Blog Feature

Humanize Your Brand
Digital Marketing in the Wine Industry

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Josh Camire is the Director of Digital Marketing and Communications at Jackson Family Wines.In this blog, he discusses how to humanize your wine brand, and toauthentically connect with your audiences on social platforms.

When it comes to connecting with any audience, but especially a social audience, the key is to humanize your brand. In doing that, a major obstacle marketers confront is some of the perceived snobbery that is deeply entrenched in the wine industry.

Wine has its own language – terminology and phrasing used exclusively by connoisseurs ‘in the know’. So when it comes to making your brand and your product more accessible, it’s important to choose wording that doesn’t alienate your consumers. While there is a place for those types of discussions, they should be reserved for the limited audience that responds and will self-select for those kinds of conversations.

The first step is to create shorthand, or a more common and approachable language about your product. The second step is to widen the lens and make the brand about more than just wine – make it about the experience, the story, and above all, the people.

Contemporary audiences are generally divorced from what they consume. We go into the grocery store and pick out protein, veggies, and wine without knowing anything about what we’re eating and drinking. Because of that, people love an opportunity to learn, connect, and better understand where the wine comes from, how it’s made, and especially who is making it.

Focusing on the human element is the most authentic way to show consumers what your company is all about. For example, we consistently promote the fact that Kendall-Jackson is family owned. It’s part of our DNA to tell the story of the family and above all the values of the family who owns and operates the company. We also tell the story of our extended family – the people who make up the company. That includes the farmers who care for and cultivate the land, the people who make sure the equipment is working, the office staff, the sales people all over the world, and even us here in the marketing and communications team. Everyone who plays a role in getting our product from grape to table is a part of our family, and they have a valuable place in the story we present every day.

Leveraging Opportunities: Undercover Boss

Earlier this year, the President of Kendall-Jackson was featured on the CBS show Undercover Boss.  It was the perfect opportunity not only to introduce viewers to our management and company story, but also to showcase how our grapes are grown, and the different human personalities that make us successful.

A great example of this was a particular segment of the show focused on an employee named Rene. During the show he was cussing up a storm, knocking the company and knocking the customers – all without knowing he was talking to the Boss, Rick Tigner. Both during and after the show, Rick could have fired Rene, but he didn’t. In the narrative of the show there was a great moment when Rene realized who he’d been interacting with. In that moment, the ability of both Rick and Rene to come to an understanding while still maintaining their own individual personalities became an endearing moment. Everyone has an inner rebel and so the audience could relate to how difficult it was for these two men to find a common ground. The willingness of Kendall-Jackson to be part of that moment is the backbone of authentic branding, and the most legitimate way to build customer loyalty.

Transmedia Storytelling

Transmedia storytelling is all about delivering relevant, interesting, accessible content in any format and at any time that your audience wants to consume it. In response to the Undercover Boss episode, we created a mobile site, a microsite, custom video content for our web properties, a YouTube channel and social content, and community management on Facebook and Twitter. We tried to provide the widest possible cross section of information and, most importantly, a narrative thread that was consistent across all platforms and interactions, yet uniquely tailored to leverage each specific community and following.

The Undercover Boss episode was all about family, and family is about legacy and wisdom, and preserving traditions and knowledge for future generations. We came up with a Words of Wisdom campaign to tie all the different threads together. The show was aired in January of this year, and just had its re-run on September 14.  We’re still able to leverage that content on different channels. Both before and after the show, we have continued distilling our content, trying to get to the universal heart of the message.

In an effort to support our content marketing strategy further, we went out and shot impromptu videos at our wine center, asking people to share their own Words of Wisdom to be passed down in their family and community. There was some great footage of a firefighter from Dallas, Texas. The call to action was really about encouraging people to participate and share their own stories (through pictures, videos and narrative) that would ideally help them connect to a larger community.

Get Real: Strategies to Humanize Your Wine Brand

Start by getting off the PR teat and getting real. Curtail the use of wine ratings and stock imagery of vineyards and bottles, and start talking about things people actually care about. There are always stories to capitalize on if you look in the right places and ask the right questions. For example, I was at Matanzas Creek Winery recently (a Jackson Family property) and learned by chance that it is one of the top ten places nationwide where people choose to get engaged. Tidbits like this are gold – much more valuable and interesting than a high point score on a particular wine. This speaks to passion and romance and gets people sentimental about their own engagement story or dreaming about the day they’ll pop the question. There is a social campaign in the works to capitalize on this narrative thread and, once again, invite people to participate in our brand. Pinpoint the ways in which your wine, winery, team or community is special, what people are passionate about, what kinds of quirky personalities are part of your brand story and tell that story in a very universal way.

When I started this job, a lot of people asked: what’s your relationship to wine? To me, it’s about the social aspect of wine, cracking open a bottle and sharing with friends. A delicious wine can be the centerpiece of the moment, but the whole experience is really about the people you share it with. As marketers working in the wine industry, we can enrich our narrative by making it about much more than just the wine itself.

UC Davis will cover the latest in wine marketing strategies and techniques in the 13th Annual Wine Executive Program. Registration for March 2013 is now open. Brought to you by Graduate School of Management and the Department of Viticulture and Enology.

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