By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
“We have to understand this … that in 25 years, there won’t be people alive who have lived without it.”
So predicts Monika Elling, CEO and Founder of Foundations Marketing Group (FMG), a strategic communications and brand building company for the wine and spirits industry.
Elling is referring to social media and other digital communication platforms, citing the critical importance of moving beyond what she calls “retro thinking” to embrace customers where they live in a technologically advanced world.
“They (customers) don’t even think of it as social media,” Elling emphasizes. “They see it as part of their lives, how they gather information. In reality, it’s as much a part of life as is a car (for everyone). We don’t talk about the horse and buggy anymore, right?”
Elling is well versed on digital technologies and communication within the various alcohol beverage communities. Before creating FMG, Elling was Director of Public Relations at Lauber Imports, a division of Southern Wines & Spirits, America’s largest wholesaler. She was also Chief Marketing Officer for Monarchia Matt International, where she launched the European company’s American division.
As a noted speaker and author, Elling is sought after for her expertise on social and digital media and their implications for the state of the wine and spirits sector. Her views on these topics are crystal clear.
“Today, everything is visually driven,” Elling observes. “If you don’t have a website that drives your window to the world, you’re left behind. Consumers will see it. It takes a split second to make a decision about your brand – and 80 percent of wineries on a global basis don’t understand this.”
Elling’s concern for the wine and spirits industries stems from her perception that the success producers may have enjoyed decades ago will no longer be possible in a landscape that has been transformed by different communication platforms.
“Today every word has a ripple effect, nothing is said in a vacuum,” Elling warns. “There’s a serious disconnect with understanding how information travels on a brand-building scale. It’s all about where consumers sit. And they are light years ahead on these conversations.”
Elling notes that many “shockingly significant producers” with huge investments in property, winemaking expertise and equipment have “websites that scream of fifteen years ago. And so do their bottle labels,” she adds.
She believes the predicament stems from a type of abstract disengagement with the customer, which she illustrates like this:
“There’s some Baby Boomer guy in the middle of a country (anywhere), sitting on a stunningly beautiful piece of agricultural property with five hundred years of history, making up a label that he thinks a U.S., female, millennial consumer will buy … seriously?”
Her advice, to the industry as a whole, is to develop a business plan that is in alignment on multiple points and strategies, including a communications component that is directed by those with the expertise to handle it.
“The industry is focused on winemaking expertise, production and equipment,” Elling points out. “But, we’re not spending resources on hiring talent for digital media communications – and then we wonder why it’s not working properly?”
Elling will be sharing her insights and solutions about these issues during the upcoming 2017 WIN Expo Trade Show and Conference taking place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, CA on November 30, in a session called “Beyond Social Media 101: The Next Frontier.”
Marci Ikeler, the CEO of Little Arrows, a company that focuses on “creative social media that drives real business results” will moderate the session. Other speakers on the panel include Chip Forsythe, Winemaker for Rebel Coast Winery and Christopher O’Gorman, Director of Communications for Rodney Strong Wine Estates.
For more information and registration, go to http://wineindustryexpo.com.