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Marketing Lessons from French Wine

Yesterday evening, the Wireside team attended the Richmond Ad Club’s annual Beaujolais Day wine event, thanks to the generous hosts, Big River Advertising.  Some of us were new to not only the event, but to the greater meaning of the day itself, and were surprised to learn that Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France, made popular by its “first harvest” tradition.  Unlike typical fermentation periods, Beaujolais nouveau ferments for only a few weeks before it’s bottled for sale on the third Thursday of November.  As France’s first mass export of the year, the wine’s first stop is Paris, where it is henceforth distributed to cities around the world and raises national wine consumption rates by staggering folds.Beaujolais Day Post Image

On a more scientific note, because of its young age, Beaujolais nouveau has a tangier and fruitier taste than the average red, almost resembling a white – not exactly what most have in mind for cold weather sipping.  Yet millions of people worldwide go to surprising ends, despite the cold, to get the first tastes of the first harvest.  Last year, according to BusinessInsider, Japan alone imported 7.9 million of the approximate 65 million bottles distributed, even though the wine has been often critiqued as “a very rude wine – very young and spirited,” and overproduced with little care for quality.

That’s what we call a major achievement in marketing and promotion.

Perhaps it’s a bandwagon effect, knowing millions of others around the world are sharing in this tradition at the same moment as yourself.  Maybe it’s an effect of novelty or the atypical: a red wine that tastes better chilled.  If you happen to be drinking outside as they do in some villages of France, it need not be sipped, but rather gulped, to keep the bodies warm and the parties going.  Perhaps it’s an effect of prestige: the fact that Beaujolais nouveau is the kick-off of French wine, which has a reigning reputation as some of the best in the world.  More than likely, it’s a combination of all these reasons.

You can’t blame a bunch of marketing, PR and ad folks for celebrating these social and behavioral effects as much as we celebrate the wine and tradition itself.  Mastering and understanding them are what keep us in business, and what keep us not just looking forward, but ahead of the curve.  And, as the ancient Greeks said, “In vino veritas” – in wine, there is truth.

And on that note, from our business to yours, we wish you, your colleagues and families a truly happy and warm start to the festive season!