The Pyramid of Influence

By September 17, 2018September 3rd, 2020DTC, Segmentation, Strategy, Wine Marketing

The Pyramid of Influence is an excellent comprehension tool for understanding wine buyers. As the Emetry data science and analytics teams zero in our focus of understanding consumer behavior, it’s key to put the topic of influence into perspective.

So, let’s start by simply saying this:

The wine world operates on a triangle of influence.

People move up in their understanding of any topic to the top of a knowledge pyramid via a combination of learning, time, and dollars. This movement into subject matter expertise is common however a person’s ability to become an influencer is based on their social footprint, public relations, and/or extent/distribution of work (any media). When applied to wine consumers, the influence extends downward from the “Wine Leaders” aka super influencers to experts and onward down to someone interested in wine. When diving into the actual numbers you’ll discover the pyramid, as a whole, is disproportionately distributed to the bottom.

The pyramid simply groups wine consumers based on how they speak about wine. The small distinction is that, at the top, the people who mention wine frequently are also mapped against having an excess of 100K people (online and offline) that receive their message (e.g. Esther Mobley via SF Chronicle or Leslie Sbrocco via the Today Show). As you can see there are only approximately 25 people that meet this standard (0.00003%). Then using the semantic analysis you can see this pretty closely follows a 1/9/90 distribution rule ( but in this case, it is to what degree do consumers talk about wine.

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these personas to better understand who wine consumers are.

The top 25 media influencers are the ultimate tastemakers, hence Wine Leaders. They influence the majority of consumers — directly or indirectly. They are the shelf-talker for the Wine Interested and the Wine Aware, but they still only make up a tiny population. Each of these influencers has an incredibly hard job since they must either create content that interests a majority of different readers or recommend wines that have national distribution, meet certain price criteria and are good quality. IMHO the latter is actually one of the hardest challenges that both Ray Isle and Lesley Sbrocco handle with extraordinary grace.

Wine Experts are the people who know wine. They are the ones handed the wine list at the restaurant or called on the phone when someone needs wine advice. They embark on their own wine self-discovery looking into new regions, styles, varieties, and more. They know what’s a deal on a great bottle of wine, and they know what makes a bottle of wine brilliant. They are mostly influenced by Wine Leaders and of course, each other.

Wine Enthusiasts have a passion for wine. They drink wine regularly but are not so invested or geeky that they are trying for a wine certification. They’re influenced by critics and their Wine Expert friends, but they’re mostly influenced by scores and marketing.

The Wine Engaged persona has just begun their journey of appreciating wine for more than a buzz. They’re adjusting their purchasing behaviors up above $10 per bottle to the $10-$25 category and are most likely to be influenced by marketing, on-premise tastings, and discounts.

The Wine Aware persona is looking for red, white, pink, or sparkling – they know what they think tastes good, but they don’t have/desire the education to make more sophisticated choices. They are heavily influenced by label and price. Most of their purchasing is stimulated in-store via positioning, shelf-talkers, and promotions.

When we take a deeper look, you can see that almost every category gets very small when you apply different filters on the data.

Even the large numbers like 450,000 or 8 million get small very fast when you distribute them across states, purchasing power, shopping behaviors, and how wine brands can reach them. In essence, the 8 million have different socioeconomic, geographical, and media consumption habits. Trying to target them all in one location or via one media platform is virtually impossible.  To succeed at targeting consumer influences we need to map the wine universe by first segmenting consumers across three primary dimensions; wine engagement, disposable income, location. Only then can you isolate the key influencers that overlap your target consumers.

Influencing consumers not only comes from the Pyramid of Influence but also mapping the online ecospheres where these groups reside. While the map above is not a perfect (or complete) representation it does map closely to the highest clusters of consumer personas.

What’s fascinating about this is that outside of on-premise trial and push-marketing via placement or discounting in chain establishments, online stores feed the influencers down the pyramid, eventually getting to the general consumer. So, depending on your brand’s goals you should be targeting the online communities that match your price point and style but also the ecospheres above your target in order to influence your target persona. For example, if you want to impact the Wine Engaged you’ll benefit from articles and coverage by VinePair or an online placement at WineLibrary.

Additionally, the majority of direct-to-customer sales and club participation is from the Wine Enthusiast and Wine Expert personas. With this understanding, you can correlate that putting wines on WineAccess or WinesTillSoldOut will allow trial for consumers that are more likely to buy directly from the winery. This makes those platforms not Flash Sale sites, but important marketing/trial channels to access key consumers.

If you want a real sense of the type of people who make up these different categories I’ve hand-picked some examples of wonderful people that represent each persona.

For us, the insights here are simple and matter-of-fact:

  • Influencing US-based wine consumers from the top down is tricky.
  • Wine Enthusiast and Wine Engaged tiers have the largest pool of interested consumers to power the premiumization of wine. The 8 million Enthusiasts are a decent number but it is unknown how many of the 71 million are “Wine Engaged” vs “Wine Aware.” Regardless, one can make an educated estimate that it is at least 100% larger making the total addressable estimate at least 24M between the two personas, which is 30%.
  • In order to successfully target Wine Aware customers, we need better digital strategies to foster the inclusion of wine into their lifestyle vs custom wine club companies.
  • The future of understanding wine influencers and how they impact consumers is constrained in this framework.

It’s now Emetry’s job to fill our data lake with as much data as we can find and illuminate this for our industry and even more so for every wine brand who becomes our partner.


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