Disruption may be the marketing buzzword of the moment, but Santiago Navarro, co-founder of subscription wine brand Garçon Wines, is allergic to the term. As Navarro, alongside fellow founders Joe Revell and Rachel Murphy-Rutland, prepares to launch the brand this month, he is at pains to emphasise that it is an "innovator, not a disruptor".
The start-up, which has invented a flattened plastic 750ml wine bottle that can fit through the average letterbox, says it is innovating with technology to deliver the same high-quality product in a new way. "For us, innovation is about respecting and adhering to the traditional shape and size of a glass bottle as much as possible to deliver quality wines," Navarro explains.
"Affluent consumers are becoming more experimental with what they eat and drink" - Joe Revell, co-founder, Garçon Wines
Whether the flat bottle can deliver to the wine trade what the flat white (or skinny latte) did to the coffee industry remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that innovation in delivery mechanisms – whether the now ubiquitous takeaway cup or the wealth of on-demand services – is top of the marketing agenda. Staying ahead of consumers’ ever-increasing expectations for products and services on their own terms is a constant challenge for brands. This "Uberfication" of business shows no signs of slowing.
Rob Seller, managing director of GreyShopper, says that any sector with established ways of working is ripe for disruption. He explains: "There is so much technology flying around, it is difficult for brands to see what will stick, but convenience is the biggest driver of change in the market." Seller advises marketers to consider the three Es: "Ease, economy and experience." If brands can make it easier for consumers to receive their products, without sacrificing the experience or charging too much of a premium, they may well have hit on a sweet spot for innovation.
Revell believes the company has found one of these often-elusive sweet spots. A former music promoter, Revell came up with the idea for a wine that could fit through his letterbox after becoming frustrated at missing traditional wine deliveries. Noticing the ubiquity of Graze boxes (the subscription delivery snack packs), he set about devising a similar strategy for wine delivery. But what sets Revell apart from other would-be entrepreneurs is that he had the tenacity and commitment to turn his idea into reality.
"I’ve never worked in the wine trade. I worked in the music industry and start-ups so I knew I needed to learn more about wine," Revell says. It was this lack of product experience that led him to reach out to Navarro, who has a background in wine. In many ways, not being entrenched in the trade was a benefit; where others would see barriers, Revell only saw possibilities for innovation and change.
This is not to say that the start-up didn’t face significant challenges – the biggest of which was packaging. Suppliers used to working with huge orders from FMCG giants simply don’t have the time or inclination to invest resources into creating new prototypes for an unproven business. However, winning Pop Up Start Up, the CNBC and Alibaba.com TV show, provided the fledgling start-up with the marketing power of the Alibaba brand. A supplier for the hard plastic container was found and the flat bottle finally came to fruition.
Navarro wanted the new product to play to the traditional ritual of sharing wine. He explains: "Wine is a catalyst for many great moments and we really wanted to ensure that we created a bottle you would be proud to put on the table." He explains that Garçon will source from winemaking co-operatives around the world with an emphasis on heritage and quality. Notably, while the subscription model and bottle format are innovative, the wine itself will predominantly be "old-world" French to begin with.
After bringing the product to market, Garçon faces perhaps its biggest challenge: reaching its target audience. By definition, the urban-dwelling, time-pressed millennials they are seeking to engage aren’t easy to reach. With this in mind, Garçon is taking a peer-to-peer-led approach to marketing, with a mixture of digital, experiential and PR, to grow the brand.
Revell describes the core target audience for the subscription service, which will start at £10 a bottle, as "generation treaters". He explains: "When you look at the growth of consumer interest in food, you can see the growing spending power of urban and affluent consumers, who are becoming more experimental with what and how they eat and drink."
This experimental generation – in equal parts willing to experiment and supremely brutal in ditching brands that do not live up to their ever-increasing expectations – is fast becoming the biggest challenge in modern marketing. One that this start-up is poised to tackle head-on and many established brands can no longer afford to ignore.
What brands should know about extreme convenience
1) Compromise is a dirty word
Marketers must beware of seeing their new product development as an either/or conundrum.
Jo Allison, editor at consumer behavioural insights agency Canvas8, believes that the concept of "on demand" must now extend to any given product category.
She explains: "The ubiquity of technology and popularity of on-demand services has left patience in short supply – people now expect immediacy as standard and they won’t accept anything less. This is the mainstreaming of diva behaviour. Efficiency is everything and compromise is a dirty word."
2) Design and consumer experience must be seamless
Marketing must now do more to design for a seamless, fuss-free consumer experience.
As Allison explains, a culture of "I want it now" is bleeding into the universal mindset and making consumers impatient. She explains: "The average time people are willing to wait for a video to load online is just two seconds, while an app will be abandoned if its load time exceeds six seconds."
3) The buying experience must extend to delivery
With consumer expectations only ever set to rise, experts believe that marketers should focus more on creating a truly personalised experience for consumers. A shift that demands marketers pay more attention to delivery.
Allison says: "Brands are increasingly offering personalised services and this needs to extend to delivery. It’s strange to see huge amounts of effort going towards making the buying experience as positive as possible but falling short when it comes to the actual delivery."
4) Invest in future revenue streams
With the speed and style of delivery changing at pace, marketers must prioritise meeting the needs of the future consumer.
In Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital, AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed writes that one of the reasons why established organisations struggle to innovate is that the existing team already has its hands full. Big organisations are usually built around efficiency and process rather than innovation.
In practical terms for marketers, this means that simply doing your current job can prevent you from investing the time and effort to create the products, services and delivery mechanisms necessary to meet the needs of your future consumer.
As Ahmed writes: "In many respects, innovation is seen as the opposite of efficiency, because it is not routine and has unpredictable outcomes. This can create an environment in which there is no investment into future revenue streams because of the short-term impact on margins. As a result, the established business becomes resistant to innovation because it feels threatened by it, creating forces that actively discourage new thinking."
With the "new normal" being created every day – from ever-decreasing delivery windows to end-to-end personalised delivery concepts such as ASOS’s "Precise" – brands simply cannot afford to stand still. The customer happy to stand in line to buy your product today has every chance to switch their allegiances to a faster, fitter brand tomorrow.