At 5forests, we spend a lot of time looking at websites - cheap, expensive, DIY, custom - from all around the world.
In 1999, Polly Hammond moved from Hollywood, LA, to Sunnynook, North Shore - 24 years old, six months married and looking for a change of pace. “It could not have been more of a shock,” says the digital guru, with her background in international relations and behavioural economics.
Polly was self-employed from day one, with no support system and no safety net. “I learned digital because it was the only way for us to be able to grow our businesses and pay the bills.” She layered those skills with her behavioural economics background, to create “digital-first strategies” that appealed to the real reasons that consumers become brand loyal. The combination enabled her to build and sell several profitable businesses, including an online yarn store she concedes was somewhat audacious. “Who the hell imports wool into New Zealand and does it well enough to sell the business for a profit?”
Polly and her husband Keith have long been passionate about wine, and one day started discussing ‘where to’ for her business, and ‘where to’ for the many artisan wine companies they loved in New Zealand, ill equipped for the digital age. “So many things happen on Sundays when you drink Rosé,” laughs Polly of the company’s genesis. 5Forests was established five years ago to provide digital marketing and strategy for independent wine producers. Polly considered it something of a retirement plan, intended to pay for the couple to travel to Europe once a year. “We had been really, really busy when my kids were growing up, and had always been self-employed.”
But when she met with her first customer, and saw an alarmingly lean business plan, she realised 5Forests had to start at the foundations, “with good strategy and better customer insights”. Now, she’s deeply embedded in the wine industry, from New Zealand to California, and insists her clients build rigorous digital strategies within well-informed business plans.
As well as dealing with a surge of business during Covid-19, Polly used the lockdown to launch Real Business of Wine (realbizwine.com) with wine commentator Robert Joseph, welcoming a crowded audience for their first live feed.
Polly says wine is an extraordinary field to work in, with a product that partners some of life’s most beautiful moments. She wants to see companies embrace the notion that “digital done right can make the customers more human, not less, and foster a higher level of empathy in our marketing efforts”. The wine industry is not about juice or digital or email, she says. “We are about being an experience in someone’s life.”