Wine Marketing: Industry, Please Meet the Backwards Bicycle

Our decisions and thought processes are a factor of what we have previously learned in our lives. Right or wrong, those experiences shape our thinking and help guide our decision making going forward. In business, very often that context provides a disservice to decisions that need to be made as the markets and consumers have moved to a new reality. 

Case in point of the "Backwards Bicycle" , which demonstrated that it took nearly a year for an adult to unlearn preconceived notions as to how to ride a bicycle, that was configured in a different way from what everyone has known to date. On the other hand, a child mastered the new method of riding a "backwards bicycle" in about two weeks.  

With wine as an agriculture product, it is without a doubt a significant mindset for wineries to be production driven. However, the reality of the need for consumer orientation has passed many traditional wineries by the wayside. The pride of history and generations of owners lends itself to a focus on the land, and the people who serve it. It is a gracious and at times a hard lifestyle, but to its detriment, has the business of wine rooted solely in its terroir and cellars.

With few exception, the industry has to rethink how it brings to market its wines as they travel through the convoluted route to market in the U.S. and beyond. Between the explosion of brands and continued constricted channels of distribution, the sector needs to understand that in the end, it is the consumer who is in charge. The industry believes it understands the market, but by and large, it has not yet learned or even considered it has to learn to ride a backwards bicycle and forget most of its preconceived notions. 

The consumer is in charge, and when that is not recognized at the production level, problems abound. The industry needs to stop the assumptions about what products to bring to market, and elevate its efforts to create wines that will actually be wanted in the marketplace. Is it too late for many? Perhaps already so as wineries are being sold at a decent pace, and consolidation is the name of the game. 

This measure of understanding will mostly fall to a next generation of winemakers, as they will adjust and create brands with a voice and palate preference that is consumer driven. That future is here today and those that don't pay attention will fall by the way side, and fall off the backwards bicycle. Case in point, the Forbes article on the rapid rise of winery mergers and consolidations. Perhaps today's read from Rabobank adds more weight to the realities: "European wine category to continue M&A activity with eye on US market," 

The alternative is that the industry resists and remains stuck on the current path, plugging slowly forwards, but pedaling in the wrong direction.