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NM: Wow! So, it sounds like a Wine 2.0 event is actually a hybrid between a tasting event and a trade show — but in a very heavily social atmosphere.
CG: Exactly. That's a good way to put it, especially for the "Wine 2.0 Expo" events, which are the tasting and trade opportunities where we have the wine 2.0 companies and consumers all in one space. We actually have three other types of Wine 2.0 events. The "Wine 2.0 Experience" events we actually embed into other established events and find a whole new demographic of people that are part of another group, and we help our winery partners get in front of them. At those events we're less of a technology player and more of a marketing entity where we're essentially bringing wine to the party. Then we have "Wine 2.0 At (your business school)" events, where we partner with leading business schools to provide an opportunity for alumni and current students to come together in the context of wine. They're a highly educated, elite customer that wineries want to connect with, so we give them the opportunity to get in front of them and collect customer data. And finally, we have "Wine 2.0 Reserve" events, where we provide an invitation-only type of opportunity for our brands.
NM: And what's been the reception on the part of consumer attendees in general to your events? Do you get a sense that there's a clear understanding and appreciation on their part for what you're trying to achieve with them?
CG: I think you have several levels of consumer involvement, really. There's the traditional, but still cutting-edge, wine connoisseur who has to hunt to find out about our events — we're not part of the traditional places where those people go. Then there is a lot of people who are getting into wine for the first time, a younger demographic, 25 to 35 [years old]. We have a lot of technology employees who are working at Google or Microsoft or Sun Microsystems, the big companies especially here in the Bay Area, or the innovative start-up companies like Technorati or Digg, where they're coming out to socialize — one of them might have have the next opportunity for the Wine 2.0 space.
NM: I think you'll agree that the new generation of consumers and producers view the sales and marketing of wine with a perspective very different from the previous generation. For one, they've fully embraced the use of online tools & technologies, many of which are being used in newer forms of wine media. Given this, I get a strong sense that there's some friction between traditional wine media (primarily newspapers and magazines) and new wine media (blogs and social media, as well as print media that embrace those tools). What is your take on all this?
CG: I think that the wine industry on multiple levels — production, distribution, consumption — is twenty years behind everyone else. They're all amazing people; they do what they do very well. But they're not trying to change the status quo and shake things up. Conversely, there are 70 odd million Millennials, just a bit smaller in size than the Baby Boomers, who are hitting the market now and they have an affinity for wine and an understanding of these technologies. And we're there to help them to get into the marketplace, to understand what the opportunities are for them as consumers, and to provide them with ways to stay informed about wine — with wine tasting events, information about the online components that they need to socialize around wine, and exposure to the cutting edge brands that are going to be the leaders twenty years from now.
NM: Part of what you're doing, then, is facilitating open dialogue in a language in which the Millennials are fully fluent. On the other hand, as you mentioned, a lot of people in the trade, primarily on the production side, speak that language very haltingly, if at all. They're far more likely to be traditional in their thinking and usage of media platforms and marketing tools. How do you get these people on the trade side to begin embracing wine 2.0 methodologies? How do you propose they starting speaking the language?
CG: I think that they need to start by deeply evaluating what it is they want to do. Do they want to maintain their business in the way they've run it for the last twenty years? Do they want to see a competitor of comparable quality, one who understands the technologies and can adapt to newer marketing methods, come onto the scene and begin to take that business away from them? I think Wine 2.0 is a convenient discussion point for so many things that are going on in the wine marketplace: things like using Twitter and Facebook for customer aggregation, or using e-commerce companies for building a website and managing direct-to-consumer and direct-to-trade sales. The technology is here and it's improving; the consumers are younger and smarter and they're using that technology more and more. It's in the trade's better interests to get on board with that, too.