Wineries increase use of smartphone, social media technology

Using technology and social media for marketing purposes is not new, but the way they are being employed is quickly changing as many wineries increase their use of the latest technology to reach consumers and maintain control of branding -- all across the U.S.

[caption id="attachment_29663" align="alignleft" width="363" caption="Jordan Vineyard and Winery gives lovers of its wine a way to keep in touch on the go, such as restaurant wine lists accessible via mobile devices like Apple's iPad shown here."][/caption]

With the implementation of tools such as the iPad, phones with barcode scanners and Facebook applications along with Twitter, Four Square and different video platforms, the reach of wineries is expanding.

This month, Bouchaine in Napa started offering shelf talkers, bottle-neckers and wine list stickers printed with digital tags for point-of-sale display.

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Consumers who download the Microsoft Tag Reader application to their smartphone devices can scan these tags using their cameras, immediately linking to information about the wine, winery, varietal and recommended food pairings.

After the initial program launch, Bouchaine plans to print digital tags directly on bottle labels, beginning with the 2010 vintage.

"Over the years, many tools, digital and otherwise, have been developed to assist wine consumers in making purchasing decisions. Some of these tools did not really offer anything of substance,” said Greg Gauthier, Bouchaine’s vice president of wine production and sales. “We are embracing digital tags technology because it allows us to put valuable decision-making information at your fingertips.”

They like the fact that whether a consumer is a casual wine drinker, a connoisseur or someone who has just made a wine discovery, the application can make it easy to share with friends.

Dry Creek Vineyard will use the tags technology beginning with the 2011 Fume Blanc, which, like Bouchaine, will be on the label.

“Right there in the supermarket the prospective buyer can watch a video of the winemaker talk about that vintage,” said Bill Smart, marketing director.

Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Healdsburg is also using tag technology, but not on the labels themselves.

“I think video integration is a great way to get the rich media to someone who is holding a bottle,” said Lisa Mattson, Jordan’s communication director. “But I don’t think there is a benefit to putting a QR code on a label for us. The technology is moving too fast. Maybe for a sauvignon blanc that will sell out in a year it will be beneficial, but with the fast change in technology, I am staying away from putting it directly on the label.”

Jordan is putting the QR code on tasting notes that can be picked up at an event or, if there is a winemaker dinner, the thank you note could have a barcode that goes to a video of a personal thank you.

Jordan is focusing a lot on the trade tool development as well.

“We are working with restaurants that use iPad wine lists to develop content,” Ms. Mattson said. “We launched our in house videography studio in February of 2010 an now we are developing content to share with consumers what our chef, event planner and winemaker are doing.”

Jordan is also reaching out to sommeliers around the country with videos for staff trainings. With the iPad and video content, Jordan can control the message.

“Content is king,” Ms. Mattson said. “We can tell our story directly. Having that tool that makes it easier for the sommeliers, but we can tell the story ourselves because while Jordan is an established icon … the videos are a reminder of the passion and the people involved.”

In addition to its utilization of barcode tags, Dry Creek Vineyard has been on the forefront of the blogosphere since 2008 when Kim Stare Wallace, owner of Dry Creek, started blogging about winery life. Her blog, Wilma’s Wine World, talks about being the owner of a family winery, a Sonoma County resident and a mother and wife.

“The blog is Kim’s voice. … But I think this year my big focus is video,” Mr. Smart said. “We can walk the winemaker out in the vineyard, sit down in a tasting room and just talk,”

The blog is linked to the winery’s Facebook page where the winery has close to 1,000 “likes” and offers deals to their fans like two for one tastings.

“I see Facebook as an opportunity to share up-to-date content, information, photographs particular casings utilizing Facebook to put information out there.”

This year, Dry Creek partnered with Healdsburg-based Social Candy, a company that has a content management platform that sits on top of Facebook.

The interface allows wineries to have a welcome page that is in line with the branding of the winery complete with and video. “When we look at different businesses, many people don’t know how to use Facebook as a solid marketing tool,” said Darin Kotalik, spokesman for Social Candy. “Many people use the wall to promote products and services. The problem we are trying to solve is technical and financial barriers to making Facebook really work with the brand of the winery.

The basic service starts out at $20 a month and is complete with templates for people to use video and catalogs on their Facebook pages. Marketing directors and tasting room managers can select a template for custom content.

The strength with that, Mr. Kotalik said, is it allows people to control the messaging to their audience.

“You are moving your website over to a Facebook fan page.”

Social Candy has Facebook fan–only promotions.

“We try to provide tools for wineries to increase their fan base by offering promotions that are hidden unless you become a fan like special tastings for fans only or a two-for-1 tasting pass.”

One problem with Facebook in the past has been not knowing what is working and whether it is reaching people.

“With Social Candy, the nice thing with that is you increase your fan base and the trackability, with using promo codes and downloadable coupons, is that you can make use of the analytical tools Facebook has and we leverage them,” Mr. Kotalik said. “We have talked to Facebook and they are trying to encourage businesses to use their platform. They want business users to stay in the Facebook ecosystem.”

Lambert Bridge Winery uses Social Candy to integrate with its online shopping cart and showcase current releases directly to its Facebook fans.

“The integration to our e-commerce system allows us to change content in a single location, and it automatically updates on our website and in Facebook at the same time,” said Monica Smith, the tasting room manger. “Social Candy also makes it easy for us to change our featured wines, update event information and showcase our beautiful winery.”

Some smaller wineries use Facebook to focus the brand and keep the conversation going with fans.

[caption id="attachment_29660" align="alignright" width="199" caption="Claypool Cellars uses Facebook to communicate that the brand is more than a famous musician's name on a label."][/caption]

Claypool Cellers just opened a tasting room in Sebastopol in an old caboose next to the restaurant Starlight. The winery, owned by musician Les Claypool, does about 500 cases a year. Chaney Claypool, his wife, uses Facebook to keep in touch with their more than 5,000 fans.

“A lot of people assume that it is just a musician making wine but it is really good wine, and I think that some of the discussion on Facebook is about that,” she said.

She has been integrating video as well, which started with shooting the bottling process for all the fans to see.

Fritz Winery does about 20,000 cases a year and uses Twitter and Facebook to reach fans.

They see social media as a way to have one-on-one conversations with the audience. However because it is a classic brand, the winery keeps a close watch on the message to keep everything within the brand guidelines.

“There are links to follow us on the social media on our regular website,” said spokeswoman Alexis Traverso. “We don’t want to take away from the main purpose of the website, which is to sell wine. It is a challenge making sure all of your status updates and tweets are in line with your brand. The next challenge is to do a virtual wine tasting on Twitter, with people all over the country.”

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