of the marketing is done on the supermarket shelf. It’s actually pretty intense, thinking about it all.

The funny thing is, people in the trade like the back label SO MUCH there’s already talk happening about Stormhoek being the first wine to have itself stacked on the shelf with the back label facing frontward.

So the Stormhoek hook becomes: “The one with the back label on the front”.

I love that idea… We’ll see what happens.

[UPDATE: Stormhoek Twitter UK Promo:] I’ve been allowed to send sample bottles to anybody who wants one. The deal is, you have to be UK-based, of legal drinking age, and on Twitter. Send me an email if you’re interested, Thanks. Rock on.

(The above was originally posted by Hugh at www.gapingvoid.com )

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the “smarter wine” idea

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[Official "Smarter Wine" logo etc.]

At Stormhoek, the wine company I work for, our basic schtick is this philosophy we call “Smarter Wine”. This is what Mark Earls would call the “Purpose-Idea” of the company; i.e. the reason we get out of bed in the morning and go to work every day. Here are some thoughts on what Smarter Wine means, in no particular order:

1. Smarter Wine does not imply that we’re “smarter” than anywhere else. It’s an ideal that we aspire to, not that we embody. The idea is not something Stormhoek will ever “own”, like a tagline in an ad campaign. It’s an idea I think EVERYBODY in the trade should get their head around, be they makers, sellers or buyers, large or small. But hey, I would say that.

2. Everyone’s definition of “smarter” will be different. I’m OK with that. To me, it means continually engaging the customer at a higher level, continually raising the bar.

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3. The brilliant thinker, Russell Davies identified four keywords that will govern the future of the advertising business. About as succinct a list as I’ve ever seen:

Blurry. Useful. Interesting. Always In Beta.

“Always In Beta” is a popular term in Silicon Valley. In an ideal world, it would be equally popular in the wine trade as well. It’s unfortunate that this is not the case.4. A word people like using in the wine trade is “innovation”. Some companies pay it only lip service, some companies actually try to embrace it full-on. But it’s harder than it looks. Wine is one of the oldest products in the world; change happens slowly and with great reluctance. Sure, putting wine in funky-dunky plastic or aluminum bottles might be technically “innovative”, but does the average wine customer actually want that? A more interesting question for me is how the wine connects with people on an emotional and intellectual level. That to me is where the real action is.

5. Big ideas start out as little ideas, and lots of them. What do companies like Apple, Nike, Innocent Drinks and Starbucks have in common? Superficially, very little. But one thing you’ll notice about them is that they’re constantly coming up with new stuff. Constantly trying out new ideas, seeing what happens, and if it doesn’t work out, they move on quickly. Their schtick is all about taking frequent small steps in the right direction, as opposed to betting the farm on the annual Superbowl ad. Creating a constant stream of “Social Objects”. We take a similar approach at Stormhoek [We're a small wine company, frankly, so we have no other choice]. Different branding ideas, different cartoon label ideas, different sponsorship and PR ideas. On one level it’s a highly unpredictable way to go about it. On another level, it’s amazing how certain we are that SOMETHING good comes out of it eventually.

6. Eighty per cent of vineyards in the world do not make a profit. Eighty. Per. Cent. Other fun stats: There are 50 countries in the world that have wine industries. Italy alone has 500,000 vineyards. Sicily has ten times the vineyards as Napa Valley. Conclusion: The competition is off the scale. Besides making good wine [obviously], the only way forward is to somehow figure out, by any means necessary, how to rise above the clutter. The only way to do this is to speak to people in a way our industry has never spoken to them before.

7. I am not a wine expert. I am not a wine snob. I am not a wine bore. I am not even a wine geek. When I think of the business I’m in, I do not think of the vineyards, the lifestyle porn that’s famously attached to the industry, the “hummingbirds gathering nectar in the morning dew” palaver. My thoughts are more prosaic. I think about a person pushing a shopping cart through a supermarket, a teacher or a nurse, perhaps, who’s there buying food because she’s cooking spaghetti for her boyfriend that evening, who just wants a good bottle of wine for under ten dollars to go with it. Her needs, as simple and basic as they are, interest me FAR MORE than satisfying the vast sea of social pretentions that lives inside the wine trade.

8. Not everybody inside the trade will “get” the Smarter Wine idea. In marketing terms, it not that big a deal. As Oscar Wilde once quipped, “A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

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

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What’s been happening?

Everyone from my mom, to friends and customers have been emailing and asking “Why aren’t you posting as much as you once were?”

Fact is, we and many other bloggers have come to realize that its hard to do all the stuff you need to do every day to make a living, AND spend the time needed to do cogent, hopefully interesting posts. But, we have all resolved to actually post what has remained in draft on the blog software and even Graham has promised an occasional post on the latest developments in the cellar.

We’ve also been waiting for our long overdue redesign of the blog, which you see here and we hope will make the blog easier to read and follow. Thanks to our buddy Lee for all the hard work on making this happen.

For those of you that were thinking that we were sitting on our butts, perhaps over-indulging in fruits of our labor (you’d be right only about part of that). But, there’s been lots happening and I’ll gradually bring you up to date on all of it.

We did a film in partnership with Brintex for the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, called “Smarter Wine, The Movie”. We reckon a few thousand people saw it over the course of the Fair and oddly, we’ve been getting steady requests from competitors for the DVD, so we thought it might be of general interest:

Many retailers, importers and other friends kindly lent some time to the effort. The video was produced by the one and only, Colin “Spielberg” Kennedy.

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