"Close your eyes and bow your head…"

by Katie Pizzuto on March 23, 2010

in marketing,Wine

I normally don’t have a beef with the Accidental Wine Company. In fact, to their credit, I think theirs is a great idea: snatch up bottles of wine that are soiled, retired, or have a discontinued label (and therefore are less valuable), whose contents remain perfect, and sell them at deep discounts. Genius. Then I get an email in my Inbox with the following subject line, “Redemption thru Psalm.” Shit, I thought, what in hell did I do or say to get on Pat Robertson’s blast list? Unsubscribe, unsubscribe! But when I saw who the sender was, I opened it…reluctantly, mind you, as I was still dubious—Pat Robertson works in mysterious ways, and it wouldn’t be beyond him to pretend he was peddling wines on the outside chance he might be able to convert a wayward soul…way wayward soul.

Turns out Accidental Wine had two offers that day, Trinitas Cellars’ 2008 Psalms white meritage, and Redemption Wine’s 2007 pinot noir. What they proposed was “a refreshing Psalm and a chance at Redemption.” OK, I get it. It was cute in all its corny, “pun intended” sort of way—refreshing Psalm (snort, giggle, giggle)…a chance at Redemption (chortle, chuckle). But then I nearly lost my lunch when I saw they actually quoted a Psalm, and then finished their email with, “So follow us and come away with a psalm in your heart and redemption in your glass.” Did no one teach the lovely folks at Accidental that the two topic no-nos in marketing—fuck, forget marketing, in life—are religion and politics? I have no issues buying wines called Psalms or Redemption despite the fact that I’m pretty sure if I stepped foot inside a church I’d probably burst into flames, but in no way do I want to feel preached to. It’s subtle, but it’s not, and I honestly have no idea what their religious background is over at Accidental. In fact, I’d venture to guess this was an attempt at being clever, not at being holy…yet here we are.

As it turns out, Trinitas Cellars is an openly spiritual winery. They wear their religion on their proverbial sleeve and it’s a bold move given that it could easily push away prospective consumers that simply don’t want anything religious in their lives (stupid as that might be if the wine is really good). Redemption Wines, however, never utters a word about God or religion, basing their name instead on the goal of redeeming a previously failing business. If I’m one of the folks at Redemption, I’m no doubt happy that Accidental is moving some of my superficially flawed product, but am I happy to be thrown into a religiously-charged email blast? I dunno about that. In the end, it is the actual wine that should speak to one’s soul, not the seller of the wine.

I don’t fault the good folks at Accidental too much for this one, only because I think their poorly veiled attempt at humor wasn’t meant to come off as sanctimonious. I honestly don’t think they realized they might rub a few customers the wrong way—which they did. I spoke to several cork dorks who are on Accidental’s mailing list and took issue with the blast, one in particular calling it “insane” and another saying it was a “dumb move.” The email ended with a note that these wines are the perfect pairing for rabbit and lamb—the sacrificial ones, I’m guessing.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel March 23, 2010

I agree with your closing statement — that this was probably, at least in their minds, a clever way of promoting a couple of their wines.

And though I can understand why the scripture might bother you, where do you draw the line? Would you be reticent to drink the Psalms wine because of its name? Or because the winery is openly spiritual?

Yes, I realize that the difference is these people directly “contacted” you, but at the same time it does sound like they were just trying to be clever. The way they did it might be a “no-no,” but don’t the marketers also say there’s no such thing as bad publicity? I’d never heard of the Accidental Wine Company to this point, but now you have me intrigued. The actual business idea is an interesting one.

I’m all for cheap wine, especially cheap, redeeming wine. 🙂

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2 ConstanceC March 23, 2010

You did forget to notice that the sale was avaliable until Good Friday — which I think just was the final nail in the coffin. I actually had my coworker forward this on to her uber religious friend who found it to be quite offensive. Not being religious myself, I can’t say I honestly took too much personal offense from it, but I did find this email completely and utterly ridiculous — as you know 🙂

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3 Katie Pizzuto March 23, 2010

Daniel, first of all, as you can see below, Constance was one of the many who received the email and didn’t exactly dig it. To answer your question, there is NO WAY I would be reticent to drink the Psalms wine…in fact I said that: “I have no issues buying wines called Psalms or Redemption…” I’d be happy to give it a try if I thought it to be a good wine. I also said that people who wouldn’t buy Psalms because they are anti-religion would be acting stupidly. Understand that I don’t “draw the line” anywhere. Companies are free to market in whatever way they choose. I don’t find this offensive, but I find it to be not the smartest of moves, either.

Accidental Wines is a great company…by all means, go check them out and sign up! Sometimes, though, an intent to be clever just plain flops.

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4 castello March 23, 2010

Now I know how to get your panties in a bunch. Similar to me….I’ll just say bless you! I’m sure you’ve sneezed lately. 😉

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5 Don March 24, 2010

Well Katie, I’m not sure what to say here. I agree that the marketing for those particular bottles was in bad taste and potentially offensive regardless of your perspective or proclivities, but what really surprised me in this post was the voracity at which you attacked Christian outreach. It’s not like they are making you drink the Kool Aid. To be brutally honest your rant reminded me of The Omen when the dad tried to drag Damien into the Church. It was surprising. But your blog, your opinions, you are certainly entitled to them. And this is probably the last time I will bring up religion here.

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6 Katie Pizzuto March 24, 2010

Is that how it came off, Don? Attacking Christian outreach? Because that’s not what I was after at all. I think Trinitas being a Christian, religiously-driven winery is FINE. And as I said, I’d never hesitate to buy a bottle, regardless of what religious affiliation I may or may not have. I simply don’t think Accidental 1. had the right to rope Redemption Wine into the mix by making it appear to be religiously-oriented or 2. should stick religious messages in marketing. In fact, I tried hard not to “attack” anyone, as I truly felt this was more just not a great idea than an outrage or anything. I felt preached to, and I shouldn’t feel that way with wine marketing. It’s a touchy subject for many, and my point more than anything else, was that they were driving away potential customers because of the tone in their email. Driving those people and their dollars away is NEVER a good idea in Marketing 101 🙂

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7 Don March 24, 2010

On that I totally agree, Katie. And if I misunderstood your message I apologize. I don’t want to backhandedly offend you.

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8 Katie Pizzuto March 24, 2010

No apologies needed now or ever…and no offense taken. If I don’t make myself clear at any point, I want to know it.

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9 Coupe 60 March 25, 2010

Did Accidental offer you $50 to write something nice about their product?

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10 Katie Pizzuto March 25, 2010

Nope. What they did offer was the above two wines….again. LOL.

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11 The Wine Commonsewer March 28, 2010

I make it a point to take communion frequently.

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12 Joe March 29, 2010

the visceral reaction to the probable harmless intention of the email proves your point. Politics and Religion are INCREDIBLY polarizing. I have no problem with Christians (I guess I would call myself one), but preaching- unless I’m sitting in church- is always a turn-off, and certainly not a good way to sell anything. Said preaching has proliferated to the point that our early-warning senses are always at the ready. This email would maybe trigger mine as well!

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13 Katie Pizzuto March 29, 2010

@Mike…you’re a better man than me. Wait, I’m not a man…

@Joe…”not a good way to sell anything” is especially true if it’s not even your product. Selling someone else’s product and attaching religion to it?! Ugh.

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