Googled Yourself Lately?

September 1, 2005
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Googled Yourself Lately?
By  RENEE PAS
How beverage companies are increasing their Web presence
Have you ever Googled your company? Plug in your primary product offering and see if your company (and competitors) shows up in the results. It’s one of the best ways to determine if potential customers will find you, says Scott Buresch, chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Web consulting firm Medium Blue.
“Google is a great way to find out what business opportunities you are missing by not showing up,” Buresch says. The more ways customers have to reach you online, the better, with portals being one great way to add entry points.
A new beverage entry point is through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE), Washington, D.C., which recently teamed up with Gallo Winery, Modesto, Calif., on a new wine education Web site.
“If you have a good tool, everyone wants to use it,” says Pat Dodd, director of marketing, wine education for E&J Gallo Winery. That is one of the reasons Gallo decided to open the site to distributors, competitors and consumers, serving as something of a portal site.
It started with Gallo’s desire for a long-distance learning approach to employee and distributor training. The SWE partnership added legitimacy as a general-knowledge training site, which was key to gaining participation among multi-line distributors, and expertise on wines in areas of the world Gallo doesn’t have a presence.
There are two ways to tap into the site: gallowineacademy.com or societyofwineeducators.org. Both have the same educational modules, but the Gallo site includes product information for employees and customers. Users can browse through wine courses or test their wine knowledge with the trial exam for the Certified Wine Specialist test. New modules will continue to be added, with a food pairing module in development now, as well as a hand-selling module for those on the retail and restaurant side.
Fun with beer, vodka and gin
Several other new beverage industry sites also are designed to educate, inform and entertain. The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) launched goodbeerfun.com to give consumers an interactive way to learn more about the beer industry. It’s also a way to educate opinion leaders.
The NBWA promoted the site to members of Congress as its August recess kicked in. Erin Rutherford, NBWA communications manager, says the site is probably most visited by congressional staff, and is helping bring greater awareness to beer.
The site includes a 14-minute video about the beer industry from Prohibition to today, plus vintage beer commercials and a beer trivia section.
Grey Goose Vodka, Miami, has a new interactive Web site that launched in July. The site features imagery of photographer Miles Aldridge and a soundtrack by a hip Electronica group Clifford Gilberto Rhythm Nation.
Visitors to the site, greygoosevodka.com, can take a virtual tour of the Cognac region of France for information about the heritage and distillation of Grey Goose Vodka, or head to a chic bar for cocktail recipes. The site also contains a section highlighting Grey Goose sponsorships and charity partners, plus a “World’s Best” section that reviews new, non-beverage products, such as a leather MacKenzie Northwest Peter Jacobsen golf bag.
Also this summer, Plymouth Gin launched an online distillery tour at plymouthgin.com that takes users through the production process. The intent is to educate consumers about Plymouth Gin, says Jeffrey Moran, director of special events and public relations at The Absolut Spirits Co., the U.S. importer of Plymouth.
Moran believes having an Internet presence is an important part of the marketing mix and a way for consumers to interact with the brand. “We will always consider the Web in our marketing campaigns,” he says, “especially as the Internet’s capabilities continue to grow.”
Consumer sites
One wouldn’t do justice to the Internet if he or she didn’t mention eBay and the overall influence of John Q. Public.
Coca-Cola tapped into the power of eBay for Coca-Cola Zero by putting a sample pack for auction prior to the national launch. It received 58 bids; the winning bid was $2,750. Proceeds went to the American Red Cross.
No word on whether Coca-Cola would do this kind of promotion again, but the marketing strategy was certainly a first. Consumers seek many things on the Internet, from buying products to researching items.
For opinions on energy drinks, many visit Ben and Dan Designs at bandddesigns.com/energy, which has more than 100 energy drink reviews. The reviewer is Dan Mayer, a post-college twentysomething who happens to really like energy drinks. His friends started asking him his opinion so much he started posting reviews. Then when Yahoo! made it its site of the day, hits catapulted to 3,000 per day and Investors Business Daily called. Let’s put it this way, his opinion about energy drinks matters to consumers.
“People read my reviews to find out if they are interested in trying it,” says Mayer, who ranks the products on taste, alcohol-hiding ability, cost and “pump upedness.” His reviews now show up in college newspapers and are linked to several other Web sites.
Manufacturers have also taken notice of the site; many send samples and some support the site through sponsorships. It is just one of the many ways marketers are getting more involved with the opportunities on the Internet. BI
Optimizing your site
While funky Web designs look nice, you want a point of action. “It’s a business forum, not an art forum,” says Scott Buresch, chief executive officer of Medium Blue. He works with a lot of companies that have a Web presence that he says is not really doing anything for them, and specializes in optimizing companies’ Web presence.
Buresch advises forgoing glitzy, gimmicky Web designs in favor of clean, functional sites. He believes the investment is better spent on traffic and conversion of the site.
Buresch’s Web tips:
Skip the intro. At a minimum, allow the user to skip it. More than 90 percent of people never view the intro, even if they haven’t seen it before.
Find more portals. The more involved you are in portals, the more outlets users have to reach your site.
Cleaner is better. Don’t clutter the site with too many bells and whistles; you’ll just insult users.
Usability is key. You want people to stay on the site once they get there.
Don’t build by committee. Determine the business case for having something on the site; there should be a reason.
Review periodically. Go back and see if some thing has changed in the company or industry that should be added or eliminated from the site. Not enough companies do that.

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