Seasoned Marketing

My wine education continues as I get more opportunities to speak with winemakers and knowledgeable industry thought leaders. I didn’t understand this concept of seasoning a wine until recently. 

Did you realize that the blending of wines is akin to the process of seasoning food? I didn’t.

Winemakers will add a small amount of different varietals to a base wine that is perhaps 85% Cabernet or some other varietal. And to get the right amount of balance to the acidity and a hint of pepperiness, certain varietals become the salt & pepper shakers. A syrah can be like the pepper shaker to add some zing to what is ordinarily smooth taste and flavor. Winemakers have quite a few seasonings to shake into their wine blends. Some varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are rarely blended with other wines as they tend to be more complete flavors within the varietal. Even the ripeness of a grape can determine the alcohol level of the wine which in turn influences the way we can taste the flavor or enjoy the aroma.   
Naively, I assumed or perhaps didn’t really understand what a winemaker did. But in some recent tours, both in the US, Canada and Europe, I have gained new appreciation for seeing a winemaker’s role like a chef. Striving to deliver just the right balance of sweetness, acidity or color, blending is a process that much like seasoning for a chef, gives the winemaker controls to deliver just the flavor he intends.  It is so much more complicated than this but this simple analogy helps me understand how the flavors and subtly can be developed in wine making.

A Marketing Lesson: Like many things I experience, these wine tours got me thinking about blending together different activities to create a marketing plan. How do you season your strategy to deliver just the right blend? With limited funds, how can you achieve your goals and achieve just the right brightness, flavor and zip to your marketing?

A brand manager has lots of tools like promotions, public relations, social media, advertising, events, mobile, outdoor, print, radio, TV, online, and on and on. How do you blend all of these tactics into a cohesive stew? Where do you start and how do you choose the right approach?

Four suggestions:

STRATEGY FIRST: What are you trying to achieve with this year’s mix of marketing activities? Are you building awareness or positioning a new offering? Are you counter market myths or fighting competitive challenges? See if you can write one simple declarative statement that encapsulates your strategy. It is the best foundation to build your marketing plans. If you can’t say it in one sentence, you don’t really know what you are trying to do.

WHO MATTERS:  A marketing mix has to stay focused on your core target. If you try and add too many spices to please too many groups, you’ll end up with mush. Know your target and keep them in front of you as you think about the blend of tactical options. Targets are not men 29-54. That range represents a universe. Pick very narrow slivers of the audience you are trying to reach and pay attention to their unique needs. Know thy target and develop a rich profile of who they are. What do they like to eat and drink. What do they do in their spare time, what are their aspirations and what motivates them to purchase within your product/service category? I like the idea of a wall of images that surrounds a brand managers that is filled with reminders of the target. Pinterest could be a cool way to do this- so you know who you are trying to reach and what matters to them. 

DOMINANT TONES: You can have too many major activities competing for funds and attention. So like the wine that has an 85% Cabernet base, decide what the dominant tones of your marketing activities are and focus most of your dollars on delivering that message through that approach. A wine that is 50% Cabernet and 50% malbec isn’t going to have a true varietal character. A marketing plan is the same thing. Pick a dominant tactic whether it is sampling, events or social media and invest most of your funds on this one approach to break through the clutter.

ACCENTS AND LAYERS: When you blend wine, sometimes the subtlest varietal will add just a hint of a new flavor to the wine. In picking your dominant marketing activity, you need some added activity to provide depth and layers to your communications. A prime example is a mobile marketing campaign filled with experiences for your consumer. What can you do to bring out just the right dimension to give richness to the experience? How can the experience be sustained online?  Think of a marketing mix and add just the right touch to accent the main message.

 So if you are blending wines or developing marketing plans, the same lessons apply. Know what you are trying to achieve, who you are targeting and develop a mix of activities to provide just the right blend of dominant and accent flavors. Making wine like creating marketing plans requires the right touch and well-seasoned effort. 


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