Helen McGinn on listening and talking to consumers
Just over a year ago, I took part in a Harpers seminar on engaging the consumer. I’d spoken at numerous events over the years, but always with my wine buyer’s hat on. This was my first outing wearing my blogging hat. I must admit to suddenly wishing I’d given my weekly wine blog a different name - I’m now called ‘Knackered Mother’ as much as I’m called Helen by my friends in the wine industry - but whatever, too late now.
Anyway, the seminar was the first time for a long time that we, as an industry, had got together and talked almost solely about the consumer. I say almost, because every ten minutes or so the discussion reverted back to price/duty/tax but mostly, it was about the consumer. And what shocked me was how distanced we seemed, as an industry, from our consumers. And that, apparently, most consumers don’t care what they are drinking, as long as it is cheap and tastes OK. One look at the comments I get on my blog every week from fellow knackered mothers proves otherwise.
There’s a whole raft of consumers so engaged with food; they love cooking, entertaining, trying new recipes. And much of the communication around food is done without assumption. It is just one person who happens to be good at cooking giving another person a recipe. Yet in wine it is done with the assumption that a) they know lots or b) they know nothing. There is little in-between, and yet there are so many consumers who know what they like and quite possibly want to know more, just perhaps not every last detail.
So, do I think the way we engage with consumers is changing? Hell, yes. Sadly we’re losing column inches in print but we are gaining informed, engaging and - my favourite, humorous - content online. Social media is so fantastically suited to helping spread the word about good wine, and encourages people to say what they think about wines. It is time for us, as industry experts, to stop making assumptions, start listening and most importantly, talk the language of the listener.
Happy New Year. I’m going for a little lie down.
* Helen McGinn runs her own wine consultancy business, Helen McGinn Associates and blogs through the Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club and was recently named blogger of the year in the Red Magazine’s Hot Women awards 2012 and is the IWSC’s blogger of the year