The 2014 Unified Symposium
Written by Deborah Adeyanju
For wine professionals, a day at the Unified Symposium is a lot like being a kid in a candy store. The annual conference and tradeshow is the U.S. wine world’s largest gathering. It’s a showcase for all things wine-related: from up to the minute seminars, to equipment vendors, publications, tastings and evening networking events. While en primeur season in Bordeaux eclipses it in glamour and the Napa Valley Auction certainly draws more wine celebrities, the Symposium is a huge event. This year’s drew a record number of 14,000 attendees and 668 exhibitors.
So what (and who) stood out for us amidst the capsule makers, wine label designers, bottlers, vineyard management services and equipment vendors? Well, we were blown away by G3 Enterprises’ temperature sensitive ink.
Technically named thermochromic ink, when used on wine labels these inks are the perfect signaling system for consumers wondering if their wine has reached the correct serving temperature. Not only do the colors on the label change as the temperature fluctuates, but the pattern changes as well. We’d never seen anything like it! The branding possibilities and potential for bottles to really stand out on the shelf are significant.
The breakout sessions were pretty comprehensive, covering topics from viticulture to the state of the industry, to marketing and regulations. We took special note of two focused on marketing. The Demystifying Digital Marketing discussion featured Kristy Sammis of Clever Girls Collective, writer Shana Bull, and Belinda Weber, Duckhorn Winery’s Marketing Director. Defining digital marketing as encompassing PR, paid advertising, search, mobile, and social media, they emphasized that these outlets can act as powerful feedback loops driving offline/in person interactions with clients. And with Twitter (241 million active users), Facebook (1.2 billion users), LinkedIn (277 million members), Instagram, Google+, and YouTube together boasting large and growing numbers of dedicated users, social media presents significant opportunities to extend brand reach and foster customer engagement. The panel also encouraged engaging with trade buyers, as well as the importance of monitoring customer interactions and using this information to re-target, with Duckhorn as an example of a winery that has employed a successful digital marketing strategy.
In Mastering the Basics: 10 Things You Can do Today to Boost Your PR and Marketing Success, Mimi Gatens of Trefethen stated “consumer direct is the wave of the future.” Social media in particular can generate enormous impact given the critical and growing mass of users. Ms. Gatens underlined the size of the opportunity it represents and the need to invest in staff, websites, and visuals to drive engagement. We would add that email marketing should not be overlooked, especially with most users accessing their email via always-on smartphones.
But our key takeaway was the message, “You can’t be the expert on everything.” Ms. Gatens advice: hire a team of experts for discrete projects. This virtual team would encompass a PR consultant for special product launches, a copywriter to develop your messaging, and a data analyst to analyze marketing campaign effectiveness and help with targeting. We couldn’t agree more! And Johnston & Alves stands ready to help with any project, large or small.
Business concluded, we joined in the wine tasting, touring several of the U.S.’ wine producing regions in the span of an hour, without ever leaving the building. New York’s Wine & Grape Foundation poured some of its signature Rieslings and ice wines, plus a varietal Cabernet Franc. Closer to home, we visited emerging regions like El Dorado, stalwarts like Santa Rita Hills with its famed Pinots and Mendocino with its cool climate ones. Missouri’s Wine & Grape Board was a surprise as was its vinifera Chardonnay. All in all, it was a great day at the fair!