May 26, 2005

stormhoek: my latest gig

BAR stormhoek2.jpg

I was down South last week, attending the London International Wine & Spirit Fair.

I've been asked by my buddy, Jason Korman of Orbital Wines to start working on their "Stormhoek" brand.

Stormhoek (pronounced "Storm-hook") is a South African wine, and it's very good stuff.

The Stormhoek schtick is "Freshness Matters". I just wrote The Stormhoek Manifesto. Go check it out.

[CAVEAT:] Though I've been asked to write the Stormhoek blog, I wouldn't call myself a wine expert. But I'm hoping the blog won't be about wine per se; more about the wine business etc.

Whatever. It's early days. Let's see what happens.

Posted by hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 8:18 AM | TrackBack

Freshness matters? the link is broken. if the pitch is really freshness matters thats a budweiser campaign isn't it?

Posted by: James Governor at May 26, 2005 9:53 AM

The link seems to be working now, James, thanks for the pointer.

I heard Bud was doing something to do with "Freshness" in the States, but I haven't personally seen it yet. Anyone have a link?

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 10:10 AM

Nice manifesto.
There seems to be a word missing in the fourth paragraph of the manifesto: "It's not enough for to love the wine."

Posted by: Henry Hoffmann at May 26, 2005 12:26 PM

Thanks HH... I'll go fix the typo.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 12:47 PM

The wine blog doesn't work for me. Whilst it's well written and the story is probably right, I ended up feeling that the writer wasn't close enough to the story - that in fact it should've been written by one of them. As you said on corporate blogging:

"Friend: What's the hardest part about corporate blog consulting?

Me: Getting the client to realise that the buggers don't write themselves."

I'm toying with doing the same for a client/friend who makes wonderful wine in Piedmont, but I'm concerned with getting past this issue. If I can't get him to do it, can I project the same passion and make it seem real?


"Every little thing we do from vine to bottle effects the ultimate quality of our wine. We must do hundreds of things right, 365 days of the year.

Or else we have nothing."

is exactly right. The problem is I'm left wondering if the writer knows what any of them are. If he's even been there. Why did your work with EnglishCut feel authentic and this not?

The relationship with Thomas - and your involvement with the business - seems closer, but I can't help thinking that the Stormhoek story would feel more authentic to me if you'd used the third person, and not "we".

[CAVEAT] I am a wine person. Maybe that's my problem and I'm not your ideal target?

But I'll be keeping an interested eye to see where it goes.

Posted by: Peter Hodder-Williams at May 26, 2005 2:27 PM

I had the same thought myself, Peter HW. So I went back and put all the manifesto stuff in quotes... with my "authentic" voice on either side. It makes a big difference.

Also granted, I may not be "close enough"... but that never stopped Robert Scoble, either ;-)

Like I said, it's still early days. Watch this space.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 3:47 PM

While all the points are valid, I think the manifesto is too long. Some of the points could be written more concisely (list all work done with growers in one go, for example) or dropped (the rocket science bit).

Also the bit on using chemicals responsibly doesn't have much impact: no one is ever going to write that they use tons and tons of chemical fertizers and pesticides. Why don't they believe going organic is best? How much chemical use is "responsable"?

Writing a wine industry blog that goes under the brandname of a winery could really be an exercise in having a pourous membrane. As a writer of a wine industry blog, I look forward to seeing how the Stormhoek blog develops.

Posted by: Steven Tolliver at May 26, 2005 4:00 PM

The Bud freshness is all that 'Born On' stuff - e.g. the beer was made on such and such date. I didn't really ever think that beer drinkers were than concerned with the date their poison was made on (we're not talking OJ are we) - are wine drinkers more considerate??

Posted by: Piers Fawkes at May 26, 2005 6:43 PM

I'm a regular reader, first-time poster ... and, perhaps obnoxiously, my first comment is an editing suggestion, but I can't help myself. Hah.

In your Stormhoek Manifesto, this sentence appears to be missing a glorious little comma:

Stormhoek Standards are(,) when taken together, a protocol ...

Anyway, enough nitpicking. Thanks for the continuously interesting reads.

Posted by: Erika Fields at May 26, 2005 6:52 PM

Well spotted, Erika =)

Fixed now & thanks.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 7:06 PM

OK. This is shooting the messenger long before he has a chance to think about his second post, but...

I got to thinking what I would want in the Stormhoek manifesto, which made me start by thinking what is Stormhoek?

"Stormhoek isnít a label and a bank account Ė itís people, place, heart and soul"

Unfortunately it looks as though Stormhoek is actually just a brand. The first 50 Google results for "Stormhoek" are all UK based wine sales sites, plus a couple of non wine related things in (presumably) Africaans. So it's probably a place. Maybe a local coop making this for Orbital Wines. Maybe there really is a cellar in a South African valley with "Stormhoek" written above the door, but to base a Manifesto full of grand values - including educational and community values - on such limited foundations is I think risky - at least without a photo of the cellar door. I'd take Hugh's word on lots of things, but I don't think this should be about his personal credibility, and my view of the UK wine world is too jaded to believe...

So how can a "corporate blog" actually work?

Maybe Hugh needs to be the blogmaster. Maybe the "groovy cats at Stormhoek" should take a lesson out of their values manifesto, and find a young articulate farmer, rig him up with a computer, internet access and a cheap digital camera, and get him to join in the fun. I'm sure Orbital could lean on them and get them to throw in a junior winemaker from the cellar to do the same - 20 minutes twice a week to make a couple of posts. Now we have three voices: two providing the day to day hands-on stuff, providing grist to Hugh's usually compelling mill. Now, even if Stormhoek is "just a brand" we can actually turn it into something real? Then some junior sales guy from Orbital with a love of zingy whites joins in and all can play off each other. As Steven points out above, it's all about porous membranes.

With English Cut and Thingamy, there are the real players providing compelling stories interacting with and alongside the "blogmaster". That's what generates the internal conversation, maybe what's lacking here?

Posted by: Peter Hodder-Williams at May 26, 2005 7:41 PM

Maybe you should take a look at this: ?

Posted by: Jacob BÝtter at May 26, 2005 10:58 PM

Actually, Peter Storhoek is not just a brand.

They have 200 acres of their own Stormhoek vinyards down in Wellington, S.A. where the whole thing is spearheaded.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 27, 2005 3:16 PM

Hugh - I'm delighted to be wrong on the brand thing. That it occurred to me is mostly an indication of how cynical I've become about the UK trade (you were asked to do this by the importer, not the producer, etc, etc). I'm still uncertain whether this can be done without participation from the producers themselves, but I look forward to seeing where you take it.

Posted by: Peter Hodder-Williams at May 27, 2005 3:41 PM

While The English Cut was/is all about educating the customer, this seems to be all about "me" and "we" and "us" and how much "we" love what we do. Nothing wrong with that per se, but you quickly lose the reader when you talk to yourself. You would have lost me if I hadn't been already committed to reading through the manifesto.

More words or less words, it needs to address the reader, the consumer, the customer who doesn't yet know he's a customer. Make him/her realize why they should care about fine wines. As English Cut beautifully establishes the point of a bespoke suit. This, as yet, doesn't quite do it.

The good stuff is there, but it's just not pulling me by the ears, I have to "be all ears" to hear it..

Posted by: Juho Tunkelo at May 29, 2005 12:44 PM

are you worried about spreading your branding too thin? eventually the conversation about conversations about conversations will get thick when many of the conversations have holes in them because you are trying to do too much on limited resources, ie: attention & time.

Posted by: aaron wall at June 8, 2005 5:07 AM