Ξ May 27th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Interviews, Technology, Wine News |
The other day I posted an enthusiastic review of The Gort Cloud written by Richard Seireeni of The Brand Architect Group, among other achievements. The book appealed to me because not only because it provided the interested ‘green’ entrepreneur with insight into the ‘tool box’ of branding opportunities available to them, but also because of the comparative low cost of such marketing. It’s all about connecting message to consumer through multiple avenues, most importantly through participation in the internet-based social media revolution.
Naturally my attention would be to promote the exploration of the Gort Cloud’s possibilities for green businesses that make up the wine industry in the largest sense, including, but certainly not limited to, the solar power industry, waste-water treatment companies, biodynamic, sustainable, and organic winegrowers and producers. How might they best raise their profile, distinguish themselves in a world awash with wasteful technologies and wine brands and, it must be said, ‘greenwashing’? And to distinguish themselves autonomously, for pennies on the dollar.
I contacted Mr. Seireeni for his insight on these matters. He graciously agreed to an interview.
Admin Do you yourself drink wine?
Richard Seireeni Yes. More than the doctor recommends, I’m afraid.
How do you select a wine?
RS It is mostly driven by availability and price. I’ll buy what “looks” interesting at Whole Foods, Trader Joes and the local Canyon grocery store. My real passion is Italian wines, so I’ll occasionally go out of my way to find nice Italian reds at a wine shop. But I’m always shocked at the difference I pay for the same bottle in Italy compared to California. And at the end of the day, I have to remind myself that eco means local. For me, that would be wines grown in Santa Barbara.
As (perhaps) a casual observer of wine advertisements, labels, engaging in conversations with wine-drinking friends, how well do you think the industry does to promote the ‘green’ aspects their product?
RS Not very well. Of course, there is organic wine, which has a poor reputation for taste. I hear its improving. I don’t seek out organic, but I suppose I should. On all other levels, I hear almost nothing about sustainable farming, manufacturing and distribution in the wine industry. A couple months ago, while researching the subject, I did come across a vineyard in California that trying to be as sustainable as possible. It seems like a relatively unique story. I am aware of the eco-advantage to plastic corks and non-glass bottles, but this is mostly under the radar.
Winegrowers are notoriously conservative with many quality producers spending hours in the vineyard worrying over endless practical things. Let’s start with the small producer. Of course, they have drive and ambition. They would not otherwise be in such a demanding business! How might they be persuaded to engage new media?
RS The driver of preference for most organic foods has been the health and taste advantages plus finding these things at local Farmers Markets where you meet the producer. No so for wine. The health and taste issues are not well publicized for organic wine. Nor do I see a lot being made out of sustainable vineyard practices. That said, we don’t tend to associate wine growing with giant polluting agra business. The perception (whether or not it is true) is that it’s mostly family vineyards and small-scale production. In other words, I don’t think the average consumer is aware of an environmental impact in his or her choice of wine. It’s just not front of mind, like it is when choosing a new car for instance.
Many wineries have accomplished great things with respect to environmental enhancements and the improvement in working conditions. But they cannot always use them as selling points. The consumer often pays little attention and popular wine trade mags do not often put the environment or social issues front and center. What might be a winegrower’s first steps to engaging elements of the Gort Cloud, to do what programmers refer to as a ‘work-around’?
RS Well, I assume that some wine growers are trying to grow sustainably, but it’s important to realize that “green” is almost never the driver of preference for any product, green or otherwise. It’s almost always something else with green providing halo-effect. That said, producers looking to get maximum price for their products can use gort cloud connections to garner premium pricing. For instance, an eco-conscious winery might reach out to eco-conscious restaurants, grocery chains and food distribution firms within the gort cloud to build premium distribution.
One can engage the Gort Cloud, new media generally, with very little up-front money. Still, budgets are tight. Yet with the wine market filled with a staggering number of choices, the incentive for a producer to draw a distinction is there. Who might the winegrower, especially the smaller one, turn to for basic assistance with new media? Of course, your book would certainly be on my short list!
RS My first suggestion would be to follow the slow food and organic food and sustainably-sourced food groups, which are an aspect of the gort cloud. I’d reach out to the bloggers and trendspotters in these groups for support and echo-effect.
Consumers tend to think that wine is already a natural product, that no further thought needs be given it. Of course, it is not true. Environmental degradation, as with any other agricultural product, it is a part of the price of conventional grape growing. Sustainable methods, Organic and biodynamic approaches, by contrast, are very different. How might their respective certifying agencies, who tend to follow more traditional messaging avenues, better get the word out?
RS Yes, then you have the use of sulfites, which is an historical part of the winemaking process. Nevertheless, there are sustainable farming support and certifying groups that can lend some third party legitimacy to a grower’s claims.
Can you provide examples of what you mean by ‘trendspotters’ and ‘early adopters’?
RS Jill Fehrenbacher of Inhabitat and the editors at Springwise are good examples of trendspotters. Early adopters are the members of your target customer group who are most likely to try a new product first. If you’ve got few marketing dollars, you want to enlist the help of the former and closely target the latter.
About ‘greenwashing’. It perhaps is our nature, certainly our practical experience, to be constantly on guard for deceptive advertisement. What are some of the strengths against greenwashing offered by the Gort Cloud? And weaknesses?
RS There is no such thing as an absolutely green product. It’s all a matter of degree and impact. That why it is important for companies to have some humility and be honest about their green claims. Otherwise, the gort cloud will provide unwanted peer-review concerning exaggerated claims. It’s not fun to be busted. Just ask BP and P&G.
One of the difficulties with ‘greenwashing’ is that certain interests seem to have their own Gort Cloud. How can consumers penetrate the fog?
RS Google will pull up a lively discussion on most significant green claims.
There is always push back; let’s take the example of climate change. Noted environmentalist George Monbiot of the Guardian has coined the controversial term ‘climate change deniers’ to describe, in part, that increasingly organized group of business interests, wayward academics, and political pundits who can themselves engage the blogosphere in significant, if noisy, ways. As a philosophical matter, what do you think they are up to? What is their goal?
RS Protecting their interests. Look at Cap and Trade. Business was against it. Now they are for it. Why? There’s money to be made.
As a follow up, the generation of confusion, noise, seems to play into a general tendency of skepticism on the part of the consumer. They often throw up their hands and say ‘If the experts can’t agree then to hell with it.’ How is ‘green’ fatigue to be resisted?
RS There is already a significant amount of green fatigue, but also a slow realization that we could easily go off a cliff trying to care for an increasing world population amid runaway exploitation of resources.
What is your take on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin? Do you participate in these social networks?
RS Yes, I participate, but I’m also sitting on the bench watching how this will play out. For anyone trying to simplify their lives, this is a giant distraction. For anyone trying to get the word out, it is amazing that there are so many people with so much time on their hands.
If there is something you wish to add please feel free to write it here.
RS Please tell your wine growing friends that I’m happy to taste test the fruit of their labor. No charge.
Thank you, Mr. Seireeni.