Some sayings just always stay relevant. “You are the company you keep” refers to how the people you choose to associate with – as well as their actions – can influence opinions of you. This is true in our personal lives, in our social media presence, for brands and even for countries.
South Africa’s impartiality in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is controversial and there are different opinions on welcoming Putin to South Africa for the 2023 BRICS summit due to be held in August. The International Criminal Court has now complicated matters further by issuing a warrant for Putin’s arrest. Keeping company with Putin will influence how we are perceived globally. Although these political matters might be largely out of our hands, there are lessons we can learn.
Trying to please everyone might sometimes result in not pleasing anyone, but no one can afford to be blasé about public opinion. At a wine trend conference some time ago, the matter of an ageing wine drinking population and the trend for younger generations to consume less or even no alcohol were indicated as causes for concern. We were confronted with the question of whether younger generations perceive wine to only be the drink of older, sophisticated, less fun people. What would that imply for the future of wine brands? How worried do we have to be about the company we keep?
Such topics keep marketing teams busy with strategy and positioning, researching consumer preferences, styles of wine, types of packaging, brand associations, etc. But even when your wine comes in a can, when the tannins are friendly enough to consume early and you have a loyal and growing social media following, there really is only so much you can do, or you might become something different than a wine producer. Will we be able to change the perception of those who could possibly be our future customers?
I think we might be doing better than we thought. When I visit our wine tourism experiences, I am often in for a pleasant surprise. The demographic of visitors is representative of various cultures, countries and ages. There are families and friends, couples and singles. Some come for a purpose – to buy wine or bread or flowers – and others linger for the best part of the day. Some arrive in fancy cars, others cycle from the closest town. Some have dressed up and others down. This isn’t only true of our own estates, but also something I observe when I visit local wine farms and when I browse social media. While regular wine drinkers might think wine is friendly and fun, it seems we are actually convincing others about that too!
You really can’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to wine consumers and I find that most wonderful. I read enthusiastic posts about wine from sources I wouldn’t necessarily have considered to be wine lovers and I am encouraged to see a willingness to learn and explore. While awards and recognitions are applauded, I think that consumer-focused wine tourism experiences and social media interactions have resulted in wine being less intimidating and pretentious and increasingly, a product that caters to different tastes and preferences.
The job is never done and there will always be room for improvement, but I think we can be quite optimistic about the future of wine when we look at the actual company we keep.