Stormhoek, the South African label owned by Orbital Wines, has created a wine specifically for Microsoft.
Blue Monster Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is named for a cartoon character developed by Hugh MacLeod, Stormhoek’s marketing strategist.
‘I have been blogging about Microsoft for the last three years, and I got to know some employees,’ MacLeod told decanter.com.
‘I drew this cartoon of a blue monster and posted it on my website (gapingvoid.com). Microsoft people started downloading it, and it’s now their underground mascot.’
MacLeod said the cartoon’s popularity inspired Stormhoek to bottle a bespoke wine for Microsoft, but that there are no plans to sell the wine to the public.
Yet Stormhoek made its name primarily through viral marketing campaigns that originated on gapingvoid.com.
Initially, Stormhoek mailed free bottles to bloggers, hoping they would taste it and comment. The wine doubled sales and gained a 19% share of the over-£5 South African wine market.
Subsequently, MacLeod posted a voucher entitling blog visitors to a discount on Stormhoek at Threshers, the UK wine chain. The voucher was downloaded by several million people, and according to Threshers, Stormhoek’s sales increased by 60%.
However MacLeod denies the Microsoft project is a ploy to gain more own-labelling business.
‘We thought this would be a fun and interesting thing to do,’ he said. ‘My professional interest is in wine, but my intellectual interest is in social objects and marketing. And wine is a social object.’
Marketers are desperate to capitalise on the success of social marketing sites like Facebook, Youtube and Myspace. Indeed, Stormhoek is using the ‘Friends of Blue Monster’ Facebook group to distribute the wine.
Such efforts draw potential comparisons with the Cillit Bang scandal, in which the cleaning product was shilled by a fake blogger.
Mark Lewis, Search Engine Optimisation manager for IPC Media (parent company of Decanter) is less cynical.
‘I don’t know much about wine, and if a friend emailed me about a wine or sent me a voucher, I might be tempted to try it,’ he said, ‘even if I knew it came from the company making it.’
Written by Maggie Rosen