The Experience is the Message: Online Marketing for the Wine Industry

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, from March 26-29, 2012, presented by the Graduate School of Management and the Department of Viticulture and Enology.

In 2012, there’s no need to make a case for social media—it’s ubiquitous, and the necessity of participating in those channels is recognized by many wineries. However, the wine industry is very different from other marketplaces, so social media needs to be approached in a unique way. From a business standpoint, we have a challenge because there are 130,000 domestic and imported wines introduced every year, and there are very few companies with significant market share. We’re faced with a market that is incredibly fragmented, making it difficult to develop any kind of brand loyalty.

Reliving the Experience

We can start by approaching social media with the brand experience itself, where the experience is the brand message. We’ve been successful in developing brand loyalty as it relates to tourism traffic to wineries. For instance, consumers travel to a winery, and establish a memory and conviviality related to that experience. Social media gives marketers the tools to help consumers revisit that memory through Facebook, Twitter posts, or through videos and photographs—the opportunities are almost endless. From a one-time encounter, we’re able to prolong the experience and periodically remind the consumer about the brand, thus reinforcing their loyalty.

There have been some studies on this topic. Most have to do with a concept known as “the loyalty loop”. Social media assets allow people to share their experiences with a product post-purchase. This keeps them in a loyalty loop where they’re more likely to purchase that particular brand again due to the brand relationship they develop after the purchase itself.

Experiential Content

The second thing we must consider is creating content that reinforces the experience. Social media is not just something you do to check a box off on your to-do list—content creation needs to happen in a thoughtful and strategic way. How do you create content that reminds people of a positive memory? How do you bring people back to their winery visit or a great moment they had enjoying a bottle of wine with friends? Much of it has to do with experiential marketing, where the experience is the message itself. We want to draw people back to the experience in interesting and authentic ways.

Leveraging Online Tools for a Virtual Experience

Online tools provide many opportunities. Virtual tastings using a webcast or a Livestream feed through Facebook have been particularly successful. For example, we created a live online event with a studio audience to help announce the latest vintage of one client’s   flagship wine. The event was a wine club membership benefit. It allowed the winery’s fans to interact in real time with the winemaker, and heightened anticipation for the latest vintage. Questions came in from Hong Kong, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

It also created a lot of robust content because we had the opportunity to edit the presentation into shorter video segments, creating social media content that could be rolled out after the event.

When speaking about marketing to wine industry audiences, I present social media and online marketing as one part of an integrated marketing plan. It is a useful tactic to develop loyalty in this competitive industry.

I welcome you to join me and the other “students of marketing” as we consider how to assemble a winning winery marketing plan at the Wine Executive Program on March 26-29.

Image originally posted on Frank Loves Wine Blog. © 2012, All Rights Reserved.


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