Sipping in Singapore, Imbibing in Burma

As a wine & spirits marketer, the most fascinating aspect of world travel is discovering cultures through the lens of drinking. It was no different on my recent journey to Singapore and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Singapore has one of the highest GDPs per capita (almost $56,000 US); Myanmar has one of the lowest (just over $1,200). However, there is a stronger drinking culture in the poorer of the two countries. Here are a few insights I gained while drinking abroad.

Alcohol is Prohibitively Expensive in Singapore
Singapore discourages its citizens from drinking with a hefty “sin tax” on alcohol. Thus, a 12 oz. light beer can cost you almost $14 US! Wine drinkers will spend much more. A bottle of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi (take your pick of Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel) will cost you more than $60 US ($87.80 SGD). And that’s with a discount! The SRP is over $100!! ($144 SGD)

The result? The little bit of available wine stays in stock a long time. While checking out at a local grocery store, I noticed a Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon behind the counter… from 1999! Let me assure you, the display case was not climate controlled. My pity goes to the buyer of that poorly-stored bottle.

Myanmar Loves Campari
sodaCampari is a global spirit. No better reminder of this than seeing it prominently displayed on every back bar in the country and offered on multiple happy hour menus. Ironically, the flagship Negroni was not a specific option on menus, so I usually opted for a refreshing Campari and “pop soda.”

Craft Cocktails Feature Local Flavors
At the Rangoon Tea House—a hipster-esque local restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar—bartenders concoct creations where local ingredients shine. I sampled two cocktails: one with pineapple and red Thai chili peppers that gave the drink a spicy kick, and a sweeter option flavored with tropical purple dragon fruit.

The Medal System is Universal
Myanmar beer, the major local brew, has an adept marketing team. The ad below uses a tactic we suggest to some clients at Benson—using competition results to validate quality. In this case, Myanmar beer is the “international champion” with 12 medals between 1999 and 2010.

Myanmar Beer Advertisement in Airport

Bar at Rangoon Tea House

Decisions under duress: should you cancel that big wine event?

Paris trade tasting, November 16, 2015

At some point, every marketer faces the difficult decision of whether to cancel an event due to bad weather, a strike or some other problem. So our Paris trade tasting on November 16 – three days after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks – provides a particularly poignant example.

We had been hired by VinHOP, a Parisian wine distributor, to organize a tasting and series of seminars to showcase their portfolio of 65 wine producers and brewers. We booked La Rotonde Stalingrad, a beautiful although unusual venue for a wine event, located in the east side of Paris, and planned to welcome 650 buyers and journalists registered for the event.

Then the terrible events of Friday night occurred. The whole country was on edge.

On Saturday we checked all our traps, conferring with our client, the winegrowers, venue security, the district police department and others. After much deliberating, we decided to continue with the Monday tasting; we wanted to acknowledge the tragedy but to do what the French do best: eat, drink and socialize!

An official message was sent the 650 participants and posted on the client Facebook page. We received a lot of encouraging messages from trade and media who confirmed they would attend. And as it turned out, the sense of community and comradery that helped to shape the decision was echoed throughout Paris.

On Sunday, we arrived at an eerily quiet Gare de Lyon, but while driving up to La Rotonde across the district of the terrorist attacks, we saw more and more people having drinks at cafes and paying tribute to the victims with flowers and candles. Paris was still Paris!

On Monday at 9.30 am we opened the doors and, amazingly, 400 attendees attended the event, which had an unforgettable, positive spirit. We hope no one has to face our own, albeit modest, dilemma in the face of tragedy. We approached the decision making process by quickly getting the widest possible understanding of the situation—from our client, the community, authorities, etc. –and the result paid off.

Photo credit: ©Crédit Photos VinHOP

Newspaper Circulation Stats That May Surprise You

Which newspaper has a larger print circulation: The San Francisco Chronicle or the San Jose Mercury News? Would it surprise you to know that the Mercury News has nearly 3 times the circulation of the Chronicle? Or that the Mercury News is in the top 5 U.S. newspapers by circulation and the Chronicle doesn’t crack the top 20?

While everyone is busy heralding the fall of the regional newspaper, the circulation statistics below paint quite a different picture. Some of these newspapers reach A LOT of people on a daily basis and should not be forgotten when considering press outreach campaigns.

On the other side of the coin are monthly online viewers. Here we see a different story, with the Chronicle reaching more than 10 million people per month while the San Jose Mercury News barely reaches 1.5 million.

No matter how you slice it, none of these numbers are anything to sneeze at, and are a reminder that even in the digital age regional newspapers still have a role to play.


Print Circulation Numbers: Alliance for Audited Media
Digital UVM: Cision Digital Research

The Top 8 Things Not To Do in Wine Industry Advertising

Some contend that advertising is dead, but anyone who works in marketing—or who reads a magazine for that matter—knows it isn’t so. Advertising has changed tack and focus since the digital revolution, and there are still plenty of ways to effectively reach your target audience, provided you follow a few golden rules. The wine industry has its own specific advertising challenges, so we share our top eight things not to do in wine industry advertising below.

  1. Don’t silo your campaign: An integrated approach to an advertising campaign will increase its reach as well as the impact. Think about advertising as a partnership, not a one off expense line item. Developing relationships with media publications and working across a range of mediums—print, website, social media, emails and events—will help current and future campaigns go farther.
  2. Don’t accept a first offer: Rate card prices are almost always starting points for negotiating a better price, not a final offer. Do your research on competitor’s prices and just keep asking, “What else can you offer?”
  3. Don’t dive in blind: Before committing to anything, do your research to find out where and how the ad appears by looking at the publication’s current ads and asking to see samples. There’s nothing more disappointing than realizing that your digital ad appears at the bottom of a murderously long webpage once it’s already launched.
  4. Don’t skip the metrics: You should always know how the success of your ads will be measured. If running a print ad, know the number of subscribers and talk to the publisher to understand the most likely pass-along rate (i.e. the number of readers who read each copy, usually between 1.5-4, depending on the type of publication). If running ads online, ask the publisher to provide a report at the end detailing how many people saw the ads and how many clicked through. Better yet, link your Google Analytics account to the ad so you can actually see the results yourself.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of print: Print ads can still be key to an ad campaign, and publishers will go a long way to get you to run a print ad. Ask for added value in the form of digital ads, email sponsorship, social media posts, and even special events as part of your print ad run to get the full mileage out of your campaign.
  6. Don’t be narrow-minded: Traditional wine media may not be the best way to go. Sure, you’ll reach wine enthusiasts by advertising in the major national wine magazines, but you’ll stand out more and reach a less saturated audience in food, travel design and lifestyle publications. Don’t be afraid to branch out!
  7. Don’t plan a campaign around major holidays: Unless you have a $200K+ campaign, your message will be lost in the chaos of holiday advertising blitzes. Continuing with your regular advertising for consistency is smart, but save your extra dollars for a time of year when it will stretch farther, such as late spring when wine country tourism begins to pick up.
  8. Don’t forget to review industry guidelines: Follow Wine Institute’s Code of Advertising Standards and the Code of Responsible Practices set forth by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to help keep you compliant.