Making Merlot Cool Again with #MerlotMe

We’re halfway through the month of October and #MerlotMe is trending nicely. Looking back to 2013 when the first mention of the hash tag appeared on wine lover’s radars, we can start to see the thing is working.

It all started in September last year when I sat down with Belinda Weber of Duckhorn over lunch. “If you look at restaurant wine lists these days, the Merlot category is disappearing,” she pointed out. And she’s right. Since the movie Sideways came out a decade ago, Merlot has taken a beating.

For Belinda and Duckhorn it’s not really a problem to solve as they are the industry leader when it comes to the Merlot grape. It’s the rest of the industry that needs help. “We’re in a unique position to help the rest of the industry by trying to help revive interest in Merlot,” she went on to say. Duckhorn’s rising tide floats all boats mentality is indicative of the wine industry when it’s at its best. From that conversation at lunch we hatched an idea to use social media to right the SS Merlot ship and make Merlot cool again. Bakas Media handled the social media strategy and Duckhorn coordinated participation with domestic Merlot producers.

“Virtually all the results are consistent with the theory that “Sideways” had a negative impact on the consumption of Merlot…”

- Dr. Steven S. Cuellar, Associate Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University

To be fair, when Sideways came out there was a glut of average juice in the market. Winemakers took a look at clones, farming practices and vineyard management when assessing the quality level being produced. Because Merlot is a chameleon of a grape, it can grow many places and can be made with ease. Over the past decade, the industry has quietly raised the bar on Merlot quality by trimming the fat and keeping the best clones in the best places where above average wine can be made.

This year, we continue the momentum of last year’s #MerlotMe effort with an entire monthlong celebration designed to put Merlot in people’s glasses and to get wine lovers excited about the grape again. We created a microsite with listings of tastings around the country, a visual stream of what people are drinking and a list of participating wineries.

Halfway through October, the stats are as follows:

- Over 700 unique wine lovers have used the hashtag this month

- Over 2,100 tweets have been sent so far

- Over 4,000,000 people have been reached

- Over 33,900,000 impressions have been registered

My Keynote from IMS Boston: Building a Mobile Focused Inbound Strategy

The Pulse Network puts on an event known as Inbound Marketing Summit which takes place around in the country in major markets like San Francisco, New York City and Boston. I’ve had the pleasure of being a speaker at #IMS a few times in the past. Each talk moved progressively more towards inbound marketing on a mobile device based on audience feedback. In this keynote from IMS Boston I talk about the intimacy of the mobile space and how important that is for success in marketing.

We Don’t NEED Varietal Days like #CabernetDay

There, I said it.

We really don’t need social media based wine events like #Chardonnay or #CabernetDay. After all, why would we drink a hearty red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon when it’s summer and the weather is hot? We don’t need varietal days, especially this one.

We also don’t need award shows, ESPN, long walks on the beach or ice cream trucks on sunny days. We don’t need birthday parties, french press coffee, camping trips in RV’s, professional sports, down comforters or even the easter bunny.

We don’t need a lot of things.

But varietal days are here to stay. And lots of people like being part of them. Thousands of people in fact. Last year, over 6,000 people participated in the 2nd annual Cabernet “day” for free. And wineries were able to connect with new wine lovers for free. So why are there critics and haters? Guess it’s part human nature and part jealousy. Anything that’s successful is always going to have critics, it’s just to way humanity works. In this case, there are about ten total critics of varietal days. “Cabernet doesn’t need focus!” they say. Or, “there’s no lead generation from #CabernetDay”. This year the criticism is, “it’s too hot to drink Cabernet!”. Yet, thousands of people did it anyway without any mention of outside temperature.

I was recently interviewed by about why we need varietal days, and I said flat out we don’t. “So why do you do them?” they asked. I can’t speak for other organizers, but for me it’s a desire to be of service to the industry. Many unpaid hours of work go into creating these events with the mind set of “the rising tide floats all boats”. Since there’s no real cost to be a part of it (besides man hours and some samples) there’s no down side. And there’s no real cost for consumers to participate because many wineries donate free samples. There’s nothing but upside for the industry.

If ONE wine lover discovers a new wine or winery, or if ONE winery connects with a new potential customer it’s a success. The original vision for varietal days was to create a big virtual dining room where anyone was welcome to pull up a virtual chair and join the conversation.

It may be warm outside…if you’re in North America. But since this is a global event, it’s not hot everywhere. South of the equator it’s winter, so maybe it’s not too hot out. This year there were event in South Africa, Australia, Chile and Argentina.

Varietal days are the beginning of a new movement. More and more people are organizing their own similar themed events meant to do the same thing—promote the industry and bring people together. If it helps the industry, what’s wrong?

Sure, we don’t need varietal days, but by the looks of it they aren’t going anywhere. We’re just getting started and they’re here to stay.

So in summary, I’d recommend critics of #CabernetDay come up with something better, tune out or get their money back. Oh wait—it’s free.

Introducing Mobile Wine Purchasing

Mobile commerce is the future, and the future is here. Soon we will all be paying for things using our smartphones—from coffee at Starbucks to oil changes to designer jeans and yes, wine.

In the past #CabernetDay has offered wine lovers a chance to connect with winemakers and wineries using social media. This year they can take it a step further and actually buy a wine as they’re tasting it. has partnered with mobile payment provider, PressPay with a whole new mobile marketplace that automatically formats to your mobile device. Now if you taste a wine and fall in love with it, you don’t have to go find it. Now you can buy it in a few taps.

That’s the beauty of PressPay—tap the secure checkout button on a mobile device and it automatically fills in your address and payment info. The key is to download and set up the free payment app ahead of time rather than in the middle of a purchase. The PressPay checkout button will be appearing on thousands of mobile sites by the end of this year and you’ll already be ready.

If you’re at a Cabernet Day tasting, look for bottles with the QR code. If you like the wine, scan the code and buy it. Chances are it’s discounted for #CabernetDay.

Other wineries with mobile purchasing capability to check out on your mobile device:

Jordan Winery
St. Supéry
V. Sattui

HOW the Wineries & Restaurants Can Optimize Apple’s Siri

IN Q4 2011, Apple sold 37 million iPhones with many of the record sales coming from the iPhone 4s with voice searching Siri. Since Siri’s introduction on the iPhone in September, local businesses have been trying to unravel what search results Siri delivers and why.

With 37 million new Siri-enabled phones on the streets, that means 37 million more people asking Siri where to eat or where to go taste wine. And this is just the beginning. Apple won’t disclose how many more devices will have Siri enabled, but it’s sure to a significant number.

Any restaurant, winery or wine tasting room will want to be found by those millions of Siri searchers, but how?

Google Search is not the information source Siri taps into, but Google maps do factor in. Because many mobile searches happen on the go, it’s important to be positioned for localized ranking.

Yelp has long been rumored to be the prime source for Siri search results. This recent experiment by Gregg Stewart supports the theory behind the importance of Yelp:

On January 4, 2012, the voice query for “client name in Troy, MI” results displayed three listings forclient name with no reviews. A second voice query for “client keyword in Troy, MI” provided a result set with 25 businesses and no appearance of client in the search results. The first position was occupied by a business with one review with no stars.

On January 4, 2012, we inserted a four-star Yelp review for a specific client listing as a means to observe, and prove/disprove two elements:

  1. Yelp reviews were a primary optimization key for listings in Siri.
  2. Determine the listings update timing cycle of Yelp reviews into Siri.

Please note – we do not condone creating non-authentic reviews; the review that was inserted was from a customer of the client, used with their permission. If you would like more information for tips on increasing the volume of authentic ratings and reviews for your business/brand, please read “3 Tips To Leverage Ratings and Reviews.”

Each morning at 8:00 a.m. EST, we conducted the same two voice queries: “client name in Troy, MI” and “client keyword in Troy, MI.”


On January 24, 2012, the voice query for “client name in Troy, MI” resulted in three listings for clientwith the first inclusion of the review posted in Yelp on January 4, 2012 (21 days). The second voice query for “client keyword in Troy, MI” provided a result set with 25 businesses and client in the first position of search results.


Yelp reviews directly affect position on Apple’s iPhone 4S results. In terms of update cycle, it would appear that the Siri database is updated on a 30-day cycle. Additionally, the incremental review citation for the client location improved position ranking on Google Maps from positions third, fifth, and seventh to second, fourth, and sixth.

Based on improved SERP position, we recommended that the client undertake a comprehensive program to authentically increase ratings and reviews with specific emphasis on Yelp. This program encourages recent customers to post content for discrete locations as a tactic to improve SERP position and provide content that displays point-of-difference attributes, which increase selection rates for potential customers of our client.


If Yelp wasn’t a focus for winery tasting rooms or restaurants, it should be now. And if Yelp is a focus, it might be time to focus on it even more. The numbers suggest local businesses Yelp reviews are more important than ever.

Pinterest and the Flock+Flood Effect

The new shiny object in social media is Pinterest. The growth of Pinterest in 2012 has been phenomenal, and that gets marketers excited to jump in with both feet to capture some of that growth.

Before Pinterest there was Instagram. Before Instagram there was Foursquare. What starts to happen is we see all the social media blogs start reporting big numbers on infographics and before you know it, there’s a feeding frenzy of people who can’t wait to get in on the hottest new thing and start selling their stuff.

But let’s take a moment and remember to breathe. In a previous blog post I used the analogy of marketers peeing in the pool with social media sites like Pinterest. We don’t fully understand the site. We don’t know how to measure data from Pinterest. We don’t know how to track brand mentions, or see where our content goes. We don’t have proof of any sustainable marketing activity, but who cares? It’s hot!

Before proceeding with any sort of brand building, it’s good to take some time to understand the site and its ecosystem before flooding it with noise.

The ROI of Social Media in the Wine Industry Part 1

-this was originally posted Oct. 2010 on an old blog that has since been moved-

When a winery wants to make wine, they need to find a good vineyard to get their grapes from.  The winery can either plant their own vineyard, or they can buy fruit from someone else.  If the winery decides to plant their own vineyard, they know it’ll be a few years before they’ll see any useable fruit from the vines.  The reason for that is grape vines need about three to four years of growing to establish their roots.

Fruit produced within the first few years would not have all the components of what grapes need to produce good wine.  The roots below the surface play a big role in the quality of wine grapes.  The farther down the roots go, the more nutrients are pulled up through the vines to produce better wine grapes.  If a winemaker tried to make wine from young vines, there would be bad offputting flavors in the wine.  That’s why wineries make a big deal about the age of vines, or “old vines” because older vines produce better wine grapes.

The money invested in a vineyard doesn’t see a return on investment for years, but when the vineyard is nurtured organically, the vines grow, and eventually they’ll produce fruit year after year.  It’s the early stage of development that require patience.


Establishing a social media presence is similar to planting a vineyard.  When a business creates a new profile on a social media site, it’s like planting vines.  You start with zero contacts, then gradually over time that number grows.  When the social profile is nurtured and grows organically, it’s setting the stage for better “fruit” down the road.  For wineries (and many businesses), establishing their brand on multiple social sites creates social brand synergy—meaning they feed off of each other.  And like a vineyard, social media requires upfront investment of money that will produce fruit year after year.  Luckily, it won’t take years for the return to be realized.  Months maybe, but not years.

The #1 question business owners want to know is what’s the ROI of social media.  This two-part series will answer that question using examples from the past year and a half.  I’ve had the good fortune to be the first person hired into the wine industry as a Director of Social Media Marketing at St. Supéry.  There’s been quite a bit of trial and error in all aspects of the winery.  The analogy of planting a vineyard is the best way I can communicate how the ROI is realized.  Here’s how it works:

First Step – Plant the Vines (establishing a social presence)

As mentioned above, a business needs to have a presence on social media sites.  Not because it’s trendy, but because your customer is becoming more social online.  Businesses need to innovate or die.  Each social site provides one more channel in which to communicate your brand message.  I’m not going to tell you this social site is better than that one.  But rather, I’ll suggest each business should work to establish trust online, and pick which sites they feel comfortable with.  For many, that means Facebook and Twitter because of how many consumers are on there.  YouTube, Foursquare and blogs are also popular ways to establish trust.

Social “Currency”

When thinking about what the ROI is going to be, it’s important to note what is of value online.  The word, “currency” has different meanings, especially in social media.  The idea of CRM is evolving into sCRM (social customer relationship management) where social currency has a great deal of value whether it’s U.S. dollars or online trust.  If done right, online trust can be converted into dollars.  Inpart two of this series, I’ll share some case studies where online trust (social currency) was converted into U.S. dollars.

I look at growing vines in a vineyard the same way I look at growing trust online.  Once a consumer“opts in” to a brand (or winery) it appears as a follow on Twitter or a ‘like’ on a Facebook page.  More importantly, it’s the beginning of a relationship.  The amount of trust the brand builds with the consumer depends on how strong their social media team is.  There’s an art to conversing with people online.  If you do it right, you build a great deal of trust, which in turn is converted into dollars much like a vineyard producing fruit.  Social “currency” is other things too like message reach, influence, noise/signal ratio, etc..  The best barometer of social currency is Klout.  You can see anybody’s online “value”.

Customers aren’t just customers any more.  They’re ambassadors.  Social media’s power is the ability to create intimate relationships between brands and customers.  If they trust you, they’ll be more dedicated to your brand, and will influence people they know to also want to be your customer.  That’s not just currency, that’s gold.  That’s ROI on steroids.

Complimenting Existing Systems

Most companies already have a valuable asset — their email database.  New social tools are getting closer to merging email lists with social profiles.  An email database of 10,000 people is not much different than having 10,000 Facebook fans, generally speaking.  Social Media isn’t meant to replace anything, but rather compliment it.  Approach your email list with the idea of building trust and social currency.  The email campaigns and messages should be one spoke on the wheel using the same voice, but also remembering people can opt in, or opt out of what you have to say.  Kick start your ROI by having a complimentary balance between email and social profiles.

“If they trust you, they’ll be more dedicated to your brand, and will influence people they know to also want to be your customer.  That’s not just currency, that’s gold.  That’s ROI on steroids.”

For businesses and wineries wanting to realize the ROI of social media, the vineyard analogy is the best example of how to approach it.  You hire a vineyard manager and trust that person to tend to the vines with their team.  There are good vineyard managers, and there are not.  Vineyard managers have a “touch” or a gut instinct about things.

Growing a successful social media presence is not only necessary, but it too requires a person or team to tend to the online conversations each day in order to keep growing trust.  Each person who “opts in” is one more potential customer.  A good social media person has a gut feel on how to converse with people online.  In part two I’ll describe the personal brand vs corporate brand balance we had at St. Supéry and how that produces results.

Coming Together Like Voltron — The Merging of Media

The very first moment I can remember television and the internet communicating a single message was around 1995 during an NBA game on television. That was the first time the NBA displayed their web address during the broadcast on the side of the scorer’s table. The internet was still a relatively new thing back then, and many brands were building their first websites.

Around that time was also when the first television commercials had a sign off with the brand’s URL, like “” below the logo. It may have seemed strange to viewers to see and internet website address on a car commercial. Those were the first steps down a path of merging media. You couldn’t buy a computer magazine without getting an AOL install CD attached the cover. Back then if you wanted to record a TV show you had to set your VCR to record manually. There was no TiVo.

And the first viral sharing happened via email. Back then the Budweiser, “Whassup” commercial was one of the first videos to be shared to everyone via Reply All. The video wasn’t very big on the screen because we had to keep the file size low in order to share over limited email. There was no YouTube or link to share back then which seems strange to imagine. Amazingly, that wasn’t that long ago.


The different forms of mass media have been on a collision course ever since. In 2012 the social web and popular television have merged into a single shared experience. It’s not uncommon for the average person to have multiple screens on at the same time delivering content like television and a laptop, or television and a smart phone.

During the Golden Globes award show Twitter was on fire with the #GoldenGlobes hash tag hitting 9,000 tweets a minute of people chatting about the show. The number of tweets in 2012 tripled over the number of tweets during the 2011 Golden Globes.

Also during the show HBO previewed their new series, Luck. The sign off of the television ad wasn’t the website, but the hash tag:

Kiefer Sutherland’s new show, Touch debuts in March but during the pilot in January the hash tag appeared in the lower corner of the screen. Viewers can not only chat about the show but stay informed while they wait two months for the show to start:


In fact, many shows now include the hash tag on the screen in the lower corner so viewers can chat with each other during the broadcast. Shows like The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser and Revenge are just a few. The key concept is shared experiences. Convergence of media means convergence of reach. And with reach you have eyeballs.

Hash tags can be tracked on Google+ as well but viewers either haven’t discovered them there or are just sticking with Twitter. The number of #GoldenGlobes posts on G+ were dramatically lower than on Twitter. But during the State of the Union (#SOTU) the white house seeded Google+ with images of the President getting ready to give the speech. There were nearly 770,000 tweets using the hashtag throughout the evening. The White House answered questions live during the speech:

And PBS held a post State of the Union hangout on Google+:

Will the television and computer merge further into one single device? Moreover, will that one single device work untethered? Smart phone carriers are already offering phones that can stream television. But will they stick? The trending pattern certainly suggests mass media will continue to merge into one shared experience, and it will be mobile.

What does this mean for brands? We’re exploring the answer to this question with Envolve Winery, whose winemaker is The Bachelor on ABC. During each broadcast we’re striving for transparency and accessibility. Ben is one of the few TV personalities that will actually respond to people who tweet him. We’re still in the middle of exploring the convergence of media, but like Voltron, when all these elements come together, the result is incredibly powerful.

What Motivates Us: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Back in 2008 I read a book by Daniel Pink called, A Whole New Mind. The premise of the book looked into the reasons for left brain and right brain people succeeding in the workplace. Generally, the idea is that left brain types have found more success running and working for companies because of the inherent analytical nature of “bean counters” who are in charge of many companies. Up until recently, right brain types have struggled in companies led by bean counters.

The book goes on to make the case that all this is changing. Anything that can be outsourced or done more cheaply will be. Things like accounting, computer work, analytics, bean counting, etc. can almost be automated or outsourced overseas. Pink goes on to say the right brain people will succeed in the future because story telling and creatively solving problems will become a valuable skill. For me, the timing of this book happened right as social media was starting to make its way into our day to day lives.

Social Media was going to become a major factor in business culture and would prove Daniel Pink right.


After A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink wrote Drive: The Surprising Truth to What Motivates Us. Again, Pink makes a valid argument that supports social media as part of business culture. It’s almost like these two books are one book split into two. It is true that right brain creative problem solving and story telling are becoming valuable skills. And to get the best out of those right brain employees (and all employees) it’s necessary for business leaders to understand what motivates today’s work force.

This animation shows what Daniel Pink is saying in the book, Drive:

Heineken’s U-Code Idea using QR Codes

Heineken used QR codes at a music festival to connect people with the music and each other. More importantly, it connected people with the brand.
File this under “interesting ideas for mobile marketing”.