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.
In this episode of the Gape Into The Void Podcast Hugh and Jason have a chance to catch up with Internet phenomenon, Gary Vaynerchuk, a long-time friend of gapingvoid. If you don’t know Gary, you should. He’s an incredibly smart, dynamic and outgoing personality, and most of all he’s an incredible salesman.
Thanks again for listening. If you are enjoying Gape Into The Void, please tell your friends and leave us a review on iTunes. If you have any questions or topics you want us to cover on the show email us at podcast at gapingvoid.com.
In March 2010, I traveled, sometimes with others, sometimes alone, coast-to-coast across the USA from Boston to Los Angeles. Our main method of transportation was the train – We chose to pre-plan our itinerary and to organise tweetups wherever we could in order to meet people and make new connections.
One of our goals was to visit the SXSWi festival in Austin TX via a more interesting route than direct flight nut primarily we wanted to see whether it could be done and what help our online social networks could be.
I learned that letting go of control of where we were staying and what we would do led to far richer experiences. Yes it was interesting and exciting to meet new people and those I’d only ever tweeted at but the highpoints of the journey included not knowing where we were going to stay in New Orleans until a friend of a friend lent us her house for four days or when I unexpectedly found myself playing ukulele with 25 Hawaiian-shirted senior citizens in Maryland.
South By South West is an annual pilgrimage for a lot of people. Lloyd likes to take that annual SXSW pilgrimage to an extreme. An annual spiritual search, as it were. “Austin as Jerusalem 2.0″, as it were. As opposed to just another trade show for handing out business cards, getting drunk and hanging out in strip clubs. It’s inspiring to see…
[Got a good #EvilPlans story you want to share? Feel free to ping me via firstname.lastname@example.org, Thanks!]
1. SXSW is the only “MUST ATTEND” event on my calendar. It’s the one show I never miss, ever. Unless you’ve already been, it’s hard to convey JUST HOW MUCH more fun, interesting and full of business opportunities it is, compared to other shows. I can’t emphasize enough, if you’re into the Internet, just how much you’re missing out if choose not to attend. Sure, the price of going [entry fee, plane fare, hotel bill, taxi rides etc] might be quite daunting for some of us, but compared to the business and networking you could EASILY end up doing there, that cost is minuscule.
2. So you thought last year was crazy? Last year had ten thousand attendees. I heard on good authority from somebody inside the org that this year’s numbers have doubled. Hope you got a good hotel booking.
4. I’ll be signing books. Barnes & Noble will have a little micro store on the fourth floor of the convention center, selling books written by some of the attendees. I’ll be there to sign copies of “Ignore Everybody” on Monday, March 15th at 5.20pm. My signing will last for 30 minutes.
5. Free Booze! Free Sex! A lot of companies sponsor parties, so as long as you have a pass, it’s pretty easy to go the entire five days without ever paying for a single drink or meal. Plus with all the young singles everywhere, everybody’s trying to get laid. X-thousand geek twenty-somthings trying to hook up en masse is pretty entertaining to watch. By Sunday or Monday everybody’s a basket case.Which is why the veterans are always telling the newbies, “Pace Yourself”.
6. Creating an island of calm in a sea of bodies. It’s going to be a madhouse this year, so to make ourselves easier to find, gapingvoid has hired a trade show booth for the event. If you want to meet up, that’s where you can find me. I’ll be selling art, doing business, signing drawings and exchanging business cards. My focus this year will be much more about business, than my usual hallway wanderings.
7. I’m better organized, this time. Pretty much all the parties and events I’m planning to attend are already in my calendar. In past years I just turned up and went with the flow. It was exhausting after about three days. Never again.
9. SXSW makes me proud to be Texan. I’ve seen this a lot: People come to Texas for the first time to attend SXSW, and “fall in love with the barbecue”. Texas has always been a very misunderstood State, if you ask me. SXSW does a great job of helping to fix that, at least with my crowd.
That smoker’s been there over 3o years, they tell me. And the guy who smokes the meat has been there even longer.
One more reason to love living out here.
People were quite surprised when I moved out to Alpine, nearly two years ago. They had gotten used to me being from New York or London.
But I had always imagined ending up somewhere like here eventually. It was just a case of waiting for both the Internet and the ol’ art career to reach a certain critical mass. When that day finally arrived, the move happened rather quickly.
And it could not have happened at a better time. In the last few months business has gotten a lot more hectic. For reasons still unclear to me, the private commissions just started coming in faster and faster. Why now, I wonder? I don’t think I cold have coped with it nearly as well, living in a big city.
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Greetings from Alpine, Texas. I left here two days ago, and flew to New York City from El Paso [a 220 mile drive to the airport], in order to sign the the Ignore Everybody prints.
Yes, it was actually cheaper and easier to fly up there and sign them, than to ship them down here. Go figure.
After a few hours signing them at the printer’s, I rushed off the Island of Manhattan yesterday afternoon, to catch a flight back to El Paso via DFW.
I was in my bed at the hotel in El Paso by midnight. Slept like a log. This morning I went to buy some art supplies in downtown El Paso, had a bit of lunch at Rudy’s, then drove 220 miles back home to Alpine.
A quick visit, to say the least. “Welcome To The Over-Extended Class” etc.
Among my purchases this morning was a big roll of canvas. The plan is to make a series of large, 48“x48” [4 foot-by-4 foot] canvases, i.e. exactly the same height, and one-half the width of desertmanhattan. The wee sketch above should give you an idea what I’m talking about.
I’m thinking of calling these “The Marfa Series”, named after Marfa, the next town over from Alpine, 26 miles away. I drive there and back about three or four times a week; it’s one of my favorite drives in the world. The drive inspired the idea for the the series in a SERIOUSLY big way.
Some will be cranked out in a couple of days. Some will take a lot longer, even a couple of months. I have no idea where this is taking me, other than I think I’ll end up somewhere pretty interesting. Look for them for sale over on the gallery over the next few months or so, or feel free to e-mail me if you’re looking to commission one. Thanks. [Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS.Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
[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.]
[UPDATE: Of course, I can’t do this alone. I’ll be needing the help of the Texas Twitter community to help me. If you have any ideas to help make this act of futility somehow less futile, please email me at email@example.com. Thanks!]
My long-term plan is to continue living out here in Alpine, Texas, writing books and making paintings. An ideal West Texas “creative” life and all that…
BUT BEFORE I settle into that role, I have one LAST marketing fandango to pull off. Namely, making Stormhoek the best-selling South African wine in Texas.
How am I going to do that? Basically, get in my car and drive. Start visiting with people. Start spreading the word. Start finding allies who can help my little adventure along. Stay on the road until I reach my goal. You can read about my adventures on my EVIL PLANS blog page.
When David Brain asked me what was the appeal of writing books, I replied:
I certainly didn’t expect to make any real money from it, and how much it would “help” other people is pretty debatable. But sometimes in your life you have these defining moments, where you draw a line in the sand and declare to the world, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what’s important to me.” I think we all need these moments at some point, to make us better understand who we really are. Writing a book is a good way to force these moments to the surface. That was really the key driver, here.
I have found that marketing can be a pretty good “key driver” in this department, too.
Especially “Futile Marketing”. Yes, this undertaking is insane and futile. It’ll probably fail. I’m going to do it anyway. [The Futile Marketing archive is here.]
[Never a dull moment in West Texas etc. A video of me telling some local people down in Terlingua all about Stormhoek.]
I recently made the acquaintance of the proprietors of both The Starlight Theater and La Kiva, two prominent bars down in Terlingua. The meetings went well– I liked them both, they seemed to like me. So it looks like we might be selling down there, fingers crossed. Hurrah!
Terlingua, 100 miles South of Alpine, Texas, right on the Mexican border, is probably the strangest place I’ve ever visited in my life– it has an unreality to it quite unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. But there’s a wonderful appeal to it, that’s for sure. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be living in the old Wild West, this is probably as close as you’re going to get, first hand. The people, architecture and landscape seem right out of a Sam Peckinpah movie.
So why try selling South African wine in Terlingua? “Futile Marketing”, of course…
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”.]
[My pal, Jeffro singing at Harry’s Tinaja, Alpine, Texas.] I’m taking to the road. Here are some notes:
1. Now that IGNORE EVERYBODY is done and in the book stores, it’s time to do something else. In the last couple of days, I’ve gotten several emails from people that they saw the book selling in airport bookshops. Wow. It doesn’t get any more “mainstream” that that, I’m happy to report. At least I can’t accuse it of being “undiscovered”. And for me, as a blogger, it’s nice to be able to break out of the Web 2.0 echo chamber. Exactly.
2. So I was having a drink with a friend the other day, and he asked me what my next plan was. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that “I’m going to go on the road, and stay on the road, until Stormhoek is the best selling South African wine in Texas.”
3. I’m bringing my computer along. I’ll be blogging my adventures en route. Hoping to be posting travel-diary videos on YouTube as well.
4. I’ll be limiting my travels to the State of Texas. Luckily it’s a big State and there’s plenty to discover.
5. I’m bringing my computer along. I’ll be working on my second book while I’m traveling. I have a vague idea what it’s about…
6. I’m bringing my computer along. I hoping to meet other Texan bloggers and Twitters on my travels.
7. Hoping to draw a lot of new cartoons en route as well. Hoping that some new prints will come out of it.
8. I don’t really have a plan. But I am leaving as soon as I can get organized. You’ll be able to follow my adventure on Twitter easily enough.
9. This idea will probably fail. “Futile Marketing” etc. Rock on.
10. [Update:] Just Twittered this blog post: “@gapingvoid is proud to present: THE WORST MARKETING IDEA EVER!!!!!” Yep. That’s about right… [etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
[Marketing. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…]
With all the activity over IGNORE EVERYBODY and the prints these last few months, I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t spending more time on the Stormhoek project.
It’s hard to do everything.…
The wine is selling well here in Alpine, Texas. It’s a small town of six thousand, word is easy to spread if you’re doing something interesting. But I have my eyes set on bigger horizons.
Like I said before, I’m just going to focus the marketing efforts on the State of Texas. Doing the whole country is just WAY too complicated, not to mention expensive.
I’ve asked our distributors to send me a list of all the stores, bars and restaurants that they cover in Texas. I’m thinking of going on a road trip. I’m thinking of visiting some of these places. I’m thinking of bringing a video camera along. I’m thinking of asking Jeffro to come with me, at least for part of it.
I’m just thinking… [etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
[Jeffro, donning a Black Flagg t-shirt, singing at Harrys Tinaja, Alpine, Texas. Note the bottle of Stormhoek by his side etc.] So this is what’s been happening with Stormhoek wine on my end lately…
1. We currently have Stormhoek selling in six places in town (Alpine, Texas), including Harry’s Tinaja, Porter’s Supermarket and Twin Peaks Liquor Store. We’re hoping to double that number. We’re also starting to sell it in other neighboring towns like Marfa and Terlingua.
2. The “Dream Big” bumper stickers are a big hit. I’ve just ordered another thousand of them. Thinking of leaving them in hotel lobbies, for the tourists to take away en masse.
3. Re. Jeffro. Sure, I think a former-punk-rocker, ukelele-playing Texan is the PERFECT spokesman for a bottle of South African wine, don’t you? It screams “QUALITY & VALUE!” from across the room etc.
4. People from outside the State always ask me why I like Texas so much. Well, there are many reasons, but the one I cite the most is, “Here in Texas, you don’t have to be a billionaire, but if you have a cool, little business that adds something positive to the community, YOU ARE GIVEN RESPECT”. I’m a small businessman, after all, so this quality would be important to me. Sure, you can find this quality elsewhere, but I’ve never seen it MORE TRUE than it is in Texas.
5. I’m excited by the prospect of reaching critical mas here in West Texas, then spreading the good word throughout the rest of the State. As I’ve said earlier, I’m just focusing on Texas for the time being. That’s plenty of business for me…
6. With my book coming out in three days and my print business doing well, I actually don’t really have to be doing this for career reasons; I’m just doing it because I want to. Stormhoek and I have been through a lot these last four years, it’s already doing great in Europe, I think I owe it to both myself and to the brand to get it going over on this side of the pond. Besides, I’m a sucker for “Futile Marketing”. Rock on.
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
If you walk around Alpine, Texas (my current home), you might start seeing the “Dream Big” bumper stickers everywhere, the ones I made for Stormhoek.
Alpine only has about 6,000 people. We’ve distributed around 1,000 bumper stickers so far. Plan to do many more. Do the math.
Why can’t a small town in west Texas “Dream Big”? Ditto for a small winery in South Africa.
“Dream Big, Alpine, Texas” isn’t rocket science. But it seems to resonate with folk.
Yes, the bumper sticker is a “social object”.
Watch this space…
[Alpine, Texas. Some of my Stormhoek “Dream Big” posters in the men’s room at Harry’s, complete with 1980’s beer porn. Hurrah!] It’s been a while since we first put up the Stormhoek sign up in the Far West Texas desert. “Made in South Africa. Drunk in West Texas”.
I liked that tagline, but I much prefer “Dream Big, Alpine, Texas”. It speaks more to people. It’s not about “Here’s why you should buy our wine”. Whether we’re selling wine, or working in a local garage, it’s more about something larger that we can all relate to, all of us who are lucky enough to live out here.
In small town like Alpine, where I live, word spreads. Real people talking about y’all etc.
When it works, Word-Of-Mouth Marketing works REALLY well. A story about a crazy cartoonist dude with this South African wine gives people something to talk about.
The one thing they do say about the actual product, though, that makes all the difference: “The wine tastes good”.
Granted, that’s not the most sophisticated sound byte there is, but it works well.
People like it. It’s a quality product. My secret, evil plan would die overnight if it wasn’t.
The good news is, in the United States, Stormhoek sold more bottles before April 1st this year, than it sold in the entire 2008. So something out here in Far West Texas is working. Exciting times, Indeed.
Here Loren Feldman interviews Andrew Suber, one of the first friends I made when I moved to Alpine, Texas.
Andrew is one of the smartest people in town. He pretty much raised and educated himself as kid down in Terlingua [His father wasn’t around much, so I am told]. Somehow by sheer force of will, he managed to get an undergraduate degree from UT Austin and a law degree from William & Mary.
He could have easily moved to the big city and gotten himself a high paying lawyer job. For whatever reason, he decided to stay in Alpine and live the life of an aesthete.
His main claim to fame is hosting the local Trivia Night every second Tuesday, down at The Railroad Blues. He takes it scary seriously, which is a good thing for the rest of us.
He had nice things to say about Stormhoek, when it first came to town. We like him for that. Rock on.
Is Andrew a “Crazy, Deranged Fool”? Of course he is! How could he possibly not be?
Dream Big. Alpine, Texas. Exactly.
Re. Wine marketing: Usually, when an imported wine launches in the States, a familiar pattern emerges. Hire New York or SF restaurant for the evening. Organize wine tasting. Try to get the usual freeloaders, PR wannabe’s, and random warm bodies to attend. If a C-List celeb somehow turns up by some Miracle of God, become ecstatic. Send Press Release out to the usual suspects in the media. Watch Press Release be utterly disregarded by All & Sundry. Watch absolutely nothing happen afterwards. Witness the entire story disappearing into the dustbin of history within nanoseconds. And so on.
So we at Stormhoek decided to go in the exact opposite direction, as far away from the Usual Suspects as possible. “Hey, let’s launch in Alpine, Texas! Let’s see if we can get real West Texan cowboys to like South African wine! It’s totally insane! It’s totally futile! It’s totally wrong! Let’s do it anyway!”
[The official “Dream Big” t-shirt…]
2. Our campaign tagline is “Dream Big. Alpine, Texas”. Inspired by the back label on the Stormhoek bottle, of course.
3. I think you really need to “Dream Big” on some level to live out here in the high Texas desert, 400 miles West of Austin. This is true whether you’re working construction, waiting tables, teaching elementary school or launching a wine brand.
4. You may lovee the tagline, you may hate the tagline. Whatever. They seem to like it out here. A lot. That’s all that matters.
5. We’re just going to concentrate on marketing the wine in Texas for the time being. Trying to do it nationally is just too much work. This country is way too big.
6. We’re starting in Alpine, then we’ll ripple out. Next is Marfa, Texas, then Marathon, Fort Davis, Terlingua, Presidio, Fort Stockton, San Angelo, Midland-Odessa, Del Rio… If that goes well, we’ll get ambitious. Ozona, Sanoma, Junction, Harper, Fredericksberg… We’ll keep going till we hit the bigger towns: Houston, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, El Paso, San Antonio, Amarillo…
7. Texans don’t drink a lot of South African Wine. They will by the time I’m done with them.
8. Dream Big. Alpine, Texas. Exactly.
[Update:] Talking about this blog post on Twitter:“I’m either going to make this thing fucking work or die trying.” Yes.
[A video still of the “Dream Big” T-shirt, from Loren’s camera.
Loren Feldman left Alpine, Texas this morning, heading home after a week in town shooting videos. The Stormhoek party was a great success. People really liked the t-shirts– it seemed to resonate. We printed up about 40 shirts– they were gone quickly. Most gratifying for me was how well the received the Stormhoek was.
“Damn good wine,” I heard more than once.
The owner of the biggest liquor store in town told me, “You may be on to something here.“
Loren has hours and hours of footage. Expect to see it online over the next few weeks– but that’s his department.
The first time I tried marketing Stormhoek, I did it mostly online, getting my fellow bloggers to help spread the word. This time it’ll be mostly offline. Me reaching out to real people here in West Texas etc. Trying to keep the whole thing interesting and meaningful.
If we can get West Texas nailed, we can get the rest of Texas nailed. And if we can get Texas nailed, ditto with the rest of the country.
The adventure has begun…
[The t-shirt design for tonight’s shindig etc.]
After a couple of weeks of back-and-forth between Stormhoek, our US importer and our local distributor, I am pleased to announce that Stormhoek is now available here in Alpine, Texas.
To celebrate I’m throwing a party tonight at Harry’s Tinaja, my regular local watering hole, at 8pm. There will be Stormhoek wine for the tastin’, cheese and crackers, plus my friend Israel has smoked up some awesome mango beef jerky for the occasion. I’ve also hired my favorite local band, The Doodlin’ Hogwallops to play live. [The Stormhoek billboard, currently leaning against the outside wall of Harry’s, right by the main road in town, where everybody can see it etc. Click on image to enlarge.]
Besides that, my buddy Loren Feldman is in town, wielding his video camera, so there should be plenty of footage uploaded online soon.
Re. the “Dream Big” t-shirt. Yes, that sentiment is printed on the back label of the Stormhoek bottle. It’s also a line that seems to resonate with people round these parts [Few people move to the middle-of-nowhere West Texas desert without some sort of alternative-lifestyle-dream-action going on, so there was a tangible alignment there.] As I’ve been saying for a while, “We’re into the same kind of things you’re into” works better as a marketing strategy than, “Here’s why you should buy our product.“ [Harry, with the first cases arriving etc.]
Secondly, Re. Wine marketing: Usually, when an imported wine launches in the States, a familiar pattern emerges. Hire New York or SF restaurant for the evening. Organize wine tasting. Try to get the usual freeloaders, PR wannabe’s, and random warm bodies to attend. If a C-List celeb somehow turns up by some Miracle of God, become ecstatic. Send Press Release out to the usual suspects in the media. Watch Press Release be utterly disregarded by All & Sundry. Watch absolutely nothing happen afterwards. Witness the entire story disappearing into the dustbin of history within nanoseconds. And so on.
So we at Stormhoek decided to go in the exact opposite direction, as far away from the Usual Suspects as possible. “Hey, let’s launch in Alpine, Texas! Let’s see if we can get real West Texan cowboys to like South African wine! It’s totally insane! It’s totally futile! It’s totally wrong! Let’s do it anyway!“
Plus ca change…
[UPDATE: We’ll be streaming the party live. Check mine or Loren’s Twitter for updates.]
My friend, Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV fame and I have been talking on and off for the last while about me doing a lithograph for his wine business, in a similar spirit to all those Stormhoek lithos I did back in London.
Finally, yesterday, I stopped my dilly-dallying and just cranked it out. Voila!
Like I said a few weeks back, I’m getting more into the fine art print business. Social Objects at their finest. Rock on.
I hope Gary likes the design…
Stormhoek finally got a distribution deal here in Texas, and so now I’m back on the case.
Two problems: 1. No marketing budget to speak of, and 2. I live in Alpine, Texas, 400 miles west of Austin in the high desert mountains. Looks like I’m going to have to improvise…
No matter. Like I told the folks at Stormhoek, if I can sell South African wine to West Texas cowboys, I can sell it to anybody.
So last week I got me a 4-by-8-foot piece of masonite, and painted a billboard, which I’ll soon be putting up by the roadside. “Stormhoek. Made In South Africa. Drunk in West Texas.“
Expect photos and videos to follow… Rock on.
Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the “What For?” of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not “mission, vision, values” territory — it’s about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it’s personal. But it’s the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life.
Real drives, passions and beliefs. Exactly.
The Blue Monster line, “Change The World Or Go Home” is not rocket science or literary brilliance. It just articulates a simple belief, a simple passion, a simple drive THAT ALREADY EXISTED, long before The Blue Monster ever came on to the scene. That’s all it was ever meant to do. [The Microsoft Blue Monster etc.]
Whether you agree or disagree with it doesn’t matter, the important bit is that people within Microsoft believe it. Unlike a conventional ad campaign, it’s not about you. It’s about them.
Why is something like this potentially valuable to a business? Simply put, if you believe something passionately enough, for long enough, articulate it well enough, and your actions are aligned, credible and consistent with your belief for long enough, it’s just a matter of time before other people start believing it, too. And next thing you know, you have an interesting conversation going on, both inside and outside the company. And as Doc Searls famously said, “Markets are conversations”. Ker-Chiing.
Again, none of this is rocket science. Talking to people never is. When people ask me what exactly is a Blue Monster, I tell them, it’s not necessarily a cartoon. It’s simply a social object that allows one to more easily articulate the Purpose-Idea. No more, no less.
I’ve been asking myself for years, what comes after conventional, Madison-Avenue-style advertising, now that we live in a post-TV, post-advertising, post-message world? “Creating Blue Monsters” is the closest I’ve ever come to finding an actual answer.
Besides drawing the cartoons, helping other companies create Blue Monsters is how I intend to spend the remainder of my career.
Cartoons and Blue Monsters. I really do have the world’s greatest job. Rock on. [More Blue Monster background reading here.]
About a year ago, I was at a geek breakfast in London with Steve Clayton and some other folk, including a few people from Microsoft.
Steve and some other geeks were talking about “The Cloud”. At the time Steve was making the transition from working in the UK Partner Division, to working in the “Software & Services” division of Microsoft, which is how the conversation came up.
Right then and there I drew the cartoon above. Steve saw it, and right away asked me if he could use the picture for his business card, which he now does.
That was the first time I really started paying attention to the term, “The Cloud”.
I would by no means call myself an expert or an authority on the subject, but in the last couple of months I’ve been getting increasingly aware of “Cloud Thinking”. It’s seriously interesting to me.
As far as I can tell, all three of the big tech companies I know best, Microsoft, Sun and Dell, seem to be betting a lot of their future on The Cloud. It was even just announced recently that Dell was applying to trademark the term, “Cloud Computing”. Heck, even my friends over at Techcrunch are looking to get a piece of the action.
Even today, I learned that Microsoft is now seriously planning for the post-Windows era, and you guessed it, The Cloud features heavily. And Businessweek just ran a big article on it:
A Sea Change in Computing
Some analysts say cloud computing represents a sea change in the way computing is done in corporations. Merrill Lynch (MER) estimates that within the next five years, the annual global market for cloud computing will surge to $95 billion. In a May 2008 report, Merrill Lynch estimated that 12% of the worldwide software market would go to the cloud in that period.
Those vendors that can adjust their product lines to meet the needs of large cloud computing providers stand to profit. Companies like IBM, Dell (DELL), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), for instance, are moving aggressively in this direction. On Aug. 1, IBM said it would spend $360 million to build a cloud computing data center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., bringing to nine its total of cloud computing centers worldwide. Dell is also targeting this market. The computer marker supplies products to some of the largest cloud computing providers and Web 2.0 companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo (YHOO). “We created a whole new business just to build custom products for those customers,” Dell CEO Michael Dell says.
I was also recently really surprised and delighted about all the discussion my last post, “The Cloud’s Best-Kept Secret”, seemed to generate. Not just the amount of discussion, but the quality of it, from some of the smartest people I know on the planet. People like Tim O’Reilly, JP Rangaswami, Dennis Howlett, James Governor, all piping in. Rock on.
And of course, there’s the “Cloud Portraits” I’ve been drawing recently. Clouds, clouds, clouds… Clouds everywhere. Like West Texas in the rainy season etc.
What does this all mean? Frankly, I have no idea. I have no intention of becoming a “Cloud Blogger” or whatever, I’m just start to feel a connection here. Connections are my lifeblood.One of my favorite cartoons ever exists simply because I saw a connection between ego, emotion and typography. In 2005 I was the first person to see a connection between $5K English suits and the blogosphere [which back then, I can tell you, A LOT of people thought that was a bit of a stretch]. In 2006 I saw a similar connection between a small South African wine brand and the geek community of Silicon Valley.
This year I’m feeling the same sort of connection between all of the work I’ve been doing in the last year. It’s hard to explain– it’s visceral; it’s like you can just smell it, even if it remains so far invisible. It’s just there. A feeling, not quite yet a fact. And a wee voice keeps telling me that The Cloud is at the center of it somehow. Wait and see.
The relatively small, southern French province of Languedoc produces more wine than the entire State of California. Thousands and thousands and thousands of vineyards. Italy alone boasts 500,000 vineyards, and 50,000 individual wine brands. That’s roughly one vineyard for every one hundred people!
This is one of the great things about wine is, of course. There’s so much choice out there, that once you get the wine bug, you easily can spend the rest of your life sampling thousands of them, and never get even close to sampling them all.
But on the other side of the coin, this makes your job as a wine producer VERY TOUGH. If for example, you have all your money sunk into an Italian wine farm, Congratulations, you’ve got half a million other Italians in the same boat as you. That’s a pretty crowded boat, to say the least.
The other day I showed the above cartoon to the owner of a large American wine importer.“What a lovely grain of sand you are. Too bad you’re lying on the beach.“
My thesis that came out of that conversation: Wine has become a commodity. But most people in the wine trade are too self-absorbed with their own wine schtick to acknowledge the fact. OTHER PEOPLE’S WINE may already be a commodity, but NOT OUR WINE, no no no no… Our wine is SPECIAL, yes yes yes yes…
If you want to remove the “commodity factor” from your wine, you first have to admit that yes, you too are also selling a commodity. And then work from there.
To quote a phrase I probably use far too often: “We’re not in the wine business. We’re in the decommodification business.“
So how does one “decommodify” wine? I have no idea. If I knew, I’d be a billionaire.
But what HAS worked well for me so far, is to stop thinking so much about the product– the grapes, the vineyards, the terroir, the hummingbirds gathering nectar in the early morning sun yak yak yak. Instead, I find it far more useful to be interested in the actual people drinking it. Who are they? What do they need? What’s their schtick? What works for them? What’s true in life is also true in marketing: If you want to be boring, talk about yourself. If you want to be interesting, talk about other people.
[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.]
[Click on image to enlarge/download/print etc.]
Yep. I’m back working with Stormhoek again. It’s got new owners, but so far, so good. The good news is, they don’t want me doing anything too differently from what I was doing already.
Now that I’m based in the US, I’m hoping to do a lot more geek dinner stuff. And of course, the lithographs. Rock on.
The above cartoon a “Hugh” version of the Stormhoek back label. “The one with the back label on the front”. You can read the backstory here.
[Picture taken from the Marfa Plain, looking Southeast, about 15 miles West of Alpine, Texas. Cathedral Mountain in the distance.]
I’m writing this from Miami. Heading back to West Texas tomorrow. I woke up this morning looking forward to my return, so what the heck, I posted the photo above. JP Rangaswami is in town on vacation; Jason and I met him and his lovely family two night ago for drinks [Talk about well-brought-up children. Gosh. Off the scale.].
We talked briefly about me being in Alpine. “It seems like you needed to take your foot off the accelerator,” he said. Yup. That’s about it.
Yesterday I wrote about making more limited edition prints for Stormhoek:
2. Lithographs. We had a lot of good fortune creating limited edition, fine art prints. Everything from the Blue Monster series, to the Techcrunch party poster. Basically, I want to spend a LOT OF TIME in the next year, signing limited edition lithographs and getting them in to the hands of anybody who may want one. These lithographs will hopefully become “Social Objects”, which anyone who knows me will know, I believe is the future of marketing. It is my belief that, if we can get enough of them printed, signed and out there, they’ll create enough interesting conversations which will INDIRECTLY move a lot of cases of wine . The big question is, [A] How many prints would I need to sign in order to make that happen and [B] If the answer is, “A Lot”, will I have the time, discipline and stamina to go the distance? Yes, it’s a huge challenge. Then again, so is climbing Mount Everest.
And a few days ago I wrote about landing a book deal with Penguin. “Exciting News etc.“
The needs of being a cartoonist, and the needs of being a “Web 2.0 marketing guy” are very different. Though it wasn’t an overnight decision, recently I decided to re-adjust my life to something that was more conducive to being the former, as opposed to be the latter.
Was this a wise move? We’ll see. What is a Web 2.0 marketing guy, anyway? Somebody who gets paid to have “Ever-Fragmenting Conversations about Ever-Fragmenting Conversations.” Compared to tarring roofs in Texas in summer, it’s not a bad job, but… Whatever.
But one hundred years from now, I’ll be dead, and this website will be gone. Nobody will be talking about Web 2.0 anymore. But a wee voice tells me some of the cartoons will be still floating around, maybe online, maybe in books, maybe one or two of the originals will be hanging in private collections.
And God Willing, some of the jokes will still be funny…
After a couple of months’ silence on Stormhoek, I’m ready to start talking about it again. [The short version:] Stormhoek basically has new owners, Origin Wines of South Africa. They bought it when Orbital Wines, Stormhoek’s main importer in London, went out of business, due to cash flow problems. Origin Wines is owned by a guy called Bernard. He and I have been talking for these last few months, trying to work out a deal. Looks like we’ve finally made one.
In an ideal world I would’ve been a bit more talkative and transparent. Was it a bad call on my part? From the average perspective of a blogger with little direct interest in the brand, I could see why they would argue that position. But in the long run, me keeping my mouth shut probably saved the brand, the deal with Bernard, my interest in a company I dedicated three years of of my life to and, not to mention, the jobs of many dozen South African vineyard workers. So fuck it. Take the hit and move on.
So what’s the new plan? What will Stormhoek 2.0 look like?
Actually, not that different from Stormhoek 1.0. Between 2005 – 2007, Jason Korman and I tried out a lot of different experiments with social media. Some worked better than others. Some of the stuff we had high hopes for, utterly failed. Some of the stuff we had very small expectations for, caused major earthquakes in the wine marketing world, and sold many tens of thousands of wine cases. Like they say in the movie business, nobody knows anything. That being said, we did learn the hard way that there’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple. Ergo: Stormhoek 2.0 has three main prongs:
1. Getting bottles of wine into the hands of my friends and peers i.e. the bloggers and the Web 2.0 crowd. Sponsoring geek dinners, Web 2.0 parties, conferences, that kinda thing. 2. Lithographs. We had a lot of good fortune creating limited edition, fine art prints. Everything from the Blue Monster series, to the Techcrunch party poster. Basically, I want to spend a LOT OF TIME in the next year, signing limited edition lithographs and getting them in to the hands of anybody who may want one. These lithographs will hopefully become “Social Objects”, which anyone who knows me will know, I believe is the future of marketing. It is my belief that, if we can get enough of them printed, signed and out there, they’ll create enough interesting conversations which will INDIRECTLY move a lot of cases of wine . The big question is, [A] How many prints would I need to sign in order to make that happen and [B] If the answer is, “A Lot”, will I have the time, discipline and stamina to go the distance? Yes, it’s a huge challenge. Then again, so is climbing Mount Everest. 3. Blogging. Goes without saying.
Yes, Jason and I are still working on Stormhoek together. And Graham Knox, who was until recently the head of production down in South Africa, talked to Bernard this morning about keeping on working with Stormhoek as well. Go figure.
One final thought: For all the crap that went down over Orbital’s demise, I’m actually kinda glad it happened. A lot of dead wood was cleared in the process; I think Bernard will make a much better partner than some of the people, now moved on, that I’ve had to work with during the last three years. All in all, I think we’re in a much better position to carry out my “Evil Plan For World Domination” than we were a year ago, so I’m actually pretty happy and excited. Rock on. Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you have any ideas which may help the cause. Thanks.
[Cathedral Mountain, 6,122ft. Picture taken bu my father, about 20 miles South of Alpine, Texas.]
It’s been just over a week since I got back to Alpine after SXSW Interactive. Here are some random notes.
1. I’ve not much to report, to be honest. I’ve deliberately been living as slowly and quietly as possible. I think a lot of us are still recovering from SXSW.
2. I have no idea how long I will stay in Alpine. All that I know is that I don’t want to leave right now. I have no plans of going anywhere else, except on business.
3. It looks like I found me an office. Sul Ross [the local university] rents out some office units as part of some sort of “Entrepreneur Center” program that they’re running. Fax, photocopier, all that good stuff. Cost: about $150 dollars a month.
4. Housing is not a problem, either. I was staying with my dad and stepmom, but recently I moved into a cheap and cheerful motel. Hotels, Motels and rented places go for between $500 and $1000 a month, which after London and New York, is not something that worries me too much. Housing prices are about $80-$150K, which again, compared to what I was used to seeing in Europe, is peanuts.
5. If I decide to stay for a long time, I’ll need to buy me a car. I’m thinking a used pickup truck, the kind that runs forever. The local classified ads are awash with them. In the meantime, I just placed an order for a new Raleigh from the local bike shop. The town is pretty flat, and only two miles at its widest, so getting around isn’t much of a problem.
6. Dad and I had a fun time a few days ago, driving up to Odessa, Texas, 140 North East of here. He had a doctor’s appointment up at the Medical Centre there, and I had to go to the Social Security office to get me a new copy of my Social Security card, in order that I could reapply for my old Texas driver’s license. Including the wait in line, I was in and out of the office inside ten minutes, I kid you not. Could you imagine how long that would have taken had I been in New York, London, or Paris?
7. About thirty miles North of Alpine you start leaving the mountains and start entering the cotton fields. Flat landscapes that seem to go on forever, interrupted only by telegraph poles. They’re growing some cotton up there, but a lot of the field are not being currently used– the current high price of oil makes running the irrigation machinery prohibitive. A bit further North and you start entering oil country ands the Odessa environs. Oil Derrecks, Pumpjacks, and lots of semi-ghost town with disused mobile homes and spare parts lying around the place. It takes a lot more people to set up the oil fields than it takes to maintain them, so abandoned dwellings are a pretty common sight.
8. Up in this part of the world [50 – 100 miles North of Alpine] the one thing you don’t see is a lot of cattle. There simply isn’t enough water for them in those parts, so I’m told.
9. Once you enter oil country you are immediately hit by the rather unpleasant smell of the oil and gas fields. The locals like the smell, though. “Smells like money,” as they like to say.
10. There’s not much I can tell you about Odessa. On first impression, it’s not a pretty place. About 100,000 people. Pick-up trucks, Strip malls, bungalows, oil industry stuff and little else. The aforementioned medical center and the current high price of oil seem to be the main economic engine.
11. We never made it to Midland, the next town over from Odessa, about 30 miles East. That’s where George W. Bush calls home. I’m told it’s not too different from Odessa, only a bit more upscale; Generally it’s regarded as the nicer town of the two. This is where you catch a plane if you’re heading East, from Midland-Odessa airport. If you’re heading to the West Coast from Alpine, you fly out of El Paso.
12. While Dad went for his doctor’s appointment, after I had gotten my Social Security business settled, to my delight I found a Starbucks only a block or two away. So I ordered my usual Grande Latte, hooked up my computer to the internet and entered the same world I enter when I’m in Alpine, New York or London. The internet has become the great leveler for me.
13. Though hardly the most authentic place in the world, if you want cheap and cheerful Italian cuisine in Odessa, you could do a lot worse than go to Corino’s. The people there are pretty friendly.
14. My intention is, once I get settled [Place to live, office, car, driver’s license etc], my plan is to go into overdrive for a couple of months. I have a lot of work needing done.
15. Happy Easter, Everybody!
[A still from “No Country For Old Men”, which was filmed around Marfa, the next town over from Alpine, Texas, where my father lives. “There Will Be Blood” was filmed around here, as well.] This is my sixth full day in Alpine. Here are some notes on my time here so far, in no particular order:
1. Alpine, population circa 6,000, is actually a pretty prosperous place as far as West Texas towns go. This is mainly due to Sul Ross State University, where my dad used to teach before he retired. Besides that, the main industry round these parts is ranching. 10,000 acres is considered a small ranch. Some ranches have over 200,000 acres.
2. My main daytime hangout in town is La Trattoria, a chilled-out bistro that serves as a coffee shop by day, with excellent, authentic Italian food by night. Owned and operated by Allyson Santucci [a great, strong lady], their website is here.
3. Evenings I don’t go out much. I just stay in and talk to my dad. We’ve not seen each other in a few years, so it’s a good thing.
4. I haven’t been this chilled out and relaxed since.… ummmmm.… the last time I was in Alpine, September, 1999. Funny, that.
5. It’s not official, and I’m just going to play it by ear, but I’m thinking of making Alpine my permanent US base. A lot depends on how many gigs I get this side of the Atlantic in 2008.
6. If I ever end up living permanently in the US again, it’ll be here. Nowhere else.
7. “Located 3 miles East of Marfa, Texas on US Highway 67/90, the vineyard and winery are surrounded by awe-inspiring Desert Mountain Ranges. Our West Texas sunsets over the mountains are spectacular, and Luz de Estrella is perfectly positioned to take full advantage of them.” Apparently this is the best wine made in Texas. They sell their wines at Whole Foods Market, all over. I visited their winery earlier today. I was impressed. Not just by the wine, but also the fact that they have real Texas Longhorn cattle on the property.
8. My father is a trained geologist. Since retiring from his teaching gig, he’s been publishing his own books. He writes about the local geology. He actually sells a heck of a lot of them ’round here– simply because a lot of folk who visit here want to know more than WHAT the mountains and desert looks like, they also want to know WHY they look the way they do. And nobody does this better than my father. My good friend, Doc Searls, a geology geek, was reading his stuff even before he knew that we two MacLeod’s were related. Backstory here. Small world.
9. Yesterday evening, after spending the afternoon working in the library at Sul Ross, I popped into La Trattoria for an end-of-day glass of wine. In the corner was playing a FABULOUS acoustic four piece C&W act, called The Doodlin’ Hogwallops. Their MySpace page is here. All young men, I’m guessing the average age was about 26. The lead singer, Neal, was a REALLY talented musician. Seriously. His original songs were just as fresh and inspiring as the classics he also covered. Though I make no claims to be a particularly gifted talent-scout, I found their act a truly moving experience. I hope you’ll check them out if you ever get a chance. I’ve already promised myself I’d tell certain friends of mine in the music business about them. Rock on.
10. Marfa, population circa 2100, the place made famous in the art world by Donal Judd, is the next town over from Alpine. Though it’s not a town without its charms, and for all its newly acquired, art-world trendiness, it seems a lot more run-down than Alpine. I can see why the filmmakers like using it as a cinematic backdrop. For some reason there it’s easy for a filmmaker to project “Godless & Bleak” through the camera lens, although I find the actual landscape in real life anything but. Apparently the New York and Hollywood crowd love to fly in there for the weekend, but weekdays I hear it’s a bit of a ghost town. Earlier today my father and I visited the town for lunch. He knows a lot of people there, who sell his books. Vicki over at The Hotel Paisano springs most to mind. She’s done a great job running the retail store there. This hotel, a local architectural landmark, was where James Dean and Liz Taylor stayed while filming “Giant”, all those years ago.
11. They say you can always tell the history of a place by their most prominent buildings. In Europe, we’re talking castles, palaces and cathedrals. New York we’re talking office buildings. In West Texas, it’s invariably the county courthouse. Historically, the establishment of Law & Order is a big deal here, and the more one knows of the local history, the less one is surprised. The Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa I find especially trippy, but in a good way, the same way I find Paris’ Sacre-Coeur pretty trippy etc.
12. This part of the world is full of real, working ranches, and real, working cowboys. The latter are an impressive lot in real life– I would not recommend messing with them. They’re a much different breed from the cowboy-hat wearing rednecks from my oil rig days, though I still hold lots of affection for the latter [I occasionally worked offshore in the Gulf of Mexico during my college days]. After all, cowboys physically wrestle with cattle all day long [a surprisingly strong, robust, and violent beast], so they’re not exactly intimidated by us city-slicker or “Urban Cowboy” types, truth be told. Waiting in the coffee line at La Trattoria yesterday morning, in front of me was a young cowboy getting his morning Joe. Seeing a real cowboy ordering a caffe latte is a real disconnect, somehow. You can tell they’re real cowboys five ways: 1. They’re built like oxen on steroids, with hands the size of baseball mitts. 2. They’re wearing spurs. 3. Their cowboy boots go over their knees. 4. They seem to have this uncanny combination of [A] a happily calm disposition, seamlessly mixed with [B] a palpable undercurrent of “I can, and will happily rip you in half, in less than three seconds, but only if I gotta”. Not a bad combo to have. 5. They’re surprisingly young. Like the movie says, “No Country For Old Men”.
13. West Texan interaction is all about mastering two arts. [A] Being genuinely friendly and courteous, especially to women, children and the elderly. [B] Speaking with as few words as possible. You need to be able to do both, and do them well, or else they look at you funny. Again, not a bad combo to have.
14. A nice two bedroom house in this town goes for around $100K or so. In London, you’d be lucky to get a tool shed for that amount. For someone seeking increasingly high levels of solitude, I find the property market here sorely tempting.
15. The big tourist draw in this neck of the woods is Big Bend National Park, which I’ve never been to before. 120 miles South of here, Dad and I are hopefully checking it out tomorrow. Watch this space.
[View of Apline, Texas from my dad’s porch. Twin Peaks mountain in the background. Click on image to enlarge etc.] [UPDATE: It seems my cellphone doesn’t get coverage in West Texas. Please e-mail me if you’re trying to get in touch. Thanks.]
I’m writing this from Alpine, Texas, where my dad lives. Hanging here for the next week or two. Hardcore West Texas, Brewster County. Miles away from anywhere, just how I like it [Movies like “Giant”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Dancer, Texas” and “No Country For Old Men” were all filmed ’round here… not to mention, the famous Marfa Lights.]. Blogging light for the next while. Off to NYNY after this. Rock on.
Robert Scoble and Dave Winer are in London on the 7th, so we’re all throwing a geek dinner.
The Coach & Horses
29 Greek Street,
London, W1V 5LL, UK
7.00pm [C&H’s Facebook Page here.]
It’s in the upstairs restaurant. To get there you have to go behind the bar and up the stairs, so tell the barstaff when you arrive that you’re there for the geek dinner etc.
The deal is, everyone pays £15 per head when they get there. There’s an upstairs cash bar and some sponsored Stormhoek Blue Monster wine.
Since I hinted about it last week, about 40 people have put already their names down via e-mail. We’ve got room for a dozen or so more.
It’s not a very big restaurant [securing a big space in London is IMPOSSIBLE during December, because of all the Christmas parties], but if you fancy coming, please drop me an e-mail and I’ll see what I can do to fit everybody in. Thanks. [UPDATE:] As the restaurant is FAR TOO SMALL to accommodate everyone, the good news is, there’s going to be a photowalk/pubcrawl afterwards. So the alternate plan would be to turn up around 9.30 and start hitting some more pubs. I’ll continue hanging at the C&H till the end, but I might join the posse later on for last orders or something.
[UPDATE:] The restaurant bit is full up. Dang, didn’t take long. But feel free to turn up for the pub crawl, if you’re in the neighborhood. Apologies, Thanks.
Next time we’ll book a bigger place, well in advance. Right, Robert?
Should be a fun evening. Rock on.
Last night, in Johannesburg, the Council of judges for South Africa’s Marketing Excellence awards gave a gold medal and trophy to Stormhoek as the best Brand marketing campaign of the year (Small Budget).
They gave the same awards to other brands for Medium Budget and Large Budget and Extra Large Budget.
Finally, they gave a bigger trophy to the Grand Prix winner for the overall brand campaign winner and this went to Stormhoek.
Gold awards and trophies were handed out for sponsorship campaigns, arts and culture campaigns and an ex-advertising copywriter (now Absa Bank marketing manager) called Happy Ntshingila was crowned Marketing Man of the Year.
When I first started working for Stormhoek, I started marketing it via the blogosphere i.e. sending out samples of the wine to other bloggers in the UK, Ireland and France. It worked well. Later, when we launched in the USA, we started sponsoring geek dinners. That too worked well. Very, very well, actually.
Now, to help launch our new Stormhoek labels, we’re offering the same deal with members of the UK Twitter community.
So why Twitter?
No, it’s not because Twitter is the hot new Web 2.0 app of the moment [Some people would argue that it most definitely isn’t]. It’s something more fundamental than that. Something to do with what I call “Micromarketing”.
Stormhoek has sponsored a few hundred geek dinners over the last two years. The smallest were just a handful of people. The largest was the now-legendary Techcrunch party in Silicon Valley.
Techcrunch’s Mike Arrington is a good friend of both me and Stormhoek. His is probably the only large event we’ll keep sponsoring from now on.
Why? Because frankly, we find the smaller the event, the more we seem to get out of it. Having personally attended many of the parties, both large and small, I’ve seen this in action. When we sponsor large parties, nobody notices, talks about, or remembers the name of the wine that was served that evening. With smaller parties, the opposite is true. People seem truly appreciative that a commercial wine business would go to all that trouble, just to reach out to so relatively few people. But why not? From trying to connect with people on a much more intimate and human level, we have far more stable and stronger building blocks to create a community around our brand.
As opposed to the other extreme. London, the town I live in, is awash with parties sponsored by large wine and spirit brands. We’ve all been to them– probably far more than we’d care to admit. Usually held in large, impersonal downtown nightclubs, the venue teeming with random hangers-on and wannabe’s, all waiting for the celebs to show up, all trying to be heard above the din, all trying to get laid, all trying to get drunk, all trying to quickly make some useful business contacts. Total meat markets. In spite of all the time, money, effort and PR thrown at them, for the most part, they’re just not that fun, interesting or memorable.
So here am I thinking, maybe it’s a good thing that we instead decided to aim for the other extreme. “Push the Edges” in the complete opposite direction. Instead of large, paparazzi-infested events, we’d send some wine over to, for example, a small group of six or seven geeks in a small town in Wales, who are having a small dinner party at one of their houses. Why not? Exactly.
So that’s exactly what we are doing. The aforementioned small dinner party in Wales is going to be the first event that we’re going to be sponsoring, once the new bottles arrive in the UK towards the end of this month.
i.e. Everybody is sponsoring the big mega-events, with the disconcertingly faint hope of scoring Mainstream-Media pickup. Instead we’re going for the opposite extreme. Micromarketing. Micromarketing on Micromedia.
Exactly. [UPDATE: The standard schpiel on the Stormhoek Twitter UK Promo: I’ve been allowed to send sample Stormhoek bottles with the new labels to anybody who wants one. The deal is, you have to be UK-based, of legal drinking age, and on Twitter. And as always, no, you don’t have to blog or twitter about it if you don’t feel like it. Please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org your shipping address, if you’re interested, Thanks. Rock on.]
[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.
[“Big Love”. The Stormhoek label we designed for Valentine’s day 2007] [Reposting this blog from 2 months ago:]
In 2006 my client, Stormhoek, a small South African winery had a lot of fun sposoring “100 Geek Dinners”.
We like sponsoring geek dinners. We really do. So we want to do more. Lots more.
[The “100 Geek Dinners” logo from 2006]
We’re not sure how many geek dinners we’ll be sponsoring. We chose the number “2000” just because [A] it sounds good and [B] it’s much larger than last year’s “100”. [Small Stormhoek-sponsored dinner, May 2006, USA]
The plan is to start doing it in Britain, via Facebook. So if you have an upcoming UK event happening on Facebook, and you feel you might want a wine sponsor there on the night, please drop me a line and I’ll check it out. It doesn’t have to be a big event; in fact I personally prefer the small ones. Just so long as it’s an interesting evening. Thanks. Rock on.
PS The event doesn’t necessarily have to be on Facebook. Just so long as it’s interesting etc. Thanks Again. [UPDATE:] In the end, we decided to bag the Facebook angle. Found out that Micromarketing via Twitter worked far better for us.
[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…