CEO Series: Andre Eikmeier Co-Founder of VinoMofo (Part 2)

Andre Eikmeier

Welcome back to the CEO Series! If you missed it we posted Part 1 of the interview with Andre Eikmeier last week, you can read it here.

Re-introducing Andre Eikmeier, co-founder of the Aussie start-up business VinoMofo. VinoMofo is a brand built by two guys (Andre and his co-founder Justin Dry) who were sick of elitist wine snobs and decided to turn the industry on its head. VinoMofo is a wine-selling business that prides itself in selling great tasting wine without all the ‘fluff’. In part two of my interview with Andre you will learn:

  • About the trademark issues VinoMofo faced upon launching
  • The process of finding what the brand stood for
  • Andre’s prediction for the future of business innovation in the digital environment.

Trademark Issues

In the beginning of VinoMofo you had some interesting challenges around your branding, especially your name. Do you think it worked out for the best?

Yeah, it was never meant to be called VinoMofo to start out. We were going to launch and VinoMojo because it was more palatable and still hip. But three days before we launched we got a cease and desist letter from a trademark attorney representing a large wine company called Mojo, a really dominate player in the wine industry with a reputation for going to court. They could very easily hold up our launch and we couldn’t afford that, we were very committed and had run a teaser campaign where a thousand people had subscribed and everyone was really excited.

Just a laugh we thought of VinoMofo and then an hour later we thought, well can we? We just thought we will do it until the trademark is sorted, it would be just a little PR thing and then we’d change back. So that’s the idea behind VinoMofo – It was just tongue in cheek. It ended up sticking and I hated the name for two years! 

Finding what you stand for

You’ve got to stand for something. People want to be a part of something. That’s the thing that engages people, not just product. If you try to stand for too many things, then you stand for nothing.

So that became the line in the sand, people would hear the name and they would think ‘oh that’s not for me’ or they’d think ‘oh that’s really cool’. By the time they walked through the door they were like ‘I love you guys’ and that really defined our tribe and in the end it did work well.

We won the trademark after two years, but it was a bit late to change it. It didn’t just create noise and controversy, there was a bit of that, but what it did do is say,

This is a wine site for 35-years-olds and we’re not going to try soften in for 60-year-olds or hip it up for 25-year-olds.

What we found is 60-years-olds are in a mid-life crisis anyway and they all think they’re 30-year-olds, and 25-year-olds buying wine liked to think they were in their thirties.

Our art director and product guys coined this phrase ‘Andre you like to make products according to people’ and I went, ‘that’s weird but I like it’. We just tried to make a human brand – that’s honest and fun. We weren’t trying to make a controversial brand, we weren’t even trying to make an edgy brand, we just wanted a human brand.

VinoMofo does some really good things with charity, in particular, the Homeless Grapes Project, what are your views of corporate social activity and what is your advice would you give to other businesses to get more involved?

There’s two ways to look at that one is what you actually want to do with your business, step-up and have fun, it’s about what we can do outside of our little wine world. There’s that side and there’s the other side which is slightly more cynical and commercial but people will engage with you as a brand on things that are much more emotionally connecting then what you do as a business.

It’s more than social responsibility, you should always give a bit more then you take. As a business you’ve got a voice and that’s more valuable than the money you can donate. Our customers are more valuable for making a noise and increasing awareness.

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Over 100 volunteers pick excess grapes from McLaren Vale’s Chalk Hill Wines to raise $36,000 for Adelaide’s homeless

Future of Business Innovation

What do you think the new era of business innovation is going to bring and what do you think needs to be the biggest shift for businesses to thrive in the growing digital environment?  

I think that there are two elements that will lead into this, one is that it is so bloody noisy in this world and just being louder, funnier, whatever, doesn’t cut through anymore – the only thing that cuts through is authenticity and a human voice. People like to interact with people. The rise of social media has created a platform and a culture where we are communicating with people more than ever before and brands coming into that piece means that we are communicating with brands on a social platform and that’s changed things very much.

Also, there is this idea of transparency, we are not stupid and we do not just get fed the bulls**t that corporates have fed for the 250 years since the industrial revolution. I think this is all heading towards what will be a fantastic era where companies have to be really open and authentic and they need to create products that are tapping into a need or a want, more than ever. I think it just creates this awesome ‘human’ environment for any business, but especially transacting and consumer businesses.

When you’re creating something that gets an energy about it and people start talking about it, it’s got to be a great product and a great customer experience, but it’s also got to be a great story. It’s got to stand for something that people want to be a part of and I think that is the main ingredient for traction – that’s what makes people want to engage and talk about you. 

We need businesses we can relate to as consumers and VinoMofo has brought some serious personality to the table in the good wine business. With personality being a major factor in the reason that people chose to stay connected how do you think VinoMofo has done a good a job of it? And why do so many others fail?

I think just being authentic, just being yourself and being really and doing so against commercial pressure is important. There’s no point in saying ‘we are going to be this, we are going to be that, oh but not this time because it will cost too much’, you’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to get all the pieces right for us our value proposition is curation, price and culture. 

If you really wanna make an impact, you got to want everything to be benchmark, you’ve got to really lift the bar on every aspect of business and that’s hard, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of people that need to believe in what you’re doing.

Lastly, favourite superhero and why?

I think that would have to be batman. I like that he doesn’t have any superpowers he’s just awesome. He’s taken on a very big task and is doing so with little support. Of all the superheroes that’s my guy! 

To keep tabs on VinoMofo follow Andre on Twitter @mofoandre or follow @vinomofo. Hope you enjoyed the first full instalment of the CEO Series! Keep your eyes peeled as we will be posting another interview very soon!

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