The Gort Cloud, A Must Read For Wineries

Ξ May 18th, 2009 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Book Reviews, Technology, Wine News, Wineries |

The Gort Cloud, written by Richard Seireeni, a “30-year veteran in brand consulting and marketing”, is the most important internet savvy 2.0 ‘how to’ business book I’ve yet encountered. And every winery should read it. It offers a compelling strategy for brand positioning based entirely on ‘Green’ credentials. The book, subtitled The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Green Brands, provides a significant deepening of our understanding of how exactly a business, for our purposes, a winery, might successfully use the internet to secure and extend brand recognition. All that is required is a computer, a story, and commitment to environmentally-friendly practices.
 
So what is the Gort Cloud? From the book’s blurb:
 
“[It is] a vast and largely invisible network of NGOs, trendspotters, advocacy groups, social networks, business alliances, certifying organizations, and other members of the green community that in its entirety has the power to make or break new green brands.”
 
The book documents a series of case studies, successful companies, from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, TerraCycle, to Ben and Jerry’s Homemade, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Stonyfield Farm, all of whom have participated, in varying degrees, in the Gort Cloud.
 
And of its discovery, Mr. Seireeni writes,
 
“As I was busy sourcing information on these companies and their markets, I continually came across families of similar organizations, all sharing some aspect of sustainability. They included individual green businesses and green business alliances; advocacy groups; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government, and education Web sites; bloggers; trendspotters; social networks; certifying groups, technical libraries; news organizations; green guides and shopping sites; authors’ sites; and so many others.”
 
“Despite the fuzzy nature of the beast, I realized that this vast network is connected. People know one another. They share information…. They form alliances and cross-discipline exchanges…. [T]he network is not limited by the internet but facilitated by it. The internet provides convenient glue, but the contents spill out into the real world.”
 
The book’s endpapers provide a helpful visual aid of the Gort Cloud. It is reproduced on Seventh Generation’s web site.
 
So how does this book’s approach to brand promotion and marketing differ from others? After all, we have a multitude of titles to choose from, some of the best listed by the author himself: Cradle to Cradle, Eco-economy, Harvard Business Review on Business and the Environment, The Sustainability Revolution, The Ecology of Commerce, Green to Gold, and Natural Capitalism.
 
As Mr. Seireeni writes, “This book is more focused. It’s written for anyone interested in exactly how others have built green brands and how they developed a following.”
 
With specific reference to the wine industry, to wineries in particular, I’d like to contrast the Gort Cloud’s understanding of the commercial world with that of a recent Social Media Report written by a consulting firm whose principle focus is the wine industry, VinTank.
 
Of themselves they write,
 
“We create innovative, strategic online solutions for selling and marketing wine in the digital age by threading together business strategy, the realities of global wine commerce, the latest technology, and a strong network of relationships.”
 
And their Social Media Report broadly reflects this approach. But a striking departure from the Gort Cloud approach is the complete absence in VinTank’s report of any ‘green’ marketing references, the narrowing of recommended social networking platforms, a traditional insistence on control of the message, and the valorization of the comparative isolation of the winery. I’ll explain.
 
It is often said the proof is in the glass, that how a wine tastes is the principle, distinguishing consumer driver of any wine purchase. Here the consumer is understood as only interested in a single dimension. This would seem to be borne out not only by the success of established trade mags, Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, for example, but more to the point, by the proliferation of internet-based wine review sites, a few of which are profiled in the report. The participation in social networks, and they strongly recommend three they call the “Big Boys”, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, a winery’s participation therefore becomes important because, in the words of the report:
 
“First, wineries have fans — like musicians and bands. To be more specific, winery customers follow a sales/brand acceptance funnel, from lead to prospect to customer to regular customer to evangelist. The psychology of a wine consumer lends them to want to have a direct relationship with the winery. Social media sites are direct enablers of this type of interaction.”
 
If a winery is not happy with playing with ‘acceptance funnels’ then The Gort Cloud concept, by contrast, suggests that a winery’s strength may not be limited to the vagaries of the tasting fan or his/her evangelical tendencies. Wineries have many other possible messaging avenues available to them beyond the 140 character ‘tweet’ or Facebook happy talk.
 
Here are a few of the promotional angles a winery might productively explore according to, as I read it, The Gort Cloud:
 
The use of solar power and other energy saving technologies;
 
Whether grapes are grown sustainably, organically, or biodynamically;
 
The use of a recycled waste-water system;
 
Enlightened farmworker contracts or protections, including health care;
 
The use of electric or biodiesel power for their machinery;
 
The character and depth of their community participation.
 
These are but a few of the possibilities. So how is this information to get out beyond a winery’s website? And I should add that VinTank strongly discourages winery blogs. They write:
 
“[W]e have been a loud opponent of winery blogs for some time. [W]e have heard consistently about the blog readers complaining about infomercials and conversations about terroir, the weather, or a picnic that they had.”
 
It is not clear where else but on a winery blog that all of the green and social justice achievements they might have realized, those listed above, might be read about. And it would seem ‘conversations about terroir, the weather’ are rather close to the heart of winegrowers. The ones I know are dying to tell folks about what they do, about their labor. Be that as it may…
 
And so it is that the author of The Gort Cloud would advocate that a business, a winery, also reach out beyond the limits of consumer preference sites (to the degree they are based on wine tasting alone), and make contact with diverse elements within The Gort Cloud. These would include advocacy groups, special interest authorities, green search engines, educational institutions, trendspotters, bloggers and podcasters, as well as social networks.
 
The Gort Cloud provides numerous compelling examples of how brand buzz may be generated through the promotion of green accomplishments, not to mention those bearing on social justice, by entering into a larger conversation, not simply that of impressionable millennials. Of course, a winery must have the goods, they must walk the walk. And in a world where 250 thousand wines are produced each year, a winery can ill afford not to use every marketing advantage at its disposal.
 
The age of what Seth Godin has called “shouting at strangers” is over. Green practices are a good place to start a real conversation.
 
For my subsequent interview with the gentleman please see this.
 
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2 Responses to ' The Gort Cloud, A Must Read For Wineries '

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  1. Richard Beaudin said,

    on May 19th, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    To be fair to VinTank, I found the report (as well as the recent report from Silicon Valley Bank – http://www.svb.com/pdfs/wine/StateoftheWineIndustry0910.pdf) – to be well written and informative, and I would think, its conclusions of great interest to small and medium wineries.

    That said, I do think you have a very good point: in order to take full advantage of social media (that is connecting strongly with current and prospective customers), a winery needs to look internal to itself and determine how best to connect with those customers. What are those things that differentiate itself from its competitors? How can it optimally identify prospective customers for its products?

    Certainly, green is one area that would allow a winery to go outside of the large (Facebook, LinkedIn) social networks as well as the top wine social networks (Cellartracker, Adegga, Snooth, etc.), and build a presence as well on green social networks, thus increasing its visibility, followers, and ultimately, sales of its products.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

  2. Administrator said,

    on May 19th, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you, Richard, for you comments. I think it is important to stress that VinTank’s strategy is very flexible. I don’t think they would have any trouble adapting the ideas found in The Gort Cloud to their own consulting work. Indeed, it is to be hoped they do!

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