Why Trump is like the average wine consumer

Friday, 2. June 2017 - 11:15

Like many people, I've recently been thinking about Donald Trump. Not (just) about his likely impact on world trade or climate change or the US health system, but at the way he consumes food and information.

When it comes to eating, the Donald is apparently an uncomplicated soul. He likes steak - well done - and with ketchup. 

It is easy to mock this simplicity of taste, especially if you are the kind of person whose idea of heaven includes exploring unfamiliar cuisines. But Trump's approach to food strikes me as remarkably similar to vast numbers of consumers' attitude to wine. Just watch customers in London or New York bars ordering Pinot Grigio or Prosecco by the glass or bottle. Just listen to otherwise sophisticated people declare their preference for Sauvignon Blanc and Rioja. Like the president, they're simply sticking to what they know.

The problem for a brand-owner is that most of these people know and care as little about the identity of the producer of their favourite wine style as Trump does about the people who farmed and butchered his meat.

The answer, of course, lies in capturing their attention. And, strangely enough, that brings me back to the occupant of the White House. Despite the fact that he is 70 years old, Donald Trump seems to have quite a lot in common with people half a century younger when it comes to consuming information. He apparently prefers not to have to read pages of text; images, and ideally moving images, are more his style. If words have to be consumed, Reuter's reported that "National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump's name in 'as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he's mentioned.'"

Again, mockery, might seem to be in order, but there are lessons to be learned here too. Ok, so the president is focused on how everything applies to him, but isn't that true of most of us - though possibly to a lesser extent. We're far more likely to be interested in a wine if it is being presented to us as a perfect accompaniment to the dish we are about to eat than as something produced by someone we've never met in a country we know little about.

Our problem generally as professionals is that we enjoy browsing in wine shops, exploring new varieties and regions and maybe reading all about the winemakers. And far too often and for no good reason, we think that our customers share at least some of these tastes. 

As a thought experiment, why not imagine instead that the person we are targeting has the attention span of the most powerful man in the world?

Robert Joseph