By Bill Swindell
The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.
It’s tough for wineries to break through in the crowded social media marketplace. It’s easy to zone out amid the mix of ubiquitous shots of the perfect wine-and-food pairings — dubbed “food porn” by some admirers — funny cartoons, and yes, even cute animals.
Then there are the multitude of platforms. The activity is spread across a myriad of choices, including Twitter, where the #winewednesday hashtag will trigger a flurry of posts, to beautiful vineyard shots on Instagram to the chorus of voices weighing in on the latest Facebook post.
While vintners appreciate the likes, shares, and retweets, what they are especially looking for is consumer engagement to help develop brand loyalty and increase sales — a tough code to crack despite the millions of dollars spent trying.
But Jackson Family Wines’ La Crema brand has recently achieved success by taking an unconventional route in its latest effort: allowing customers to participate in making their own special brand of wine.
The Windsor-based winery’s “Virtual Vintner” program takes customers through the winemaking process by allowing them to vote through crowdsourcing on such decisions as the varietal, the appellation, the vineyard, barrel type, name and design, resulting in a special bottling of 500 cases to be released in late fall 2015. Participants will have a chance to purchase the wine when it is released.
Since it launched in August, the interactive website has led participants through their important decisions with sharp pictures and graphics, easy-to-understand text and short videos featuring Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, La Crema’s director of winemaking, explaining the process in ways that are understandable even to someone who doesn’t know the difference between pinot noir and pinot gris.
The metrics have far exceeded expectations. The winery had expected 10,000 participants, but it has resulted in 22,485 registered users so far. Those visitors have logged 43,000 votes and quiz participations and 38,000 likes, shares and retweets and other engagements through social media sites.