Beaujolais Nouveau: Case study in buzz marketing (before social media)

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One of my favorite events in France every year is the third Thursday in November when the Beaujolais Nouveau comes on the market. Wine experts will go to great lengths to describe the new wine (fresh out of the presses as the grapes were just harvested a few weeks previously), but basically it usually tastes of berries and bananas because it’s a young wine and that’s what young red wines taste like. It’s a festive occasion that brings people out in force to cafés or private Beaujolais Nouveau parties.

Beaujolais Nouveau is never a great wine, and it’s not meant to be. The event has its roots in local celebrations of the new harvest and the need to drink something while waiting for the better wines to age. Today’s planetary scale of the release is due in large part to the marketing genius of Georges Duboeuf, a wine grower and trader nicknamed the King of Beaujolais. Its popularity has grown to such an extent that Beaujolais Nouveau now accounts for at least one-third of the region’s annual wine production.  Marketeers might want to note that shifting a chunk of regional production from the longer-aging Beaujolais wines to Beaujolais Nouveau has significantly shortened the time between production and sales. With at least 65 MILLION bottles sold every year, that is a useful boost to cashflow.

It is unlawful to sell the wine before one minute after midnight the night/morning of the third Thursday in November, so bottles are shipped across the globe at a breakneck pace to allow people everywhere to taste the young wine on its official release date.

So tonight I lift my glass to the marketing genius of Georges Duboeuf and the buzz he helped create around a fairly ordinary product — without the help of social media — because he understood how to appeal to people’s sense of celebration.

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