What is was all about
May is generally Michigan Wine Month and in May 2020 the Michigan Wine Collaborative partnered with BevFluence in order to expand beyond that month and promote Michigan wines throughout the summer. The Michigan Wine Collaborative (MWC) is a non-profit organization formed “to enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers, related businesses and individuals connected to the industry – today and for future generations”. BevFluence is an organization created by beverage content creators and is a place to share ideas, enrich current relationships, and forge new connections that will increase professional opportunities.
There are approximately 150 wineries in the Great Lakes State with the majority clustered around southwest Michigan in the Lake Michigan Shore AVA and in the northeast with the Old Mission Peninsula AVA and Leelanau Peninsula AVA. The BevFluence campaign initially focused on three wineries, each representing one of these regions, then expanded to a final winery as the summer concluded.
Left Foot Charley is a winery located in Michigan’s Traverse City region — also called the Traverse Wine Coast because of the abundance of wineries located in the nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula trail. One reason is that this northern Michigan region is situated on the 45th Parallel — lined up with the world’s most prestigious wine regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley to name a few) where these regions experience the same angle of the sun and length of a day. Yet, that only is a partial explanation – particular microclimates matter such as found in the Old Mission Peninsula where Lake Michigan creates a very favorable grape growing environment. The “lake effect” snow protects the vines in the winter from freezing temperatures and provides a diurnal change in temperatures during the summer. Think bright acidity.
Left Foot Charley leverages small family-owned vineyards in the Old Mission Peninsula with most of these planted with less than 2 acres of vines. This translates to abundant tender loving care. The grapes are very intriguing and include many found in Germany and Austria: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Blaufränkisch – in addition to Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.
Aurora Cellars is situated in the middle of the Leelanau Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA), which was established in 1982. The AVA consists of a peninsula between Lake Michigan on the west and Grand Traverse Bay on the east. The lake effect caused by these two bodies of water helps moderate the climate making it highly suitable for viticulture. These are cold-climate grapes predominantly Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc — all vinified by Aurora Cellars in addition to the Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Blaufrankish.
Amoritas Vineyards is also situated in the Leelanau Peninsula AVA, just on the outskirts of the town of Lake Leelanau, and focuses on similar cold-climate white grapes. These are Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc all estate-grown on rolling hills and sandy loam soils.
12 Corners Vineyards is located on the shores of Lake Michigan within the Lake Michigan Shores AVA. In fact, this AVA is the oldest modern commercial grape region of the state and home to a majority of Michigan vineyards and half of the state wine grape production. That is because the region is sheltered from the harshness of winter by the “lake effect” which blankets the fruit vines with snow and provides slightly warmer temperatures. The winery is based on a 115-acre estate planted with both vinifera and hybrid grapes that includes Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Marquette, Traminette, and Gewürztraminer. Expect very affordable and clean wines whether dry or off-dry, semi-sweet or sweet.
Seven BevFluence community members participated in the campaign, sharing their thoughts on these wines through various social media and provider platforms. The influencers and their platform’s social media handles are listed in the appendix below. Through several years of participating in online tastings and media excursions, the BevFluence team has developed a methodology to share and amplify content across multiple platforms. And these participants utilized this methodology throughout the campaign which was kicked off with a video interview of Emily Dockery on the BevFluence YouTube Channel. In this interview, she described the unique characteristics of the Michigan wine industry and the challenges brought about by the COVID lockdowns.
We turned our team loose on this one and they created some great content. On social media, Instagram was the most popular platform, receiving widespread engagement for all influencers, particularly from Wine With Paige whose reach averaged over 3,000 accounts, and Nick Drinks with close to 1,000. In total, this campaign’s Instagram reach totalled 25,000 with 7,000 unique views. The BevFluence members also posted frequently on Facebook in some instances replicating the content from Instagram. These posts reached 8,000 views. Some of the highlights of the campaign included Nick Drinks video interview of Aurora winemaker and founder Drew Perry. And Cork Envy provided a series of one-minute videos in his garage or pool on a multitude of wines.
Another participant in this campaign was the Repour Wine Saver, who generously donated several boxes of wine stoppers to each BevFluence influencer. These stoppers extend the open life of each wine bottle by absorbing oxygen from the air above the wine and from the wine itself thereby stopping the degradation process. During the campaign, several influencers measured the freshness of a particular wine over a seven day period and reported no detectable signs of oxidation or degradation.
The Michigan Wine Collaborative – BevFluence campaign unofficially concluded with a Twitter Wine Blogger Workshop where Bevfluence, the Michigan Wine Collaborative, and winemakers discussed the campaign’s implementation. This discussion included the benefits of the BevFluence methodology as well as suggestions how winery’s can better enable and support future influencer campaigns.
The long story made short is that if you want to get the best content and do not have the budget for huge marketing campaigns or have the time to thumb through every media request, sample request and local blogger that want to “cover you” consider a professional Influencer organization such as BevFluence.
This sounds like a marketing firm?
Nope, we are not a marketing firm and would be happy to recommend a decent fit to suit your needs. Instead, we are a collective; each member and participant in our content campaigns are themselves, content creators. We understand the value of the samples sent to influencers and how difficult it is for brands and PR firms to decide who gets what sample. That is why we hold our creators accountable for not producing content when samples are sent to them. These lessons are continually added to our methodology.
We KNOW it went very well; there was loads of engagement and the influencers that were involved really enjoyed the wines. Our parameters were for the most part followed but underscore the importance of participants in future campaigns getting paid. Our members often have to choose between paid or sponsored content and posting just to post. Many content creators will leave content queued up or have bottles waiting to sample, but those samples get pushed aside for a paid post. In this gig economy, there are more opportunities than ever to post and share content and less and less opportunity to get paid. In 2020 alone posts by first-time creators increased by thousands of new creators because suddenly bartenders, restaurateurs, mixologists, and food and beverage professionals, the world over, found themselves out of work.
Our collaborative spirit and one of a kind influencer marketing campaign model put Michigan wines in the hands of several influencers across multiple regions. The BevFluence leadership focused its search for member content creators by simply looking for Collaborators who would provide the most bang for the buck. This search resulted in motivated influencers with one even getting mentioned in local Michigan news stories.
Final thoughts on the Michigan wine campaign
Overall the Michigan BevFluence Collaboration was a great success and not just from its extensive social media reach. Just as important, the campaign provided actual intelligence on what posting and sharing methods increased reach, instances of waste or duplication, and areas for improvement. This information was measured across all players within the campaign, from the BevFluence leadership, the influencer community, the Michigan Wine Collaborative, and the individual wineries. Many of these items were discussed in more detail during the #MIWineBloggerWorkshop and have all been incorporated into the dynamic BevFluence Influencer Methodology.
3 valuable insights for the producer and content creator
Number one: understand fully what is being asked. Don’t sign on unless you understand all the requirements in detail.
Number two: play until the whistle blows. Do not participate unless you’re willing to see the project through to the end. This includes making sure that you write all of the content necessary or take all of the required pictures. For the producer, be attentive to interview requests, follow-up questions, and possibly, additional samples.
Number three: have fun with it. Our industry may have quite a bit of science involved, but it is not rocket science. We are not sending people to the moon; we’re drinking wine and taking pictures. Enjoy it.
Across the United States, there are small regions dedicated to producing wines that speak to that region. As content creators [bloggers, podcasters, writers, and others in the industry] we often forget that. The consumer can very easily get overwhelmed by the enormous selection in grocery stores — even when these wines are the focus of our content. How then is the consumer supposed to learn about incredibly small production regions like Lake Michigan, Idaho, Texas Hill Country, or the Finger Lakes? Many shelves are dominated by France Italy, Spain, California, Oregon without really giving the opportunity to these and other similar regions. While some retailers will have a local section it’s not as common as you might think.
One of BevFluence’s goals is to enhance the community of content creators while simultaneously strengthening the collaboration with producers who might not have the opportunity to reach most content creators. Once a producer reaches the correct content creator audience, they open themselves to an entirely new world of content velocity. That is what we accomplished with our Michigan wines campaign and what we will continue to do with producers and regions from the United States and around the world.
Lastly, if you have not had a chance to go to Michigan or try their wine we strongly encourage you to do so. These are wines that are as varied in style as the people who make them.
Our work takes us to wine, beer and spirits regions around the country and indeed the world. We are happy to entertain any region and brand that wants to work with us so please feel free to reach out for 2021-2022 schedule as it fills up quickly.
The BevFluence Team
Appendix – The Participants
Michigan Wine Collaborative
Left Foot Charley
Twitter : amoritasVINES
12 Corners Vineyards
Repour Wine Saver
Justin Koury – Wizard of Whiskey
Todd Godbout – WineCompass
Facebook: WineCompassIntl; thecompassapp
Instagram: tmgodbout; thecompasscbf
Jenn Nelson – WineAntics
Jason Stubblefield – CorkEnvy
Paige Comrie – Wine With Paige
Facebook: Wine with Paige
Nick Britsky – Nick Drinks
Thea Dwelle – Luscious Lushes
Twitter: winebratsf; luscious_Lushes