Mirabeau case study: How a small family business achieved YouTube success

Mirabeau case study

This is the story of how an entrepreneur used a shoe and a wine bottle to create one of the most successful videos in YouTube history and transform his small family-owned business.

A few years ago, I was approached by a fellow named Stephen Cronk for help on developing a new marketing strategy. Here was his story:

  • Left his corporate job in London.
  • Moved his family to Provence.
  • In the teeth of a recession, started a new winery called Mirabeau.
  • Has 600 established competitors.

You read that correctly. 600 established Rosé producers — just in Provence!

This was a tough assignment but I do love a challenge and most important, I believed in Stephen. He possesses an excellent business mind, an urgency to learn digital marketing, and is a wonderful story teller. I had to say yes!

We DID NOT begin with a social media strategy.

We had to step back and figure out where he could maneuver in a highly saturated, low-growth market. We could not be a “me too.” Our initial activity was to come up with the data that could lead to insight. We conducted a complete market and competitive analysis — there was a lot of existing material out there so we could bootstrap most of the research.

We discovered that among the hundreds of wineries in his region making Rosé wine, none of them demonstrated any capacity to do digital marketing. At the same time, his potential retail customers were trying to gain a foothold in the social media space and were creating a pull for digital competency (especially in key markets of the US and UK). We found our opportunity.

And so, we began.

We had to scale a content marketing effort quickly and decided that Stephen’s primary source of “rich content” would be video. He was a natural on camera and the lush and ancient countryside of Provence proved to be an ideal backdrop to explore wine making, food. history, art and local color of the region.

Stephen was in it for the long haul and consistently documented his wine-making journey in a very human and entertaining way. He talked about a labeling crisis that almost crushed his business. He created a funny video about the ridiculous paperwork he faced from the French government, what it was like to attend a wine-tasting competition, how the grapes were harvested in the first morning sunlight, and many other interesting little vignettes. He shined a light on his village, his pets, his family. He lost his balance on a grape harvester. He put a human and modern face to a stodgy, traditional business.

In addition to producing content, we also had a network strategy and continuously worked on building an active wine-loving audience. As his numbers and engagement grew, Stephen was able to use this data with huge wine retailers to prove a point of differentiation. No winemaker in the region had the presence and audience that the upstart Mirabeau had. The strategy worked and the orders started coming in.

Then viral happened.

On his 222nd video, Stephen hit paydirt. In a 29-second video, he demonstrated how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. It has now attracted well over 6 million views!

Why this one?

There is no way you can predict “viral” but this video had four key elements going for it. The video was high quality, it was short, it was entertaining, and it was practical.

But there was also another critical element.

If you do a search for “how to open a wine bottle with a shoe,” you will find at least five other videos that demonstrate the same trick. All of them were made before the Mirabeau video. And the most views one of them has received is less than 1,000.


Because this was not a parlour trick. This was Chapter 222 in the Mirabeau Case study and the story of his business. Cronk had spent more than two years building an emotional connection with his audience — his Alpha Audience. When this video arrived, it was primed to ignite.


For most businesses, slow and steady is the way to build an audience that leads to business benefits on the social web. But what happens when that “once in a lifetime” event occurs?

YouTube views: 4.2 million (and climbing)
Website video views: 1.8 million (not counted in the YouTube numbers)

Total video views (approx): 6 million

At one point, Mirabeau was receiving more hits in an hour than their previous best video had received in three years.

The viral attention gave a significant lift to all the content on the site. Since Stephen had worked so long and hard to provide entertaining videos, the viral visitors stuck around to see what else he had for them. SInce the “shoe video,” the little winery has received more than 9,000 views of its “About Mirabeau” video on its YouTube channel. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest accounts and newsletter subscriptions had massive gains. This is a critical accomplishment for a business trying to show a differentiated position through social media engagement.

He received massive media attention from both mainstream press and wine industry bloggers who marveled at his authentic and human storytelling:

“The lesson wannabe Cronks should take on board is that throughout his video-creating efforts, he has never sought to use the clips to directly promote his wines or the brand. They are all intended to be interesting in their own terms and often contain no direct reference to the brand at all. People who watch them are merely invited to visit the website if they want to know more”

But what about the money?

It’s too early to project the economic impact of the video since this occurred just a few weeks ago, but this is what Stephen had to say: “We’ve had loads of new inquiries from retailers in the US. That is where the video has received the most views and it is also the most important place for us to grow.”

“The success emphasizes our strategy — we can demonstrate the strength of social media to US buyers. It helps us explain our difference to the decision makers at the big retailers. Choosing Mirabeau is the right thing to do because it ‘de-risks’ their buying decision. We are helping them build demand for our wine. We have all the ingredients in place: critically-acclaimed wine, great back-story, great package, great marketing. What’s there not to love about Mirabeau?”

Last week I taught a class at Rutgers University. Out of 30 students, three had heard of Mirabeau Wine because of this video. There is no other way a small family business in a tiny French village could have received this kind of exposure without a social media strategy!

What an amazing time to be in business, What an amazing time for Mirabeau!

I would love to hear your questions and comments on this case study.

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  • Steve Woodruff

    This reminds me of what Gary Vaynerchuk did (also with wine and video) – find an empty space, and fill it. What an encouraging story!

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  • That is so cool that he’s your client.. I remember watching that video explode on my friends’ wall several weeks ago.. I saw it no less than 10 times.

  • Ameena Gorton

    Super cool!!! I can’t wait for the follow up 🙂
    DO love that you highlighted that the marketing plan did NOT start with a digital strategy – too many forget that traditional marketing is far from dead.

  • mgz1

    Good, solid and honest storytelling always succeeds. But many established brands have fewer incentives being already widely distributed. Moreover, they also tend to get bogged down legal rules and restrictions. Upstarts have the desire and business need to be adventurous and risk taking. Another example that comes to mind is Orabrush for its content strategy and social savvy that got it into Walmart.

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  • Anastasia Birosh

    Content Marketing IS part of traditional marketing. Your company has a vision and mission, do a SWOT analysis and go from there. Content Marketing strategy has to mesh with the marketing plan your company is currently using. It’s all about help, not hype. “He (Stephen) put a human and modern face to a stodgy, traditional business”.

  • Tara Geissinger

    What I love most about this example is that this was his 200th+ video. It’s so easy to get caught up in instant gratification these days. We publish a handful of videos and then quickly measure the ROI. If we’re not pleased, we stop publishing videos and move onto the next opportunity. This is a reminder to not underestimate consistency and sheer volume of content. He knew video was his upper hand and he kept at it. It will be interesting to see how hitting the “viral jackpot” impacts his sales. Keep us posted!

  • Allen Roberts

    Great story, great lesson.
    Overnight successes rarely happens overnight, they happen after years of effort, commitment, experimentation, and often heartache.
    Just like viral video marketing. We all hear about the one that broke the mould, suddenly appeared and grabbed “virality” but rarely do we hear the back-story.
    Love this one!

  • Marcela De Vivo

    What an amazing story! Like Tara said, I love it was on teh 200+th video. I always wonder what it takes to go viral, and now I see one of the key ingredients: perseverance. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great case study – just watched a few of their videos and they are very well done, mainly because he is such a passionate person about his area of expertise.
    Examples like this are really reassuring as they show firstly, as Marcela mentioned that it is not easy but secondly that any small business can achieve great results on a low budget but through time and perseverence.

  • Amazing case study, thank you for sharing … just shows the right strategy, coupled with tenacity and persistence pays off in the end

  • bralinshan

    That’s an amazing story detailing the potential power of social media. I wonder how much economic impact the videos had on the Mirabeau business before the viral video…hopefully, slow and steady can still win the race. It’s nice to think that you can produce something that goes viral but if it doesn’t happen, it’d be great to know that you can still build a good business on the backs of a solid social media presence…

  • Awesome.

  • I love this story! I saw the video and shared it like crazy and received lots of shares. To see why this “open a wine bottle without a bottle opener” video went so viral I searched for the same type of video and his is The best. Quick and short. Brilliant!

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  • Love, love, love this story! I think the key point here (besides the fact that you did the research and found the opportunity first) is that Mirabeau had already developed a ton of valuable content. If that had been the first video out of the gate, it probably wouldn’t have the same impact it will now because they have demonstrated that they are experts and know how to provide value.

    This also shows that video doesn’t have to be fancy, just authentic, useful and entertaining. Great case study and well done, Mark!

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  • This definitely goes along with the idea when someone is seen as an “overnight sensation” that was plugging along for years and years before that – building the foundation needed when success came long. Absolutely love it!

  • John

    Great story and i love the idea. This story works well for a B to C business, but how would it translate in the B to B world? I work for an 88 year old company and we are always looking for new and better ways to grow our business.

  • Fiach Maguire

    Any marketing campaign which creates demand without satisfying that demand seems a bit pointless to me. Too much social media marketing is focused on noise creation not actually doing business. The three students in Mark’s class can’t buy the wine so what’s the point.

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  • AMS

    The point is that they heard about it. Buzz is buzz. Some buzz is better than no buzz. Tons of buzz is even better. And just because those 3 students can’t buy the wine, doesn’t mean Mirabeau’s sales didn’t improve. So that point of the 3 students not being able to buy their wine really doesn’t have anything to do with Mirabeau’s bottom line, they were simply proof of the reach of a successful campaign.

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  • Thanks for sharing. You mention the video was syndicated through a number of websites and apps. What was the budget for this campaign?

  • There was no budget or cost beyond making the video. By syndication I mean it was picked up and run by other sources at no charge.

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  • Dimitri

    It’s no recorded as a quickie. But still, I think that there are lot of entrepreneurs who don’t have the time to learn an edit program or looking forward to edit video… and not everyone can present as easy .. so .. although making video can be very affordable these days with smartphones en tablets … but only use house-made videos after you set some professional work out there as an introduction to your company or service. Otherwise I have to find another job as a video producer. And by the way, not every production is expensive. But nevertheless it’s still a craft : shooting and editing. And yes .. video marketing.

  • Was amazed when you showed us this case study in Dublin recently. Doing some research for webinar and Im sure the attendees will be equally captivated by this story! Thanks for sharing Mark

  • Well said sir.

  • Glad I could help you out! Enjoyed seeing you in Dublin!

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