London Whining

What Food, What Wine- Jeff at London Wine May 22, 2012
Standing Out from the Crowd
Had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion at London Wine International Fair this week. The topic was Marketing Wine Brands - Standing out from the crowd: New Approaches to Marketing Wine and the well-known English wine journalist Jamie Goode was the moderator. Along with me was Dan Jago one of the most influential wine, beer and spirit buyers who is the Category Director at Tesco (UK’s largest grocery retailer) and Alex Myers who is co-founder at Manifest London a communications firm that has helped amplify client’s like Brew Dog, a craft-beer brand. My employer, Nomacorc was the sponsor of the event.

Jeff Slater, Dan Jago, Jamie Goode and Alex Myers at Wine Marketing Panel Discussion
London International Wine Festival - May 22, 2012
I took away 10 thoughts and ideas about wine marketing:

Infinite substitution: Wine brands suffer from infinite substitution. A pinot grigio that you typically purchase can easily have dozens of replacement brands that most consumers are willing to substitute. It is hard to build awareness and a brand if you can easily be replaced. Branding for wine is different than almost every other consumer package good category with far too many choices.

Story telling is branding: Since wine products are so incredibly similar to most consumers, without a story and a brand narrative, wine becomes a commodity with no true point of differentiation. Story telling through whatever means- advertising, social media, in store POS or unique packaging can help create an emotional bond between the brand and the consumer. 

Wine Industry is talking to themselves-not consumers: The majority of wine consumers don’t care about terroir, SO2 levels or the cold soak method. Don’t play “inside baseball” with them. They want you to communicate the benefit your brand can deliver. In looking at 1,000’s of wine bottles at the show, I saw one brand called RELAX whose message was the benefit that wine can deliver to you as a consumer.

Wall of Terror: Most consumers fear walking down a wine aisle. They spend no more than 90 seconds in the aisle (according to Tesco research) and they have to choose among 700 brands and more than 1,000 SKU’s. (stock keeping units). They don’t speak the language and can’t pronounce the names on the brands. Everything looks the same.

Wine by Geography:  Why is wine the only product that is sold based on country of origin? In the produce section we don’t put all the Chilean fruits together- this is odd and although consumers do purchase wine based on geography, it may be based on how wine is merchandised not what is needed.

It is all about me: Most consumers enter a grocery store and if they are buying ingredients for dinner, could use a little help. Why isn’t wine organized by sections called: Great with Fish, Perfect with Chicken, Excellent with Beef? Imagine a store that had a section called- the perfect gift with 3 price point levels $10, $25, and $50.  How about a section called CHEAP. Or, how about a section that is like a book store where instead of fiction and non-fiction, you have wines that can be conducive to romance, adventure or travel?

Social Media is a listening medium: Don’t push, push, push, push and push your brand onto consumers through social media. Listen to them. Be a part of the conversation. Engage with them but don’t try and shove your wine down their throat. Help them discover your product and its unique benefit. For a brilliant video on this very topic, see Gary Vaynerchuk’s speech at this conference on Marketing Wine to Millennial.

Critics’ Choice: Why not do what Netflix’s does with top ten critics’ choice? Or, 10 best sellers at that local store? Help the consumer by simplifying the choices. Or, improve merchandising at store by having the right wines displayed in next to the seafood section? Tesco is doing something interesting twice a year where they have an entire meal including a wine selection for sale where it is a complete dinner purchase. Innovative.

Music to my ears: I don’t see any wine producers selling their wine by relating it to music. Imagine packaging your wine and communicating that this wine tastes like the elegant notes of Ella Fitzgerald or the intense flavor of New Orleans Jazz.  The consumer isn’t trained in the classic wine language so help them buy with language that fits a lifestyle. What is the soundtrack of your brand?

Can you find your brand? During the session I related the story how my Mom always buys me the Travaglini Gattinara that I love. She (85 years young) can find my favorite brand because she remembers the unique and distinctive shape. Why isn't wine taking a cue from spirits and perfume and look toward distinctive packaging to help communicate brand positions. Every 750 L bottle looks the same yet think of how distinctive Amaretto is or Maker's Mark. Why can't wine be different too? 

During the discussion, I started off my observations and comments by giving credit to the wine brand and marketing managers who have to do this work each day. It is so much easier talking about it than to execute a brand plan. But if the wine industry is to grow and bring in new consumers it has to get off the pedestal and provide a clear message of benefit that a brand offers. Without that, wine will become tainted– and leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. 

This is a link to the recording of the panel conversation:

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