I was in St Andrews for a night at the weekend. It’s my third visit in as many years and I’m starting to develop affection for the place. I first visited it in my early teens and I really didn’t like it then, so much so that it was over 20 years before I returned again. See, I’ve never caught the golf bug, I’ve tried a few times but it has never hooked me in, so right away St Andrews is one down with me, I’m immune to its main charm. Plus it was wet and cold and I had to sleep on a church hall floor, so as a surly Glaswegian teenager in the mid 1980s St Andrews managed to alienate me quite well. To be fair as a teenager most places and people managed to do that.
Today I’m more open to its charms, golf still leaves me cold but it has much more than that to offer. There is an off-licence in the town called Luvians, it describes itself as a ‘bottle shop’ which is a term I’ve never heard used outside of Australia. From what I can gather it’s an independent business with a sister shop in another town nearby. I popped in by chance to get a bottle of wine as a gift for my kind babysitters and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between the staff. One was informing the other about their word-of-the-day (it was ‘washbag’ on Saturday). If anyone said this word, even unintentionally, they got 30% off their purchase. No doubt there are some caveats on this but essentially that was the deal. They then explained that they used Twitter to publicise this to all and sundry and they were experiencing some uptake from it too. Now as a professional marketer this raised two instant thoughts in my head; what a wonderful use of technology for a business such as this and just what is the mark-up on wine these days!

St Andrews isn’t a big town, far from it, and it has a pretty transient population with huge numbers of tourists coming to play golf and buy dodgy jumpers and of course a large university attracting people from all over to the town. Twitter couldn’t be more perfect for that demographic. The locals will get to know the offers the shop has pretty quickly no doubt but for us outsiders, the tourists and students who boost the local economy, this is perfect. Very soon all search engines will include Twitter (and other social media) in their results and so a search for St Andrews might soon throw-up Luvians as quickly as the Royal and Ancient. This is great because as a visitor I want to know where I can get a decent bottle of wine in a town I’m going to stay in, and if it’s got 30% off then so much the better. As it becomes increasingly hard for small independent businesses to compete, particularly on the High Street, it is heartening to see some harness mediums such as Twitter. Marketing is going through a period of change and the truth is a small independent has as much chance of making a success out of social media as a larger enterprise. For them interacting with their customers is part of the job, they literally see them walking in the door, they know them and have already build a relationship with them, the bigger you are the more detached from your customers you become. From a branding point of view I probably wouldn’t recommend offering 30% off all the time but from a marketing perspective utilising every avenue open to you to communicate with actual and potential customers is a no-brainer.

Well done Luvian, I was impressed, and the New Zealand Verdelho went down a treat too.