Be Different, Be Integrated

Jeremy Benson is the founder and president of Benson Marketing Group, the leading wine marketing agency in the U.S. He is a guest expert lecturer on marketing at the UC Davis Wine Executive Program. The program will be held in Davis from March 22-27, 2015, presented by the Graduate School of Management and the Department of Viticulture and Enology.

What keeps me up at night? How do we help our clients compete with 130,000 new wines that are sold each vintage in the U.S? 

That is a daunting task.  But I’m not going to try and tell you there is a panacea, or get preach-y about what you are not doing. We’ve all heard that speech.

I can only share with you some ideas that my team uses to address this challenge, whether marketing brands in the U.S. or France.

There are two important questions that we winery marketers can ask ourselves: how do we make our brands more different, and how do we integrate sales and marketing functions more effectively?

Think Different

You may remember the old Apple’s tagline; it seems more relevant than ever.  While “differentiated” is probably the correct technical term, “different” or “differently” captures the spirit of this idea better. Because I mean really different as opposed to incrementally different. 

I truly admire family-owned wineries with sustainable vineyards and estate-based wines. Those are admirable attributes and I enjoy these wines. But there are probably 300 wineries within 30 minutes of our Napa office that fit these criteria.  Many wineries compete on these axes, as well as their terroir, price, winemaking talent, history, etc.

But if 7,000 wineries compete using the same 8-10 attributes, how can we realistically expect consumers, wholesalers, trade buyers and others to understand – let alone be enthusiast – about a winery?  

Brand presentations to wholesalers can be dull. So we worked with Roy Cecchetti at Cecchetti Wine Company to help launch Austerity Wines using a sales video with the theme, “Austerity Leads to Pro$perity.”

The video featured team members attempting to hand-deliver bottles of Austerity wines to the CEOs of Wall Street’s seven largest banks, introducing them to the idea of austerity. As the armored truck lumbered around Manhattan carrying our samples, our on-camera team was explaining the story behind the brand, what made it different, and why wholesalers should care.  The context of the video – they were turned away by security crews, of course – was an entertaining frame for a sales-focused presentation of information.

We also sent samples to financial press, and got tweeted CNN and others; who sends wine samples to the financial desk at Dow Jones?

The result? A memorable but practical brand introduction tool used across the country in wholesaler presentations.  Here’s the video:

Be Integrated

Another concept that is worth careful consideration is how to gain marketing and sales efficiencies by integrating all marketing functions and winery assets: tasting room, website, social, club, trade promotion, etc.  The truism – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – plays itself out in vivid color in wine marketing.

Here’s one basic approach: begin the creative “brainstorming” process with a singular concept or idea the supports what you believe is different and compelling about your wine or winery. Then, and only then, develop the marketing actions (PR, social media, etc.) that align with and support that idea. You often save money and improve results.

What’s the opposite? Creating a sales plan. Then a marketing plan. Then a PR plan…

For one client, we started with the concept of adventure. So we created a multi-city promotion that encourages on/off premise accounts to customize a promotion that lets them define “adventure” on their own terms — to create their own spin on a by the glass flight, menu pairing, or in-store tasting. Social media, PR and all the other elements of the campaign underscored the theme, and the result was an increase in placements, sales and awareness.

This is not a radical idea, nor is it necessarily that different, but the process itself helped to create real value. It’s now moving into year four.

What are your top tips for differentiating your wine brand? Email us or tweet them using the #WineExec hashtag- we’d love to share your ideas!

Jeremy Benson will guide attendees of the UC Davis Wine Executive Program on March 23-27 in creating tailored wine marketing plans for their wine businesses. To join them, register today
Learn more about our Wine Packaging Program: Decide, Design, Impress, June 3-4. Participants will gain newly developed insights and tools from esteemed professionals and participate in interactive workshops focused on three topic areas:  Package Design, Consumer Trends, and Future State. Register today!