Education Goes A Long Way

Some of the old guard in the liquor industry aren't used to the new era of consumer information. They're not prepared for the fact that the people calling often know more about the products than they do. They don't realize there are thousands of blogs, message boards, social media groups, and 24/7 updates about wine, whisky, and beer available online these days, going much further in-depth than what's typically available from the basic promotional sales sheet. They're used to the old days of people asking them questions about what's good, about what they should buy, and what they should be looking for. The fact that they're now often just facilitating orders for an educated public can be tough to accept, but many of our customers today already know what they want. The consumer has already researched, read the reviews, and made up his or her mind in advance of our solicitation. As retailers, we're simply the middleman in many situations.

I watched the two hour NXT event on the new WWE network last night and I saw the same thing happening with the live audience. This was meant to be a coming out party for young, up-and-coming wrestling talent, but the crowd already knew everything about these fresh faces. They were chanting various phrases like "Match of the Year" before the match had even started because they knew what was about to happen. Twenty years ago people thought professional wrestling was real!! People thought that Andre the Giant really did betray Hulk Hogan -- in real life, not as part of some scripted storyline. Today's fans, however, not only know it's a script, but also what's going to happen before it actually does. They're glued in to the rumor mills and the updates. You can't surprise anyone anymore.

While some folks are getting their egos bruised at the idea of the "smart" consumer, feeling that their knowledge isn't as valuable as it used to be, I'm overjoyed by their presence (being one of them). The more we educate people about whisky, the distilleries, the business, and how we do what we do, the less we have to explain ourselves. We don't have to play the hype man as much anymore because people already know what we're talking about. We can simply sit back and let the whisky speak for itself. The word will spread organically via the many web outlets available to discerning consumers. It's already happening for us, so why not put your feet up and enjoy it?

This is the moment we've been building towards as retailers -- the point when intelligent consumers would come looking for us, rather than the other way around. I can't help but laugh when I watch some of the older guys in this business try and guard their knowledge, like it's something that couldn't be Google-searched and learned in seconds. There's no point in fighting the future.

Embrace it.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll