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Spice Girls hit the nail on the head - Laura Heywood blogs from the LIWF

Published:  24 May, 2012

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.

Ok so the Spice Girls might have lost their marbles when they revealed what they really, really, really want is to zigazig ah. But at least they got one thing right, which was articulating a need in the first place - which is more than can be said for the vast majority of the drinks trade.

Far too frequently over the past three days of the fair exhibitors have looked at me with a blank, far-away look when being asked what they're doing to cater for what the consumer really wants. You can almost hear the cogs beginning to whirr into action as they dredge up that elusive, hazy consumer from the dusty recesses of their memory. Is that the jean clad, i-phone clutching person who picks a bottle off the shelf or selects it from a list and hands over their hard-earned cash in order to drink it? Oh yeah, I vaguely recall who you're talking about.

"We've got a really fun new label for our Sauvignon Blanc of a friendly looking cow that really appeals to consumers," one agency told me. Well, great, just so long as that cow is a talking one that can converse eloquently and at length about the zingy, fresh style of Sauvignon, the delectable meals that could accompany it and why it costs four quid more than its just as fresh and zingy peers. And I say hats off to the agency if that's the case. But if that cow can't talk, it's not really helping the consumer in any way at all.

There are so many ways the consumer can be helped to see what they really, really want and a bovine-themed label really isn't going to cut it.

When it comes to navigating the wine category, the consumer has lost their internal sat nav, according to consultant and blogger Helen McGinn. And the only way to help them restore the sat nav back to factory settings is to offer clear and well signposted advice. Forget stuffy language and regurgitated facts, follow the example of cult children's TV show Horrible Histories and make boring information entertaining.

Engaging with the consumer is all about giving them occasions to buy for, and not just pointing them to a region and style and leaving them alone, said Christina Pickard at Harpers' Consumer Forum yesterday. For Pickard, the key is not to be patronizing and "have some fun". When organizing your wine list or shelves try thinking outside the box, added Ian Anderson at Accolade Wines, who found when consumers where confronted with a wine list that grouped wines by country, one third said they would buy something entirely different and steer well clear of wine. Group the wines by brands and more consumers are prepared to give wine a go.

If you're looking for a drinks company who knows what the consumer really, really wants, Bibendum is head and shoulders above the rest, with a clear picture of the very person they're targeting. In-depth research and asking a lot of questions has even enabled the supplier to provide a postcode-by-postcode breakdown of the UK consumer. If you're trying to sell your wines to a banker in London, they're going to be made up of entirely different needs and preferences than a schoolteacher in Manchester - it's all about knowing who you're targeting, and then working out how to grab their attention.

Last year at the LIWF I lamented the lack of wine fair exhibitors that were actually talking about the end buyer in my blog 'Where's the consumer in all of this?' This year things are different, with a slow, dawning realization that the people who buy wine are actually worth listening to and catering for. But the extent to which everyone should be doing this - from suppliers, distributors, agencies, retailers and restaurants - can't be exaggerated enough.

Find out what the consumer really, really wants and do something about it. It really is that simple.