Lea Simpson

It’s geeky, but you can drink it

In Feeling the food love, Geekery on April 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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How easy-going was Robert's wine tasting? Well I walked in with one of these and walked out alive. That's how.

On Friday night I attended my second Twitter live wine tasting event, as conjured by Robert McIntosh.  I blogged about the first one way back in August last year. The thinking goes like so: groups of people around the world can convene around a table laden with gorgeous food (this time with thanks to the awesome kindness of The Lansdowne Pub in Primrose Hill and drink amazing wine. These various groups are then brought together through the magic of the Twitter hashtag, where tasting notes, compliments and the occasional taunt are shared across the oceans and aggregated on the live tasting site.

This people, is wine 2.0. And it rocks.

It rocks because the strategy is so sound and so utterly perfect for the web. Robert loves wine and knows truckloads about the luscious liquor. But unlike the wine universe we’ve probably all encountered at some time or another, he wants wine to be more accessible – less up-itself, shall we say. So unlike other tastings I’ve been to where one might feel a tad forced into using phrases like ‘leathery yet floral bouquet”, Robert encourages notes like this one from @browners

“Wine number 5. #ttl. Chateau neuf du pape. I’m a massive fan of this.

Ending on a high. Like Amy winehouse probably will.”

To me, the reason these nights work so well is because they tick all the boxes of an authentic social media endeavour. They’re arranged by actual people, that you actually meet. They have a real, genuine desire to achieve something worthwhile. They’re not forced, over-strategised or massively contrived. They don’t sell, sell, sell (though I am going to buy as many oodles of the Chateau neuf as I can afford). And they understand the return on their investment (time and money) will come steadily, organically and surely.

During the course of the evening, a group of digital strategists, wine 2.0s and food bloggers (and a lot of them are all three) got talking about why these evenings are so successful and how horribly wrong brands get it when they try to mimic the grassroots adventures started by the digital ‘community’ (if there is such a thing).

There were many opinions around the table, to my mind, the thing that brands get wrong most often is the subtlety of the affair. A traditional marketer hearing about our evening might feel compelled to create something similar. Unfortunately, creating a list of bloggers and then sending out a blanket email inviting them to a thing and quite blatantly asking them to sell your product for you is not the same thing. And as a brand person I suspect quite strongly that it achieves the complete opposite and puts people off your brand entirely. It’s a shame, because it dampens the entire spirit of all that is online and collaborative.

I think brands who want to dip their toes in social media waters should consider these two things first:

  1. Reality Bites – You have to work way harder as a big brand trying to play the digital grassroots game. Typically, there’ll be a level of cynicism to deal with that you wouldn’t encounter if you were just a dude who loved wine.
  2. RIO what? – There is no standard for measuring these activities yet. This is not television. We don’t know how many people you’ll talk to. We could guess, but hey, we’d be guessing. And if you’re honest with yourself (and this is a whole other post) you don’t know much about TV either, the industry’s just older and standardised myths to work with.

After a lot of consideration, I’m starting to think that Social Media stuff for corporates needs its own rule book. I’m not convinced that the purist approach cuts the corporate brand mustard. And I don’t know that it’s right for brands or their audiences to attempt to mimic the organic slow-burn that’s so seductive on a grassroots level.

What do you think? If you’re a blogger, have you been approached in a vile way by e-PRs (I certainly have)? What did you do? And what do you think of bloggers who sell their souls for a freebie? If you’re a strategy-head, what advice do you give your clients?

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  1. Love your review and you really get it, which is so rewarding to me as the person trying to spread the word. Thanks so much for this.

    It was great to look at wines that were a little out of the traditional “branded” area – let’s face it, France needs a bit of help with that. Glad you liked the Autard Chateauneuf du Pape – I see you are a lady of refined (and expensive) tastes ;)

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