blogging doubled stormhoek sales in less than twelve months

[The original brochure that came with the bloggers’ Stormhoek bottle. To read it in full, click here.]
[UPDATE: Stormhoek is sponsoring “100 Blogging Dinners in 100 Days”, May-August 2006. If you’re a blogger who likes wine and throwing parties, please go read this. Thanks.]
A journalist phoned me yesterday about an article she is writing about business blogs for one of the large UK trade mags. I gave her this little nugget, which I’ve only just been allowed to go public with:

Blogging doubled Stormhoek sales in less than twelve months.

We’re talking tens of thousands of cases, here.
To recap: Earlier this year I sent out a hundred or so complimentary bottles of Stormhoek wine to bloggers, just to see what would happen.
Three Provisos:

1. The bloggers had to live in the UK, Ireland or France. They needed to have regularly kept up a blog for at least 3 months previously. Their blog could have a readership of three or three thousand- size or status didn’t matter, just so long as they were genuine bloggers.
2. They had to be of legal drinking age.
3. They were under no obligation to say anything about the wine, good or bad. If they just wanted to snarf the wine and say nothing, or say something negative, that was fine. It was their call.

As it turned out, a lot of them ended up writing about it. A meme of sorts was created, and it spread.
I have been saying this for years, and still not everybody believes me: “Blogs are a good way of making things happen indirectly.”
No, bloggers and their friends didn’t start suddenly descending on supermarkets, buying the wine in large numbers. That’s not how it works.
What happened is that by interfacing with the blogosphere, it fundementally changed how Stormhoek looked at treating their primary customers (the supermarket chains) and the end-users (the supermarkets’ customers).
i.e. It caused an internal disruption, both within the company and the actual trade. Wine drinkers’ basic purchasing habits didn’t change because of the meme, but the meme allowed Stormhoek to align itself more closely with said habits.
I’ve also been saying this for a while: How Robert Scoble’s blog affects Microsoft [his employer] internally is a far bigger story than how his blogging affects external sales. This insight, which I started figuring out at the beginning of 2005, was instrumental in how we planned the Stormhoek stratgey.
The Stormhoek wine meme didn’t sell more bottles, any more than Scoble’s blog increased sales of Dell computers. That’s not what this game is about. What matters is “The Porous Membrane”. What matters is the internal disruption.
You have to remember: there are hundreds of thousands of vinyards in the world, all trying to sell to the twelve or so mass market wine buyers in the UK. So you need a story that cuts through the clutter.
And the best stories have market disruption baked-in.
With the disruption, came a new and different story that the supermarket buyers and the importers wanted to hear. Telling the story made the sales process easier. With easier sales, the curve was raised.
So my advice with business blogs is not to think of them as sales channels, but as disruption channels. Much more effective.
[NOTE TO SELF:] “Blogging as a marketing tool is easier when you think of it as a chemical catalyst, not as a hammer and nail.”
[PODCAST:] Johnnie Moore and James Cherkoff interview Jason Korman, the CEO of Stormhoek. Great background on the story.
[UPDATE:] Decanter Magazine picks up the story.