Monday, May 16, 2022

(Let’s complain about some parts of) wine marketing

Quite a few of the emails and Comments submitted to this blog are of this type: “I want to use you to advertise my product.” The writers don’t put it in those exact words, of course, but that is the essence of what they are saying. So, believe me, I am very happy about those other people who also write to me, instead of these particular people.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these advertising people, of course, nor with advertising itself. These people simply live in a world where they want you to do things their way, rather than the other way around. Boy, they can sometimes be annoying though, can’t they? Let’s talk about this, today.

Basic wine marketing

As I emphasized, I am not discussing advertising or its usefulness, but am concentrating on the way that it is done far too often (at least in my experience). I am not going to specifically name names in the wine industry, of course, since there is little that is specific to trying to sell wine, as opposed to any other product or service.

For example, we could start with YouTube, instead. Leaving aside the blatant breaching of worldwide copyright laws relating to musical compositions, which so many channels seem to base their entire content on (unless the original content creators are being vigilant, and issue a Take-Down notice), how do we get treated, as customers? After all, the content providers are actually trying to make money from us, in one way or another.

Well, we are often subjected to two consecutive lots of 15-sec ads, before we can even evaluate the content of a video. Do these people really think that I am going to bother with this? There are thousands of other videos to view, so I simply move on. If they were actually treating us like customers, their money-raking activities would occur at the end, not the beginning — we should get some content first. Perhaps even worse are those channels that have ads as well as being sponsored — the latter involving a break in “programming” while the presenters themselves try to flog hair-restorer or insurance to us. Infuriating!

Does this apply to wine advertising on the internet? Well, not directly, as far as I can see. After all, YouTube is banning alcohol, gambling, and politics from its ‘most prominent’ ad slots; so that is tough for the alcohol industry.

But the principle of not letting us even get to the content without an interruption certainly does apply, no matter what web page you go to. Perhaps the most prominent interruption is having a popup appear before you can even read the first few words of content, telling you what the page’s author wants from you. The most common request is for us to subscribe, of course. Subscribe to what??!! We haven’t yet seen anything worth subscribing to!

Receiving an endless series of emails is the most prominent infuriation, in the modern world. That is, of course, precisely why we have to subscribe in order to get to the content — so they can subsequently send us emails. I long ago created a “junk” email account just for this purpose. I use it to subscribe to things that I have no interest in, but am forced to subscribe to, just to read some piece of internet content. The emails sent to that address are, of course, regularly trashed, unread. Emails from organizations that I have chosen myself are another matter, of course (Twitter is for show, but email is for dough).

Actually, I once used to have a Facebook account, too, solely for the purpose of viewing a friend’s photographs — this was before the days of Instagram. Anyway, one day I discovered that I had “liked” a whole bunch of commercial products, most of which I had never heard of. So, I laboriously deleted all of the Likes, one by one. Two days later, most of them were back again. So, I tried to delete my account, instead. Boy, was that an effort! Registering for Facebook is easy, but de-registering is a whole other thing. I succeeded eventually; but it has given me a jaundiced view of the anti-social media, ever since.

On the matter of visiting websites, there is the thorny issue of the use of personal information — gathered by logging every keystroke while you are visiting the site, and later using this to target you. People are not happy about this, which is why we have to explicitly “agree” to the use of cookies before we can get to the website content. Almost all cookies are unnecessary for a successful visit to most webpages; and so, in most cases, agreement is simply an admission of guilt. The statement: “We use cookies to improve your website experience”, is often utter rubbish — if they weren’t tracking us, then we would not have to agree to anything. *

Furthermore, do many Americans know that huge numbers of USA webpages cannot be viewed in the European Union? The EU has very strict laws about the use of private information, and many US webpages blatantly violate those laws. Therefore, the owners of those pages must, by law, block access from EU residents. We residents get a message something like this, instead:
451: Unavailable due to legal reasons
We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time.
This notice is often followed by some platitude such as: “We are working to fix this, to ensure that your data is protected in accordance with applicable EU laws.” Sure — pull the other leg! To add insult to injury, some websites will also put up a Captcha, insisting that I prove to the computer that I am a human being, before I am allowed near the hallowed webpage content. This is the wrong way around — you do not put the onus on the customer to prove that they are an actual customer (or want to be). **

Successful wine marketing

Do these annoyances apply to any great extent in the wine industry? To find out, back on March 23, 2022, I checked the situation for the Wine News Fetch, at Wine Industry Insight. There were links to 66 wine-related news articles listed, arranged in 26 sections. When accessing each of these 66 links, 27 required a cookie agreement from me (40%), at the beginning, and 11 had a “subscribe” pop-up, also at the beginning. Furthermore, two of the sites could not be accessed from the EU, and one required me to complete a Captcha. So, the answer is: Yes, it applies. ***

If you would like an example of perfect irony, try reading this recent article about the very topic at hand (Large spam fine for online wine store) while you have your web-browser's ad blocker switched on (as I always do). You explicitly have to White-List the site (so that the ad-blocker is never used) before you can read more than one sentence of the article.

Apart from direct marketing, as discussed above, much wine advertising is alternatively about brand placement in public. That is, we cannot legally advertise wine directly in many parts of the media, so the ads occur as part of publicly broadcast events (eg. the Casella half-time wine ads during the American Super Bowl). However, there is also the matter of what are politely referred to as “virtual product placements” (aka subliminal advertising). Given YouTube’s alcohol policy, people are starting to take note of what is happening in the movies (Virtual product placement - your wine in their movie) and on television (Reality TV ‘bombards’ young people with alcohol marketing, study says), as well.

Well, what is the moral from this blog post? Don’t annoy your customers, or they won’t be customers for long. There is an old saying that: “The customer is always right”. This is not a definition of “right” but instead is a definition of “customer” — people will not be your customer if you don’t think that they are right, and treat them so.

* I once visited a webpage that was quite honest about this:
We and our partners process data to analyze website performance and to do the following:
Create a personalised content profile. Store and/or access information on a device. Develop and improve products. Create a personalised ads profile. Personalised ads and content display, ad and content measurement, and audience insights. Precise geolocation data, and identification through device scanning.
** I am not going to go into the problems caused by me having an older computer, the web browser on which makes most websites laugh at me, and breaks many of these sites completely. Apparently, I will also have to buy a new computer, just to access much of the future hallowed content.

*** Lewis Perdue has reminded me that there are websites that will scan other websites, and tell you what those sites are up to, in terms of tracking. Perhaps the best known is: The Markup's Blacklight, if you want to try it.