Stormhoek’s Blue Monster Reserve for Microsoft arrives on the Cluetrain

With as many as 1,200 wines on shelf, how do you get consumer to buy yours? Stormhoek Winery does no advertising. Sales will top $5 million this year. It got there on the Cluetrain.

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Normally, a winemaker with $5 million in sales would spend at least 10 percent on advertising and deeply discount its wine to retailers. Stormhoek charges twice as much as other wines in its category, and does no advertising whatsoever and no discounting. Yet this morning, it became the little winery that could by launching Blue Monster Reserve label, created for Microsoft and its employees and friends.

The Blue Monster is the brainchild of my friend and colleague, cartoonist/blogger and marketer Hugh Macleod. About a year ago, he gave the Blue Monster cartoon to Steve Clayton, chief technology officer at one of Microsoft’s UK affiliates and a nine-year veteran of the company. The backstory is here

Dear Big Companies: Social Media Marketing Works
micromonster.pngIt’s a brilliant marketing move for Stormhoek, and a conversation starter for Microsoft. I’m a big fan of both Macleod and Stormhoek, and have no use for Microsoft. Having switched to Mac a year ago in sheer frustration over Dell Hell and Microsoft’s unpleasant software, I don’t believe the wine will ultimately change anything about Microsoft. They, undoubtedly, will still suck.

But I do believe that Blue Monster Reserve will encourage people who work there to try harder to be innovative, and perhaps even to leave and form a new company that is not too big to change.

What’s important is that a lone blogger with a good idea was able to get a huge company to listen to him and to adopt one of his fairly radical ideas. It shows that social media is a viable force for change, for marketing, and for the new media than a lot of big companies may now finally begin to take seriously.

The Coolness Factor
Stormhoek spends “practically nothing on marketing,” the winery’s founder Jason Korman told me in an interview. Instead, the winery relies solely on social media marketing, bloggers, and word of mouth “to make the wine so cool that Stormhoek doesn’t have to do what everyone else in its industry does.” And, he said, sales will top 140,000 cases in 2007.

Korman and cartoonist/blogger and marketer Macleod got together in 2005. “I didn’t have a vision per se to begin with,” Macleod told me. “The vision came ONLY after we messed around with a lot of marketing experiments. After a while, we realized that it was the experiments that informed the brand. In other words, the way to have a cool brand is to do cool stuff. Having a great product qualifies as the latter, but it’s not the only criteria.”

Bonus link: Here’s an interview I did with Hugh in 2005.

By B.L. Ochman.