I recently had the please of attending a wine economics conference held at the beautiful wine farm where I work. The target audience really was for academics and economists…I’m in marketing…need I say more? That said, it gave me a new appreciation for the science of economics and the people who work with this everyday. One Italian delegate I spoke to described himself as being similar to an artist, which I thought was an interesting angle. Believe me, I can get creative with figures, but I don’t think anyone at work would describe it necessarily as artistic, more like career limiting…

This Italian economist told me a gem, which I think is pretty obvious, but good as a reminder and a checklist when setting out on the journey of arriving at absolutes. He said the result often is determined by the quality of the question asked. Although allot of the material researched and covered was known intuitively by industry insiders, it is good to test assumptions and makes for a more convincing argument when discussions are backed up with data and statistical information.

I personally found the talks were either a huge success or a total waste of time, although most fell into the success category. I like to know the WHY first, then give me the CONTEXT, the pool of data or data source, you can explain HOW you did this(which many presenters did with very impressive strings of mathematical formulas), the results, and then tie it all together with an outcome or conclusion i.e based on our research, we would not recommend that wineries put a QR code on the back of the label. I guess the reticent to make these sort of conclusions was also based on not accounting for all the variables in the research. I.e. research was conducted to determine if QR codes on the back of a label sells more wine at point of purchase? Did you check that the people you tested had phones that can access a QR code one person asked, and the answer was No.

The second talk I walked into was an exercise in patience and compassion. My heart really went out to the presenter who at the outset explained his colleague couldn’t be there and that he was presenting on his behalf. He mumbled his way through the slides and some academics present, sensing the weakness, couldn’t resist going in for the kill, bombarding the man with questions he couldn’t answer. He was exposed and it was awkward. The slides presented were very unsexy which also didn’t help his case or destract the audience from the obvious -not fair on him at all.

I then went to a presentation by Klaus Grunert, which was excellent! He presented “A pan-European analysis of drinking motives”. The drinking criteria included health and non alcoholic beverages. The Schwarts model for motives was used. The drinking of alcohol in general tended to have more motives attributed to the self, I drink to be social, its exciting, to make myself more at ease, to show my preferences, as opposed to health beverages that were functional- its good for me. I was surprised to see that the top reasons for drinking wine were more functional I.e.: to be healthy, getting something good for me, family tradition. Part of the research shows the split in responses received from the different countries and it seems Denmark fits in the more functional quarter. What ever their motives - the average consumption per capita remains healthy and above average *(4.43)which suits us just fine being one of out biggest markets.

What also came out strongly was that wine is an experiential commodity.Sounds pretty obvious, but from a marketing point of view opens up a few powerful trains of thought. According to Myers-Briggs, which is ” a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions” attributes associated with experince - I.e. the five senses Or cognitive learning styles are split into sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling. I would say feeling and sensing are more experiential -wouldn’t you?

In closing, I wouldn’t disregard any of the research whether is was presented in a stimulating format or not, as it was still informative and relevant even if it did at the basest level confirm what was already thought. The wine industry needs more research and studies like these to be conducted. It is such a muti faceted industry that is constantly changing. There was learning and value on various levels for all willing and open minds attending the conference, as well as an opportunity to network with the “artists” at the forefront of it all.
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption