Wine Business Monthly Acquires WITS,
The Wine Industry Technology Symposium
11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium Taking Place Today Developed for Wine Business Leaders, Marketers, Innovators in 2005
(NAPA, Calif.) – The Wine Communications Group’s Wine Business Monthly announced the acquisition of WITS, the Wine Industry Technology Symposium® today in Napa, CA. WITS® was founded in 2005 and is conducting its 11th Annual symposium today and Friday.
Eric Jorgensen, President of Wine Communications Group, said, “We have always had a strong interest in how the wine industry uses technology. Smoke and Lesley have done a remarkable job over the past decade of bringing the industry together around this important topic. We welcome both of them and everyone involved with WITS to the Wine Communications Group family”
“The Wine Industry Technology Symposium has been responsible for raising the level of dialogue and thinking around technology in the wine industry. I am proud of our efforts at bringing the industry together around these important topics and of playing our small part in improving wine business practices. Most importantly, I’m grateful to the many people who have played a role in making WITS a success over the years. It would never have been possible without Kathy and Waunice at the Wine Symposium Group, our Winery CIOs and Advisory Board and all the great sponsors going back to the beginning. I have many friends as a result of WITS who have enriched my life in so many ways,” said J. Smoke Wallin, founder and co-chairman of WITS.
“I have long admired Eric’s team and vision for the Wine Communications Group. WITS will be a perfect fit to their strategic vision, which gives WITS a long-term platform upon which to thrive. This was our most important criteria in a partner for WITS,” said Lesley Berglund, co-chairman of WITS and co-founder and chairman of the Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) Academy.
The transaction is expected to close in July and terms were not disclosed.
About Wine Communications Group:
Wine Communications Group, Inc. is the leading information and services provider for the global wine industry.
Publishers of winebusiness.com, the leading web site for the trade, and two of the industry’s leading print publications, Wine Business Monthly and Wines & Vines, we are dedicated to meeting the wine industry’s needs for information, analysis, resources and tools. Wine Communications Group, Inc has put together a suite of products that bring to the industry practical information, cutting edge research, recruiting tools, daily news services and a comprehensive directory.
The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry. WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and service needs of the wine industry. The 11th annual WITS is June 25 – 26, 2015 in Napa, California. To learn more, join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
For more information, go to www.WineIndustryTechnologySymposium.com
I am saddened to learn of the passing of former White House Chef and author Walter Scheib. Here is a story on it, apparently he was hiking in New Mexico and went missing. Thoughts are with his family and friends. I enjoyed my time with him. He had fascinating stories. See here my post from 2011.
White House Chef
Hanging late night 2011
Last week, I chose to graduate a bit early from YPO “Young Presidents Organization” into WPO “World Presidents Organization” its sister organization for the over 49 crowd. While I will remain active in WPO and the Food & Beverage Network and Deal Network in particular, the past twelve years in YPO have enriched my life greatly and its a good moment to reflect on that. Also I’d like to give special thanks to Todd Maurer for his remarks introducing me. These are my remarks giving thanks at the graduation ceremony.
Todd Maurer giving remarks on Smoke Wallin at YPO graduation 2015
YPO GRADUATION – J. Smoke Wallin
Thanks Todd, I really appreciate your kind words! Speaking of giving thanks, today is the anniversary of DDay 1944.
In 2003 when I joined YPO and “Forum Unplugged” my kids were 13, 11, 8 and 3, today they are 26, 24, 21 and 16… wow nothing like kids to express the passing of time.
Since then I’ve been blessed with a lifetimes worth of experiences professionally and personally as a direct result of YPO. This was not an accident. It did not just happen to me. You see, I don’t believe in doing things part way. Either you commit or you do not. When I joined YPO I made a commitment to give and get as much as I possibly could.
Henry David Thoreau said “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.” This is YPO.
From Australia to India to the UK to cities throughout the US, YPO members have been welcoming and helpful to my family and me. I know this because I dined at their homes, visited their businesses, attended their events and engaged with them in business. I know the last 12 years of my life have been greatly enhanced by this commitment.
I will express my gratitude by sharing a couple of stories and mention a few people.
First, I met my wife Anitra on a YPO trip and that changed my life forever. Thanks Darling.
YPO George HW Bush Event – Smoke & Anitra 2004
I could stop there, but I won’t.
I joined Forum Unplugged and have had 12 years of deep relationships, friendships and confidences with 22 Forum mates. They include:
- Scott Webber
- Don Palmer
- Brent Eckhart
- Mark Jackson
- Bill McCarthy
- Allen Furrer
- Dan Horner
- Chris Hilger
- Richard Horn
- Mike Bosway
- Matthew Claymon
- Gregg Schorr
- Nelson Reyes
- Jim Rapp
- Brian Acton
- Kent Morris
- Todd Maurer
- Anthony Brown
- John Ryan
- Bryan Brenner
- Dave Foellinger
- Dan Filby
YPO Forum Unplugged
These are some of the finest individuals I’ve ever come to know and I am grateful for all they have done for me in my journey.
Some of our very best friends today are members we met through YPO including Bryan and Lara Sperber in Phoenix and Lesley Berglund in Napa
Through Networks, I’ve expanded my industry network tenfold. Engagement in networks has been the single most important business and professional development aspect of YPO for me. Fortunately, I’m excited to be able to continue through WPO as I Chair the 2016 Food & Beverage Roundtable in Napa, CA.
Looking back, I’ve lived so much life over the past 12 years it’s hard to summarize in a couple of minutes. I’m not alone when I say it has come with great successes and great loss. I’ve lost partners, friends and employees to both accidents and suicide. I’ve had incredible business ups and downs and started numerous new ones along the way. Throughout all of it, I’ve had YPO people to help me be better or simply to be there when I have needed it most.
To all of us, but especially those newer members… I’d like to remind you of some things that did not exist when I joined:
- starting in my industry – there are 1,000s of new breweries, wineries and spirits brands available today that did not exist
- There was no iPod or iPhone or iPad
- There was no Facebook or Twitter
- No AirBnB or Uber
- no Freedom Tower
- no Lucas Oil Stadium
All of these things that are now a part of the world and our every day lives.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
– A. Einstein
Looking forward, what will the next 12 years bring? I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s next in brands, but I won’t try and answer that question here. There is one thing that I do know…. I am confident many YPO people will be involved in changing both the world and my life for the better.
Thanks for everything you have given me.
I recently read and shared an article in Forbes by Patrick Hanlon called, “Why Brands Must Evolve” that is so spot on that it has led to a number of interesting conversations in the past week with some of my clients and partners who own brands in beer, wine and spirits. As one who spends a lot of time thinking about new brands, as well as igniting established brands in new ways, Patrick’s thoughts really resonated with me. I don’t think there is a better industry than beverage to illustrate his points about what is going on with brands. Brand proliferation is happening across the board making “breaking through the clutter” ever more difficult. At the same time, the reason this is happening if fundamentally that there is demand for new brands. As I wrote in “RE: Is Craft Beer In A Bubble”, there is a big and growing market for new brands in beer, but also in wine and spirits. Not everyone will succeed and in fact many new brands will fail. To the big brand manager, the fundamental challenge has also never been so big – how do you keep a loyal following when your following gets gigantic. I think about an Iconic brand like Patron Tequila. I was a distributor for Patron as it passed between different sales companies and was a very difficult sell. Five years from the time it launched, Patron was doing about 55,000 cases. Now that is a nice little brand, but nothing would have screamed, “This brand is on fire!” Then, it did catch on fire and became the very symbol of luxury. Check out Patron case sales for the first 10 years:
Patron is an amazing brand and continues to outsell all of the other super premium tequilas (and frankly all other spirits brands at $40/750ml bottle and higher). They have a huge and loyal following. However, as brand manager for Patron today, the things one has to do to market the brand are quite different than in the early years. How does one keep the “cool” factor going when you are the largest brand in your category. There are dozens of new entrants who are going after their market and have the advantage of being smaller (think Avion, Casamigos, Don Julio) and bringing a new “cool” factor to the market. Clearly there are many that succeed at this but being true to your brand and your audience while changing things up can be quite difficult. Absolut Vodka was THE luxury brand of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was the “it” brand among the “it” crowd.
Pernod Ricard paid over $8 billion to acquire the brand a few years back. How does Pernod now manage a giant brand that was formerly the top luxury vodka in a market with such massive proliferation of brands that the high-end vodka category has experienced. I’m told there are 800 vodkas in the Beverage Media New York book. Pernod recently announced a new bottle. Absolut is one of those brands that defined itself by its bottle. Changing the bottle is a big move even in subtle ways. Adding the big A is a pretty big move. Large companies don’t usually make big moves, but staying relevant in a crowded market sometimes requires big moves. Pepsico made an even bigger move a few years back with their Gatorade brand. I thought at the time, it was fairly risky, but it appears to have paid off (does anyone know details?).
Patrick’s article certainly cites a number of great examples of big brands that have managed to evolve over time and keep or even build on their past successes. “…the challenge for brands has evolved from creating awareness to creating meaning.” How do you keep creating meaning at scale like Nike, Apple and Disney have successfully done. They each connect to their consumers and continually create meaning.
The wine market has evolved so dramatically, that I have to look up many of the brands on the grocery shelf today and I have been involved in selling $100s of millions of wine over the years. Why? New brand proliferation to attract the millennial consumers.
Take a look at the top 10 domestic “Hot Brands” put out by Marvin Shanken’s Impact Databank:
- Black Box
- Bota Box
- Liberty Creek
- 14 hands
- Barefoot Refresh
- Gnarly Head
Four of these are Gallo Brands, but none say Gallo. All have interesting, contemporary labels. To succeed in this hyper-competitive market, every brand must have a number of things. Great branding is vital, without it your brand is lost and has no chance. Great liquid that fits the taste of your target market is key, without it they won’t buy a second time. Distribution is essential, a brand cannot become relevant if consumers can’t find it. But how does a brand build a real following of consumers who care? That is, how do we create meaning? That is the question every new brand team needs to answer.
To quote Patrick again: “We want the added value of believing in something. The added value of belonging to something: being a part of something that hard-wires us to a larger community of “people like me””
Seth Godin in his fantastic book “Tribes” articulates this concept well.
“Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so.” Brands have to figure out how to reach their tribes and how to engage with them. Notice, I did not say create their tribes. This is an important distinction. I believe tribes are discovered not created. Brands who overtly try to create one typically struggle. If a following is not organic, today’s savvy consumers sense it. I think brands can make themselves relevant and worthy of a following and then as that following begins to show signs of life can play a role in fostering and accelerating it.
I’d love to hear your stories of brands you think are doing this right.
On this Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. The world we live in is a dangerous one, fraught with men with evil intentions. But for the sacrifice of a brave few, those men would have their way on all. We can see it in places near and far, from the evil men who brutally tortured and killed a YPO family in Washington DC (Savvas Savopoulos) to the evil being inflicted on whole countries in the Middle East. Left unchecked evil prevails. We live in a the greatest country, a place where an individual, no matter if they were born into poverty and extreme disadvantage can do and be anything they set out to achieve. A country where the world’s people, seek out more than any other, to take refuge from evil, to build a better life for their family, to live free. We are all privileged and I give thanks to those who have made it possible.
This poem, by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during the great struggle against evil in World War II, has hung on my wall for 26 years. I can think of no better message to all of my children (sons and daughters) than that contained herein.
“Build me a son, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee-and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”
– General Douglas MacArthur
As we all enjoy the holiday weekend, including the many who come to town for the Indy 500 Sunday, let’s all take a moment and reflect on these words. Happy Memorial Day Weekend.
May 23, 2015
Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member
The Wallin Children May 2015