How often do you set out on a journey without any clear idea of where you're going? Without the benefit of GPS or a map? The only excuse would be if neither were available - or affordable. If you're selling wine in a new region of Africa, for example, it may well be that the only information on that market comes in the form of expensive reports of unproven reliability. But scouting out the developed markets of Europe and the US far simpler.
One of the huge differences of living and working in 2018 compared to 1998, or even 2008, is the ability to analyse market trends at a far lower cost than ever before. Accurate sales data from companies like Nielson, Pantar, and IRI can be expensive. But data on marketing success in terms of consumer awareness is surprisingly affordable, thanks to the arrival of social media and the availability of multiple means of analysing the way a brand or a name, is actually being used by the users of that media.
As long as a decade ago, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux - CIVB - carried out a fascinating piece of research using social media analysis of the way users of Facebook, Twitter, online forums and elsewhere in a number of countries, referred to Bordeaux wine, and the context in which they did so. In France, the references often referred to food. People talked about what they were planning to eat, and the Bordeaux wine that would go well or poorly with it. In the US., apparently, there were far fewer references to food and wine matching. And far, far, more to the number of Parker or Wine Spectator points particular wines had been awarded. The references to food and wine varied from country to country. Denmark for example, scored more highly in this respect than the UK.
The value of this information to Bordeaux is obvious. The marketers of the region's wines had a clear choice. They could either focus their food and wine matching efforts on the markets such as France and Denmark where this was already of interest, and not in markets such as the UK and US. Or they could make a specific effort in the last two countries to try to build a greater awareness of the relationship between Bordeaux and cuisine.
Analysing social media references to a brand is an invaluable means of tracking the success of one's own marketing efforts, but also those of the efforts of one's competitors. For an affordable few hundred, or certainly a few thousand dollars, a region or a brand can analyse how often its own name appears, the positive or negative context, and the relationship to other subjects. It can also analyse a number of related topics. For example, if I were selling Prosecco DOCG and standard Prosecco, I could actually check to see how often there were references to Prosecco DOCG, Prosecco, and Prosecco Valdobbiadene and decide where and how to focus my marketing efforts.
Marketers who schedule their online activity to the times at which consumers are likely to be reading it in particular key markets - as every serious professional should be - can refine that timing by using a young service called Enolytics which claims to track the hour of the day when a brand is being discussed online in every state of the Union.
Analytics also enables one to look at the identity of the people who are talking about one's wine. Who are the opinion formers? Are they the people who simply claim to be forming opinions, or the ones who are actually doing so? If Blogger X claims to have a wide reach online, it's possible to follow up how many people are quoting him or her both in general, and in the context of the kind of wines you are interested in. None of the free analytical services, such as Google Analytics, Klout and so on are 100% reliable, but they will all give some kind of impression of the relative importance of the person involved.
Similarly, Wine Searcher data can look at the location of references to wine. It may be that a wine brand has very good distribution in one state, but is actually getting more coverage and more discussion, online in a different state where distribution is poor. Similarly, it may be that an opinion former based in one place is actually getting more reach in a totally separate region of the United States. Or indeed, between countries.
Jamie Goode, a prominent blogger, may actually have a greater impact on sales in the US, where he has a large following, than in the UK, where he lives and works. Obviously, the knowledge of where people are talking about your wine has a direct bearing on the efforts that you should be placing on the distribution and the marketing of your wine in that particular region, or indeed by a demographic group.
In the 21st century, maps and guidance aids come in all sorts of shapes. You can take choose the ones you prefer, but most will help you to avoid getting lost on your way to the market.