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INSIDE THE INDUSTRY The distributor panel (left to right): Bob Hendrickson, Executive VP, Republic National Distributing Company; Efren Puente, VP Marketing, Charmer Sunbelt Group; Kevin Fennessey, SVP Marketing, Southern Wine & Spirits; Jeffrey Altschuler, CEO, Allied Beverage Group; Ted Roman, SVP Sales, William Grant & Sons Inc. Why Twitter Matters S ocial media marketing continued to dominate the hot list at the fourth annual U.S. Drinks Conference, U.S. Drinks Conference organizers (left to right): John Beaudette, Mike Ginley, Steve Raye and Jeff Grindrod. held in New York City, Oct. 12–13. Some 210 attendees arrived from 14 countries for advice on getting into and building a presence in the U.S. market. An A-list of speakers and panelists, including Wine Library TV founder and best-selling book author Gary Vaynerchuk, dished on industry trends and challenges. “We moved to panel discussions, which allowed us to have more speakers and a more diverse range of points of view. Our goal was to get away from the ‘blue sky’ theoretical to focus on practical answers to specific questions,” said Steve Raye, Managing Partner of Brand Action Team and one of the conference organizers. Social media have gained considerable trac- The Take-Away Marketing budgets: Website consistently ranked the lowest budget alloca- tion: Priority? “Put your money on the street,” and get the trade involved. Actionable insights: In general, drinkers seek new taste experiences with emerging brands, but the fast-growing ethnic population is fueling interest for new drink experiences such as cachaça and pisco. Brand entry: Consolidation and increasing domination create worries for small players. But major beverage companies are willing to pay big for growth brands in early stages of development. Social media: Social media are the great leveling field. It turns the control aspect of advertising into communication with consumers. If you’re trans- parent and authentic, you’ll be heard. 34 / the tasting panel / december 2010 SOCIAL MEDIA AND OTHER INSIGHTS FROM THE FOURTH ANNUAL U.S. DRINKS CONFERENCE story and photos by Lana Bortolot tion in the industry as more beverage brands have come online with creative conversations. And “Gary Vee,” dubbed the “Social Media Sommelier” for his early adoption of online networking, was there to prove it. “Your virtual room is how you express yourself and impress others,” Vaynerchuk said. And he should know: In 2008 he had 85,000 followers on Twitter; now that number is more than 850,000. “The reason 90 percent of you think Twitter is stupid is because you don’t think people want to know or care if you’re eating a pizza,” he said, evoking laughs and agreement from the audience. “But Twitter is about listening—that’s what people don’t understand—and we’re having massive, massive, massive consumer shifts . . . and the fact that businesses are in the social conversation is the major shift.” New frontiers dominated the conference in other ways, too—from brand entry and activation to budgeting and capital financ- ing. “I think that more people are finding a tougher time finding money,” said Jeff Grindrod, BAT Managing Partner. “We added on the financial discussion to give companies a better feel for cost of entry and how to get the funding.” Though the entrepreneurial landscape has been changed by the recession and the pulling-back of financial resources, the presence of recent success stories such as Cabana Cachaça, represented by founder Matti Antilla, showed the audience that brands can still launch and thrive, even in hard times.

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