Posted by Patrick on March 1st, 2006
A company creating a corporate blog and increasing sales as a result is rather common place nowadays, but a company that relies exclusively on other blogs to increase its sales is a rather unique story and shows just how powerful the blogosphere as a business resource has become.
Deep in the South African fynbos or bush lies the Doolhof valley, a remote place that takes its name from the Afrikaans for labyrinth.
Eighteen months ago, when Nick Dymoke-Marr bought 80 hectares of vineyards there for his new business, Stormhoek, he had a dilemma. He was confident the rich soil would produce good wine. But how could he push his new brand through a maze of rivals and bring it to the attention of fickle British consumers or land huge contracts with supermarkets?
Dymoke-Marr’s unlikely solution is an intriguing microcosm of the way the internet and globalisation are changing the way businesses grow.
Last May, six months after Stormhoek launched, Dymoke-Marr despatched a bottle of his mid-price Sauvignon Blanc to 150 of the UK’s most frantic-fingered “bloggers”, the burgeoning community of internet diarists.
It was a plan that didn’t lack bottle. After all, since their emergence at the end of the 1990s, bloggers have become a nightmare for businesses the world over. Microsoft, Tesco and McDonald’s have all fallen victim to vicious blogs written by irate customers or seething employees.
But Dymoke-Marr’s gamble elicited barely a sour grape. “We were just really honest,” he says.
“We didn’t say we were selling the best wine in South Africa. We just said: ‘Here’s a nice wine, reasonably priced, tell us what you think.’ “
The bloggers got to work, tapping away about the virtues of the vino. Estimates of how many bloggers there are around the world range from 15m to 30m. Up to 80,000 blogs are thought to be started each day. If you had punched Stormhoek into Google last June, 500 references would have popped up. That figure stood at about 85,000 last week.
The bloggers who wrote about the wine included Dr Andrew Jaffe, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, and Robert Scoble, a senior executive at Microsoft, who raved about the wine on his blog.
In a seemingly serious post entitled “Stormhoek: Microsoft’s real competition”, Scoble wrote: “Let’s say you have $400 burning a hole in your pocket. You have a lot of choices where to spend that money. It could go to an Xbox 360. But it could go to a case of wine too.”
Of course, anyone who doles out free booze might expect to get a good write-up. But the pith of the Stormhoek story is that the chitchat in the virtual world has generated real sales.
Since last summer, monthly sales of Stormhoek’s bottles have doubled. It has won contracts with J Sainsbury and Majestic Wine. The internet dialogue has also led to greater demand from retailers such as Asda and Threshers with which Dymoke-Marr already had contracts.
Stormhoek now accounts for 20 per cent of all South African wine sold at above ¬£5 a bottle in the UK.
“Blogging has been really, really fundamental to what’s happened over the past year,” Dymoke-Marr says. “Our retail buyers say customers go into their stores and supermarkets and say we’ve heard about this through blogs.
“But it hasn’t just seen our sales rise strongly, it’s totally disrupted the business and completely changed the way we think.”
For instance, when Stormhoek decided late last year that it wanted to change the labelling on its bottles, the company posted the idea on blogs to see what they thought it should do. The company has also held wine tastings all over Britain co-ordinated through – yes, you guessed it – blogs. And when it launches in the US next month it will be fuelled by a similar campaign targeted at America’s blog writers.
No related posts.