SEATTLE – The Washington wine industry is letting the world know it means business.
While it’s been showing that in the vineyards and in the bottle for the past two decades, now the Washington State Wine Commission has unleashed a strong, edgy marketing campaign directed at restaurateurs, writers and retailers.
Enter “The Recommendeuer.”
On Monday, the wine commission released an iPad app that combines sharp humor with depth of information – something that hasn’t been seen from any wine region in the world.
“As far as we know, nobody’s tried to do this,” said Steve Warner, executive director of the wine commission in Seattle. “And the key is the content. There have been examples of somebody funny who has promoted a product but not really tied in their message with content.”
For the Washington wine industry, that man is The Recommendeuer, a funny, semi-stuffy character portrayed by actor and comedian Greg Proops. Proops is well known for taking part in “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show.”
Star Wars fans might recognize his voice from “Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace,” in which he plays one of the announcers of the Boonta Eve Classic pod race and utters the line, “I don’t care what universe you’re from, that’s gotta hurt.”
In the iPad app, Proops uses humor to make his points about the Washington wine industry, whether it’s providing food-pairing tips or explaining the climate of the Columbia Valley.
The idea for The Recommendeuer came when GreenRubino, a Seattle marketing firm, earned a contract with the wine commission and brainstormed what the future might hold.
“It was about nine months of work,” Warner said.
And the work won’t stop anytime soon. The app is loaded with information, including acreage numbers, harvest data going back to 1985 and details about every American Viticultural Area in the state. Warner said that while much of this information is available from multiple sources, this puts it all in one convenient package.
And in a format that can be regularly updated. Whenever new data is available, all the wine commission and GreenRubino will need to do is update the app.
‘The Recommendeuer’ being promoted to trade, media
The app is being made available to trade and media, though it is not being marketed to consumers – per the wine commission’s agreement with Proop. However, anyone with an iPad and the right link could download the app.
Warner told Great Northwest Wine that he has high hopes for The Recommendeuer.
“It’s going to make a big splash and create some buzz,” he said. “People are going to be talking about it.”
Warner admitted this is rather edgy for an industry that seems to pride itself on being mostly humorless – and he knows it won’t appeal to everyone, but said he has the support of the entire wine commission board of directors. Also part of the marketing plan is a Twitter feed from The Recommendeuer, which already is active.
However, the character will not be appearing in TV commercials or on YouTube – at least not in the short term – because that’s not part of the contract with Proops.
Warner, who has been in the job a scant 18 months, is now heading into a busy stretch. First up is “20something – The New Vintage,” an event that targets millennials. Then comes a big marketing push in Asia, the Washington State Wine Awards in January and planning for Taste Washington in March.
“We don’t sit still well,” Warner said with a grin. “We’re pretty active everywhere.”
The dynamic Warner said he is even more excited about the state wine industry than he was when he came on the job. Last month, he attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Wine Science Center, a $23 million research and teaching facility being built adjacent to Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, and that gave him a lot of perspective.
“If we’ve come this far since our first AVA was established in 1983 and we’re this good already, how good can we be 30 years from now?” he said. “That just gives me goosebumps every time I think about it.”