Paul Wagner is the president and founder of Balzac Communications & Marketing based in Napa Valley, the prestigious wine region in California, United Sates. The expert will give a lecture via videoconference on the 2012 8th International Wine Forum (VIII Foro Internacional Vitivinícola).
What do you think about the situation of Argentine wines in the United States?
It is an exciting time for Argentine wines now in the USA. Malbec has become a new category in the market, and Argentina is clearly defining the style. And Torrontes fits in perfectly with the new demand for sweeter and aromatic white wines. Argentina has an enormous opportunity to build a lasting position.
Where does Argentina stand against its competitors? Do you think the country’s positioning may suffer because of the increase in the average price of its wines?
In the USA, consumers equate higher prices with higher quality. And so, Argentine wines are seen as much higher quality than Chilean wines, which often market on lower prices. I think it is important to emphasize the value and quality of Argentine wines, not try to compete for lower prices.
Who are the ‘new wine consumers’? What new marketing strategies would you suggest?
The major new segment of the market is Millennials—young people between 21 and 35 or so. And they are far more interested in the story of the wine, the personality of the winemaker, than they are in the soil, the climate, or the terroir. They want to have a relationship with their brands, and they are not as interested in being wine experts. You have to talk to them, capture their hearts, and not make the mistake of asking them to go to school to learn more about how you grow the grapes and make the wine.
What is your view on communication in social media of Argentine wineries?
Social media is a powerful tool to enhance existing relationships. But far too many companies try to use social media instead of building personal relationships. If the winery is involved with its customers, meets them at events, invites them to tastings, and gets to know them as people, then social media can be an effective tool for expanding those relationships. If the winery’s representatives are sitting in an office in Mendoza and want to make friends in the USA, social media is a waste of time.
What should Argentine wineries do as regards tourism?
Americans buy wine as if it is a ticket to a destination, and I think it is really important for Argentina to create an image around the brand: Argentine Tourism. What does that mean? OF course it means fabulous natural scenery, from Iguazu to Patagonia. But it also has to capture a sense of lifestyle and culture. What does it mean to be Argentine, and how can that be made attractive and appealing to young people in the US market?
Before traveling, do tourists resort to web sites rather than travel agencies for information?
In the USA, travel agencies no longer exist. All travel research is done on-line. And that research includes learning about the destinations, identifying the key sights and experience, and then finding the best prices and best ways to visit. If I had a winery in Argentina, I would become a kind of concierge for tourists who want to visit the country–because that would also allow me to tell my story, and the story of Argentina, to wine drinkers in the USA.
What is the behavior of the new tourists?
They are more interested in experiences, less interested in “seeing things.” While they might enjoy eating an asado, it would be more interesting for them to help cook it, and learn how to make Chimichurri sauce. Tourism is not longer a passive activity, it is an active experience, and if wineries can give visitors the opportunity to DO something instead of watching it, they will be more successful.
Do you think that wineries should place more focus on e-commerce?
This is a huge challenge in the US market because of our Byzantine distribution and sales regulations. Sure, if I owned a winery making 5,000 cases of wine in the US, I would try to sell it all direct to consumer, via a tasting room, events, and e-commerce. But it is not practical to do this from Argentina. You have to have a base, and inventory, in the USA. And you have to have a plan for reaching those consumers directly. Once you do that, you can sell a lot of wine via e-commerce.