A crisis compels you to be creative. There hasn’t been a clearer example than Covid forcing us to rethink and reposition. In many instances, Covid showed us existing cracks and now, I believe, it is not about filling them, we need something new – we have to find creativity in the cracks.
Pre-Covid, SA wine and tourism were not in a poor place. Of course, profitability has been an issue for SA wine for a while, but there was positive energy behind brand building and our wine tourism offerings received international acclaim. But there were a few things that we might have subconsciously ignored. We all knew that wine had to become less intimidating and more accessible. We all agreed, but we still spoke about terroir and tannin like the average consumer understood or were interested.
It might be a rough generalisation, but I do believe that while older generations might have been interested in the intrigue of the wine, maturing a special vintage or reading a wine magazine, we are entering a new age. I am not saying that today’s consumer is ignorant and of course there are many passionate young wine people, but I think for the wine business, there has to be a shift in focus. While embracing the traditional wine people, they are a niche market. The focus should be on the average consumer. Today, those who we want to buy our wine have much more choice, much more opinion and less time. They don’t shop the way we used to and they have a new way of valuing what is important. We have to make that work for us.
There’s nothing newsworthy about this, except that when you are in the Covid crack, you can’t ignore this challenge anymore. You can’t stay cosy, selling to your current, ageing consumer base. You can’t keep on doing things the same way. It is one thing to be informed and on trend and another, to actually change and keep up with modern ways. Of course I don’t imply being disingenuous – authenticity is more important than ever. It is about knowing your new consumer, a younger, online generation, one that is spoilt for choice and one that has now been scarred by a pandemic. Value for money is more important than ever – regardless of the price point. The value of an expensive wine or experience can be in its exclusivity or its story.
We need to keep this in mind when we think of our brands. Is your model still what it should be? What is it that your new consumer really wants. You have to take a critical look at what you offer and how you do business. It takes a lot of guts. There is no room for white elephants anymore. It might sound negative, but it’s not at all. We have invaluable experience, but we need a fresh attitude.
Naturally there will be challenges. A struggle for profitability and resulting production issues might affect the future of SA wine and its ability to successfully compete internationally when it comes to volume, price and quality. Covid and our government’s response to it might have filled us with a some despair – whether it was the liquor ban, the closed beaches or the “roll-out” of the vaccine programme. But being depressed and despondent will not help.
Covid didn’t only force us to re-evaluate, it also gave us time to think. We would be foolish not to apply our critical minds and identify the challenges. When you do, you are halfway there. Now, get to know the new consumer, get creative in answering their needs, rise to the occasion! What is the alternative?