gapingvoid is interested in start-up culture, because changing business for the better is what we’re about; that’s what Social Object Factory is about. We live and breathe it; we help everyone from lone entrepreneurs, to mid-sizers, to Fortune 500’s do the same. Check out our work here.
We create art that helps companies kick ass, end of story.
[A print idea for #evilplans. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
EUREKA! I had my EVIL PLANS road trip idea, but it was lacking the social object it needed to really work.
Sure, driving around Texas with a video camera and an idea about “Dream Big” was all very well, but it needed something to work as a totem for the Stormhoek wine. IDEA: Hand-painted wine bottles.
I’ve drawn on Stormhoek wine bottles before, using painting sticks. They looked kinda cool. While I travel around Texas, I’ll be making them to hand out to people who went to all the trouble to support this enterprise. See image above to get a rough idea what it might look like…
This is exciting. The road trip idea is suddenly A LOT More interesting, all of a sudden. Rock on.
[Update: Just added this blog post to EVIL PLANS.]
2. Everyone’s definition of “smarter” will be different. I’m OK with that. To me, it means continually engaging the customer at a higher level, continually raising the bar.
3. The brilliant thinker, Russell Davies identified four keywords that will govern the future of the advertising business. About as succinct a list as I’ve ever seen:
Always In Beta.
“Always In Beta” is a popular term in Silicon Valley. In an ideal world, it would be equally popular in the wine trade as well. It’s unfortunate that this is not the case.
The problem with most wine marketing, as I see it, most of it is product-driven, not principle driven.
Most wine makers make what they make, as best they can, then try to find a buyer, somewhere. Anywhere!
Stormhoek wasn’t conceived as an act of love for the Western South African Cape. Stormhoek was conceived as a very simple idea: That if you took New Zealand wine tech, and used it with South African grapes, you could make a wine JUST as good as the New Zealanders, for about two thirds the price.
Idea-driven. Not product-driven. Not geography-driven. That’s what “Smarter Wine” is all about.
Once we had this “Principle” nailed down, it became a LOT easier to market it. Because not only did we get “Smarter” about how we made it, we got “smarter” about how we talked to people about it, how we related to the existing market and the customers about it. Which explains the cartoon below.
It’s REALLY hard to market something, if there’s no higher purpose-idea behind it. Products are not just about price and quality. As I’m fond of saying, every product is some sort of idea amplifier. Every product, whether we’re talking German cars, cans of beans, laptop computers or bottles of wine, is an expression of human potential.
At least, it is, if you want it to be successful.
I don’t think any of this rocket science, but it sure got our competition scratching their heads. Plus ca change… [N.B. This post was written as something to keep in mind, while I plan my “Texas Road Trip”, which starts at the end of this month…] [UPDATE: Just added this blog post to “EVIL PLANS”.] [Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.“EVIL PLANS”.]
[Click on image to enlarge/download etc. Feel free to use badge for your own needs etc.]
Two years ago, Stormhoek sponsored geek dinners. They were a huge success.
We’re ready to get back at it.
This time, however, we’re going to sponsor Tweetups. If you’re one of the people following me on Twitter, are based in the USA and are planning on having a Tweetup in the next wee while, drop me an e-mail, and let’s see if we can’t get some wine sent there for the evening. Rock on. [For those of you outside the loop, a “Tweetup” is a spontaneous, self-organizing social gathering of fellow Twitter users, usually organized on Twitter itself. Usually food and drink are part of the equation etc.]
[The new Stormhoek front labels. Click on image to enlarge etc.] [The new Stormhoek back label. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
After many months in development, Stormhoek has finally got its new label designs.
The front label is a fairly classic look [our customers like that a lot]. We had a ball, however, with the back label. Notice how we put both the Blue Monster logo on the back [without any explanation], and also, the Unofficial International “Hacker” symbol. Oh, yeah, we also borrowed the “Change the World or Go Home” tagline from the Blue Monster [Disclosure: gapingvoid is more evil than Microsoft. Just so you know.].
The vast majority who see our wine on the shelf have never heard of us before, have never read gapingvoid, and don’t know us from Adam [The same is true for the vast majority of other wine brands]. So most of the marketing is done on the supermarket shelf. It’s actually pretty intense, thinking about it all.
The funny thing is, people in the trade like the back label SO MUCH there’s already talk happening about Stormhoek being the first wine to have itself stacked on the shelf with the back label facing frontwards.
So the Stormhoek hook becomes: “The one with the back label on the front”.
I love that idea… We’ll see what happens.
[UPDATE:] I’ve just learned– the new design will be arriving into the UK at the end of this month [November]. Expect to see them around the supermarkets [Tesco, Asda etc] soon after.
[One of the Stormhoek cartoon labels we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, 2008. Click on image to enlarge etc.] [IN OTHER NEWS: I’ll be in Paris in December, speaking at Lew Web 3. It’s quite an impressive list of speakers. Several people attending I’ve been wanting to meet for a couple of years now…]
It’s that time of the year again, when folks like me in the wine business start thinking about what to do for Valentine’s Day.
What we’ve done at Stormhoek is come up with some Valentine’s Day-themed cartoon labels, part of the much larger Stormhoek Cartoon Series we’re currently developing [Blue Monster Reserve is part of that].
So in the back of my mind, a wee voice is telling me, “Hey Kids, let’s do something interesting!“
Fair enough. Only, what constitutes “interesting”? I have a few ideas. How about yourself? I’m looking for input at the mo’. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail. Thanks.
[UPDATE:] Rik from Holland just sent me the following e-mail. Rock on.
Hugh. just read your post about the valentine’s ideas. Some thoughts:
Why not create a gift set of a nice box designed by you, with special valentines edition wine and a postcard on it (on a lovely ribbon of course) with one of your cartoons. Then create a website that lets people send one of these to the object of their affection, and lets them put a personal message on the card.
Shipping these things etc might take some doing, but you’ve got time to arrange for that
Or you could just send over the card and arrange for it to be a coupon for a bottle of wine at select wine grocers. But that may be slightly less romantic.
On a side note, seeing your whole plan to create social objects of/around your wines, why not do a quirky little wine bar in London. The city could use some decent ones, and this leaves you with a lot more options to do remarkable things. Tastings, in-house geek dinners, and when you make it cool enough (e.g. hire an exciting architect to do the interior) it will be a social object in itself.
imho. Have fun!
I like the greeting card idea. The second idea I’m less keen on [we’re in the wine business, not the bar business], although we did think about doing something like that in the past. If we were to open up our own bar, we would make it like Bedales in Spittalfields, only with free WiFi. Secondly, we’d open it in SF/Silicon Valley, not London.
In 2008 I plan to do a LOT more socializing over there…
[Yon standard pack shot. Indeed.]
I mentioned previously that I would be announcing my “Next Big Project” sometime today, the 17th of September.The Financial Times beat me to it.. “Social Object”, Baby:
Microsoft launches a tipple for techies
Tonight, a select group will gather in a bar in London’s Soho to quaff a crisp, South African white wine bottled in their honour.
The hand-picked guests toasting the new vintage are not, however, wine connoisseurs but techies. The gathering marks the launch of the Blue Monster Reserve label, created by winery Stormhoek for Microsoft and its employees.
Own-label wine and personalised bottles have become increasingly popular in the corporate world, particularly among investment banks, as gifts to clients and offered to guests of corporate events. The companies hope the corporate vintages will add an air of class and sophistication to their image.
But unlike customised wine bottles given by banks and law firms to clients, this label did not originate in Microsoft’s corporate communications headquarters.
Hugh MacLeod, a cartoonist, blogger and marketing strategist for Stormhoek, created the Blue Monster image after getting to know Microsoft employees.
Mr MacLeod met these “Microsofties” through his day job. “We sponsored a series of ‘geek dinners’ for bloggers and techies in the US and the UK,” he said. “I met a lot of people from Microsoft through these dinners, and they all said the same thing: we want to change the world.”
[Print Version: Page 14 of the main section. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
That notion of a kinder, gentler Microsoft is at odds with its cut-throat corporate image. Critics have accused the software giant of abusing its dominant position and of stifling innovation in the industry. In 2003, the European Commission found Microsoft guilty of uncompetitive practices and levied a record €497m ($689m, £342m) fine. The result of its appeal against that decision is due on Monday.
The cartoon of a sharp-toothed blue creature and its tagline, “Microsoft – change the world or go home”, has now been adopted by some Microsoft employees and fans as a symbol of the company’s innovation.
“People see Microsoft as a big, bad corporate monster,” Mr MacLeod said. “Yet all the Microsofties I’ve spoken to say they just want to make great products and do good works. It was obvious that Microsoft had to get better at telling their story.”
“Wine is a social object, and so is the Blue Monster: they both inspire conversation,” he said. “And we thought the cartoon would look really cool on a bottle.”
Steve Clayton, chief technology officer at one of Microsoft’s UK affiliates and a nine-year veteran of the company, said Blue Monster reminded people that Microsoft “has a sense of fun and humour”.
Mr Clayton has been at the forefront of the Blue Monster movement: he uses the image on his business card and is the administrator of a “Friends of Blue Monster” Facebook group.
“[Microsoft’s HQ] has been very supportive of us using the Microsoft name alongside the Blue Monster image,” Mr MacLeod said. It makes sense; they’ve been around for about 30 years and are trying to reinvent themselves to embrace a new generation.”
Blue Monster-branded bottles will be available only to Microsoft and its affiliates. “We have no intention of selling the product outside Microsoft,” said Jason Korman, Stormhoek’s chief executive. “The wine itself only went live last week, and already we’ve had massive interest from different parts of the company.”
[A bottle of Blue Monster Reserve sitting on my desk. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Mr Clayton readily admits the Blue Monster movement, despite his involvement, is outside any influence from Microsoft: “[The cartoon] has encouraged a whole new series of conversations by people who are passionate about Microsoft, both internally and externally. Blue Monster is a community which has developed its own distinct identity.”
For Mr MacLeod, the Blue Monster represents a revolution of sorts. “We started an underground movement within Microsoft, and we knew one day the guys in suits would finally take notice. That moment has finally arrived.”
If so, it will be marked in true internet-era style: not with an act of anarchy but a clink of glasses.
[Blue Monster backstory here.][Blue Monster blog archive here.]
The wine is not a commercially available product, just a wee “social object” for geek dinners and people inside the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft’s Steve Clayton and I are still working on the final details of how we’re going to get the wine to people who want it, but for now, we’re just limiting its availability to  people who belong to the “Friends of Blue Monster” Facebook group, and  geek dinners we’re attending and/or sponsoring.
Personally, I like this idea because it directly connects to a lot of different things I’m interested in. “Social Objects”, Microsoft, cartoons, Stormhoek, Marketing 2.0, corporate-reinvention, geek dinners etc etc.
Hopefully, other people will like it, too. Watch this space etc.
A special thanks to all the groovy cats inside Microsoft who lent their support to this project. Rock on. [P.S. If anyone has any further questions, I can be reached by e-mail.]
[One of the Stormhoek designs we’re thinking of doing for next Valentine’s Day. What do you think? Click on image to enlarge etc. Click here to see the old 2007 version on YouTube etc etc.]
After a very hectic year, I am pleased to say things seem to be calming down again [Yes, that would explain the recent rash of new cartoons. Mentally regrouping etc].
Three years ago, if you said my main gig would be selling wine to British supermarket chains, I would have said you were nuts. Funny how life takes you in all sorts of wonderfully unexpected directions.
My main focus for the next few months will be on drawing more cartoons and organizing more Stormhoek geek dinners. Everything else will take a definite back seat, at least on this blog. So like I said last week, if you have a UK-based geek dinner or event planned, and you think some of our wine would enhance the proceedings, please drop me an e-mail and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks Again.
[The Stormhoek “Big Love” Valentine’s Rosé… with this gapingvoid cartoon as the main design. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
The good news is, the Stormhoek Valentine’s road trip seems to be coming together nicely. Looks like it’ll be an interesting time all round. Looks like there will be a lot of Rosé being drunk in February.
The bad news is, because of the tight schedule, I’ve had to cancel my appearance at LIFT in Geneva. I was hoping to be able to take a day off the road trip to sneak away to the conference, but with 35 stores to visit in 2 weeks, it simply wasn’t possible.
Dammit. I was looking forward to seeing Scoble et al again. But it’s the biggest two weeks in Stormhoek’s history, so you gotta do what you gotta do.
Yeah, I’m excited about the tour. But I’m more excited about the new cartoon label. That’ll shift far more cases of wine than any crazy-ass blogging cartoonist, stalking people in supermarkets with a microphone and video camera. Heh.
[UPDATE: Tour Map is here.]
You can download a more detailed itinerary here: [Word Document].
Cut and paste the postcode in the Word doc into Google Maps or Mapquest to get super-precise directions. If any bloggers want to meet me in Tesco’s while I’m there, or maybe a drink in the evening, just phone me on my mobile on the day +44 (0) 770 309 9462.
We knocked down the final number of stores I’ll be visiting by about a third, sadly. In the end we decided we wanted to spend more than ten minutes in each store, so there was really nothing else to do.
If this goes well, there’s already talk of doing something similar in both Germany and the USA. The virus spreads.
As I’ve been mentioning for a while now, Stormhoek is launching a new series of cartoon wine labels, designed by myself.
We’re launching our first label at the end of this month, with a Valentine-related theme [the image above is not it, I’ll let y’all see it closer to the date etc]. It’ll be going into Tesco’s, the UK’s largest supermarket chain.
All very exciting. Two points: 1. Roadtrip
There will be a noteworthy promotion. Not being the type of folk to sit on our bottoms all day and wait for the results to magically happen elsewhere, we’re going on the road. Namely, I’m going on the road.
Think of it as a bit like a book tour. Except instead of visiting bookstores, I shall be visiting Tesco stores. And instead of signing books, I shall be signing this new commemorative edition of Stormhoek lithographs that I’m currently working on, to any shopper who wants one.
I am hoping to recruit Colin Kennedy of Get Your People fame to accompany me, as traveling companion, assistant, and the guy who holds the camera & mike during podcasts. We’re meeting next week or so to discuss.
We kick off the tour circa February 1st, and hope to visit 50 Tesco’s stores by Valentine’s Day. It’ll be busy, that’s for sure. 2. Love
We’re not just launching the new cartoon series around Valentine’s Day just for the usual holiday-promo reasons. Like I said earlier, in this brave new world of ours, LOVE is, or should be, at the center of marketing. My buddy, Tara Hunt once famously said that “Trust is the new currency”. A nice thought, but I disagree. Love is where it’s at. Love reaches into far deeper places than Trust ever could.
Of course, I don’t just mean romantic, sexual love. I mean human connection. “Agape”. If you don’t have that, like Saint Paul once said, you have nothing.
And why do people drink wine together? The same reason people write and read blogs. Connection. Human connection. That means “Love” on some level, whether you care to admit it or not. Music may be food of love, but wine is the drink. Welcome to the heart of Stormhoek marketing.
We live in interesting times.
[Another one of my new Stormhoek wine label designs.]
And of course, we have the secular version, if the US liquor laws object to having the G-word on the label. But as a conversation starter, I think the first one is more powerful.
I’ve started designing the new Stormhoek wine labels, which like I said earlier, should be hitting the shelves by Christmas. This is one of my first efforts, an updated version of a cartoon I drew back in 1998.
To me, wine and the human condition go together like two peas in a pod. So I want the designs to explore that relationship.
Could you imagine something like this on a wine bottle? More specifically, a wine bottle you’d actually take off the supermarket shelf and place into your shopping basket? Yes? No? Maybe?
N.B. This project is still very new. Virgin territory. In terms of label design, I don’t claim to have all the answers. Heck, I don’t even claim to have a tenth of them. But this is one steep learning curve that I am thrilled to be on. Watch this space.
[UPDATE: To see the new lable designs as they’re being rolled out, go here. Thanks.]
I want to use my cartoons for the new Stormhoek label design, starting later this year.
The plan is not to do typical wine-related messages in the cartoons, but unrelated messages like this or this.
Think about it– you’re walking down the aisle in the wine section of the supermarket, and instead of the usual wine-related messages being broadcasted at you from the bottles, you see something more like this, or this. Edgy, random, a conversation starter etc.
Obviously, if you’re familiar with my work, you’ll understand the story. But methinks it’ll work for the “virgins”, as well.
[UPDATE: To see the new label designs as they’re rolled out, go here.]