The 9th edition of Wine2Wine took place in Verona at the beginning of November this year. It was a live event all through this time, there was no virtual part as during the pandemic years. Wine2Wine is a yearly event organized by Vinitaly International to help the Italian wine world learn more about the latest wine marketing trends, news from different global wine sectors, how to approach new and old export markets, and much more. It is an essential and useful event for Italian wineries and wine businesses to learn more about the latest trends. I always enjoy going to Wine2Wine because it is an opportunity to
- learn more about wine communication
- learn more about new wine trends
- network with industry professionals
This year, the focus at Wine2Wine was to get “Back to Basics” and look at wine communication both from a traditional and an innovative point of view. The talks were indeed very interesting and often dug into topics that were thought-provoking and useful, in my opinion. Especially, for wineries having a budget for a marketing team and that are on a level to invest in their communication. I would say it was also of interest for smaller wineries to get ideas and input to implement on their own smaller scale. Therefore, I found it a pity that the wineries were more or less absent. Mainly some representatives or owners from larger wineries, who perhaps were speakers or sponsors, were there. For the rest, the attendants were the usual influencers and other marketing people, but there was really a lack of audience.
So, is it an important event for Italian wineries and wine businesses or is it more for players on the international wine scene? Or both? Was there a misalignment between the “sender and receiver” of the event message? Did it depend on the fact that Wine2Wine took place on the same days as Merano Wine Festival? That could probably be a large part of the reason. In general, in the post-pandemic period, there is a tendency to organize events on the same days or in the same periods wanting to overdo everything after the past 2.5 years. Is it perhaps more of an issue of a lack of communication between organizers? I do not have the answers to this.
I think that things have changed at the speed of light in only 2.5 years and Wine2Wine might also need to adapt to better correspond to what the wineries and wine businesses are looking for right now. There could be a need to reshape and/or readjust the event, its mission, and its format by smaller shifts. It could be an idea to look for the answers in the silences and absences.
In the history field, gender research has often looked at the things not said, the spaces not claimed, to better understand discriminated categories throughout history. For example, the Italian professor of history Laura Passerini studied the silent protests against fascism in the working-class areas of Torino during WWII. Now, the conditions are completely different but, still, I think it will be useful to look into what the silences and absences at this year’s Wine2Wine mean. Also, Polly Hammond talked about the importance of listening to the silences when doing radical listening in one’s business.
It could also be that the aim is to orient the event more toward international wine professionals and stakeholders, and then, of course, my thoughts here are irrelevant.
What the program offered at Wine2Wine
That said, there were many interesting topics and speakers to listen to. Some of the talks I attended were the following
- Cathy Huyghe talked about the importance of asking the right questions to be relevant and get results
- Polly Hammond talked about the need to slow down and use radical listening
- Representatives from some Italian online wine magazines were discussing if wine journalism exists, its purpose, and its future
- A panel of Italian and US pr agencies was presenting case studies from their work, in that way showing examples of their strategies
- A panel of Scandinavian importers was talking about the best ways for wineries to approach their markets
- The German Master of Wine Konstantin Baum talked about how to get your message through, find your audience, and grow on YouTube
- Steve Raye talked about the power of podcasting from his own experience at Vinitaly International
- Robert Joseph presented a recap of the two days of Wine2Wine, also with an eye to the latest trends
I especially enjoyed the talks by Cathy Huyghe and Polly Hammond about how to stand out in different ways. Cathy Huyghe talked about the value of asking the “right” questions so that everyone does not tell the same story about Italian wine. It can also be a way to dig deeper and gain more complex perspectives. It is essential also for a winery to tell its story. A smaller shift in the questions we ask can make all the difference. I think this is also important for pr agencies organizing press tours, to think about the value to be found by slowing down and allowing time for the right questions.
Polly Hammond talked about how to stand out by slowing down and listening to the people around us, the right people, your customers. Here, she was not only talking about social listening to gain insights about your brand performance and competitors but radical listening to gain deeper insights. Radical listening is defined as “… a term used for a disciplined practice focused intently on the person talking while removing our personal biases and filters. This discipline allows you to honor others’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings.” (See the article How To Leverage Radical Listening In Your Organization in Forbes)
It is an interesting concept even if I have my doubts about how far we can really remove our personal biases, but the key is to try and understand and be human. Radical listening will be essential to make people – the audiences – feel heard and that they are taken seriously. Polly argues that surveys, chat apps, and requests for feedback are good tools to start listening to people.
See a previous article of mine about Wine2Wine: A World of Wine Communication at Wine2Wine.
Staying relevant in a fast-changing world
One of the recurrent topics, in general, this year was how to stand out in a world online that is getting noisier and noisier, especially after the pandemic. I remember that how to stand out was discussed a lot already before the pandemic, mostly in the US marketing community, so right now I would suggest to rather speak more about how to be relevant. I say this not to be a nitpicker when it comes to terminology, but rather because I think that you can manage to stand out somehow without being relevant or giving any value to your audience. If we look at Instagram, for example, a lot of wine accounts stand out without being very relevant or of value.
My thoughts on key parameters right now are, how to
- be relevant
- provide value
- be sustainable
- focus on the foundations
Let me explain…
Value and relevance
Providing value and being relevant is thus central for all of us. The secret is to make smaller shifts, it does not need to mean you have to turn everything upside down.
“It is the small shifts in our lives that can create epic outcomes”says Bryan Kramer, the “Father” of Human-to-Human, H2H.
I think this is very relevant and true, especially now after more than two years of the pandemic. I also believe that it is a message that can be of value for all smaller and mid-sized wineries in Italy, or elsewhere, who might not have the resources for big pr or marketing agencies. Making small shifts and staying relevant is really what matters in this world that changes faster than ever.
In this context, I would also like to refer to something Mark Schaefer, an American business consultant, college educator, keynote speaker, and author in the marketing field, recently said in a TEDx talk. He talked about his own experience during the pandemic and how he in a matter of days in 2020 lost most of his clients and work. He said that he felt like having no firm ground to stand on in a world full of chaos. Therefore, he started to “recreate” himself by thinking about “what is the value I bring to the world,” and how he could make a smaller shift to be of value and stay relevant. He uses the analogy of being a surfer with a good and steady surfboard that didn’t need to be replaced, he just needed to find a new wave. As you can see Mark Schaefer and Bryan Kramer talk about more or less the same concept, just with different terminology.
If we make a parallel to the wine world, it is not enough to only talk about how you produce wine, show the bottles, put some text on the website about where you are located, the terroir, and mention that your grandfather started the business. Somebody said this in one of the talks at Wine2Wine regarding storytelling. You have to start from a point of value and how to be relevant for your consumers and fans. It does not have to be any revolutionizing change, it is certainly already a part of your history and business, you just have to make smaller shifts to get to the core. This is just as relevant for all wine communicators, pr agencies, and influencers, if not more.
Build the foundation
We have seen during the last year or two how fleeting a presence on any social media channel can be. Look at Facebook and Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, social media is still very essential for content distribution and for building relationships. And, I am still a fan of Twitter despite Elon Musk, even if I believe that LinkedIn is the channel right now where you can build relationships of value. However, it is more imperative than ever to have an online foundation for your wine business, for any business.
In the Hubspot report on the 2022 State of Inbound Marketing Trends they say:
“If your strategy still doesn’t include the creation of an owned channel with great content, that’s the obvious first step. Having your own blog, podcast, or newsletter is no longer optional if you want to cover the entire customer journey.”
To work on your foundations, your owned channel, is not something you can develop in one day but with small steps, small shifts, you can make your voice heard, gain visibility, and build meaningful relationships by being consistent and coherent with your content.
Regarding sustainability, I refer to being sustainable in everything we do, not only in reference to the climate but setting goals, having strategies, and planning events that are sustainable.
See another article of mine on wine communication: 3 Reasons Why Wine Communication Matters.
Doing a recap of my thoughts…
I believe that Wine2Wine is an event of high value and the only one of its kind in Italy, even if I have analyzed and discussed it from different angles above. Still, I think that the pandemic period has changed a lot for all of us and it is not possible to go back and just continue from where we were in 2019. We have to slow down and listen. I have argued here that value, relevance, and above all sustainability are key parameters for every personal brand and business.
How are you making smaller shifts in your business?
A surprise, I am on Feedspot’s list of the 40 Best Italian Wine Blogs and Websites, so go and check it out here.