July 21, 2006

how to keep your meme alive

have you got a girlfriend.jpg

[Click on image to enlarge/download/print etc. Licensing terms here etc.]

How To Keep Your Meme Alive.

As any gapingvoid reader will I know, I have a couple of memes out there, that I’d very much like to keep alive. The cartoons and the gapingvoid widget, Stormhoek, English Cut and Thingamy being the main examples.

The cartoons, Thingamy and English Cut seem to do alright by themselves. Just keep cranking out the good works, keep blogging, and the rest takes care of itself. The ideas end up spreading in the right directions, at their own pace.

Stormhoek, however, is different. Unlike the other memes, Stormhoek is dealing with a very old, establised market that is controlled by a few very big players: the supermarkets, the large wine and liquor chain stores, Diageo, Constellation, Gallo etc. For a small player, it's a food chain that is almost impossible to break into.

But maybe, just maybe, by using social media, we can circumvent the esablishment and create our own international brand. I think we can do it. As I’m fond of saying, “Why shouldn’t a small wine company see Google or Apple as their competion?" That's what's intereting to me. That's why I'm involved.

There’s certainly a lesson here to be learned from Apple. Two words: “Playfulness” and “Re-invention”.

Though there’s always been a very serious side to Apple, their designs always have a playful side to them. Look at the old Macintosh. Or the Newton. Or the iPod.

And re-invention. The reason we’re still talking about Apple, twenty-plus years after their Macintosh debut, is they’re always trying to re-invent what they’re bringing to market. And they do a superb job of it.

When the Macintosh “conversation” gets boring, their designers go back to the drawing board and try to bring out something to re-start the Apple conversation afresh. And for the most part, it’s been working. Especially these last couple of years.

Stormhoek’s challenge [and your business’ challenge, as well] is really no different than Apple’s. Every time we speak to the market, it’s got to be on a higher and more engaging level than last time. If it’s not, then we’re dead.

Like many old industries, the trouble with the wine business is that the poor buyers are utterly saturated with choice. Wine lakes? Ha. Vast seas, more like. Oceans and oceans of the stuff. There are just too many good wines out there, at all price points.

So between wine buyers and sellers, there are only about 3 conversations taking place:

1. Please buy our wine.

2. Please, please, please buy our wine with sugar on top.

3. I am utterly begging you, for the sake of my children, to please, please, please buy our wine with sugar on top.

And the poor supermarket wine buyer has to sit through these meetings, day after day. Enough to drive any sane mortal crazy, no matter how much discount the seller is willing to offer them.

Ergo, Stoemhoek’s M.O. is threefold:

• Better wine in the bottle [which leads to better prices and value etc]

• Better packaging.

• Better “Ooze”.

If we can do that, then every time we visit the customer [in our case, mostly supermarkets and wine chains] we’ll have something new and interesting to say. And less of the “sugar on top” crap.

1. Better liquid. Not exactly my department, but if Matthew Jukes’ reviews of the sauvingnon and pinotage are anything to go by, I’m not too worried. Seriously.

2. Everybody wants better packaging. And if they don’t, they’re mad. We’ve been working on our new stuff for almost a year. Open-Sourced it. Will have new packaging to show the world within a few weeks, and a $2000 check written out to a gapingvoid reader. It’s looking good. Rock on.

3. “Ooze”. That started on the blogosphere, and evolved into sharing wine samples with bloggers, geek dinners, wine lithographs, wine booklets, wine blogging guides. If these had one thing in common, I’d they all had a level of transparency and playfulness. There was definite a certain degree of “Hey, this might be pretty cool, let’s see if it works.”

I think if lose that spirit, we will lose. Keep it, and we will win.

Playfulness and re-invention. Smarter wines. Smarter conversations. Ooze. Keeping the meme alive. Rock on.

[Bonus Link:] BL Ochman talks about using the gapingvoid widget to market Stormhoek.

Posted by hugh macleod at July 21, 2006 11:50 AM | TrackBack

I've begged my local market to start stocking Stormhoek, but they don't have it yet. Any penetration into the Seattle area yet?

Posted by: Sterling Camden at July 21, 2006 5:32 PM

how 'bout a link to Mr. Jukes review of the pinotage...we tried it and really enjoyed it, but don't have the "wine background" to give it a proper write-up beyond "it's good... we like it..."

anyway, would like to read someone else's review...

Posted by: jim at July 21, 2006 5:39 PM

Sterling, the wine will be available throught Western Washington Beverage Distributors shortly. Keep harassing your retailer. Please :-)

Jim, I can't put my hands on a review from Matthew for pinotage, but we won a major award this week that we will be talking about in a few days.


Posted by: jason at July 22, 2006 10:36 AM

Hugh I finally got to try the Pinotage last night at dinner, you can't believe how excited I was to actually see it at my wine store (South Jersey). I even got other people to buy it. Tasted great and I'll definitely be buying more. Funny how I wouldn't have known about it if I didn't read your blog or if I hadn't recognized your cartoons on the display (I was walking towards the cash register with another bottle).

Posted by: Yahaira at July 22, 2006 2:05 PM

in my view drinks companies and computer companies (apple) have a few points of difference relevant to your comparison. How many apple macs or ipods does someone need compared with bottles of wine? Promiscuity rather than loyalty is quite standard with many drinks products as easy availability for the next fix plays strong. (as Sterling Camden shows in the first comment to this post) It's quite similar to what Chris was saying about Harley Davidson over at his blog


Some drinks brands, especially spirits, escape this weakness. They release special editions and they sell out; they sell them direct to a loyal group and these editions never hit the supermarkets but they do enhance the buzz and supermaket bulk editions of the same brand. I s'pose making things both practical, real but very different is the route?

Posted by: James Thomson at July 22, 2006 7:02 PM

Very Funny

Posted by: Erotic Lingerie at July 23, 2006 6:06 PM

It is frequently commented that the only way to make a small fortune in the wine industry is to start with a large one. Good luck with your venture. And thanks for the cartoons.

Posted by: Geoff at July 25, 2006 8:23 AM