The importance of Branding and Messaging for small wine producers
Branding exercises are not fun. There… I said it. Not doing them can be fatal, particularly in today’s competitive environment. Not having a clear sense of your winery’s identity, position and target customer is equivalent to starting a meeting or conversation without making introductions. Without doing the difficult brand identity work (essence, philosophy, position, point of difference, brand promise and proof, and the stories to support these), you are communicating without point of reference and your messaging may not resonate; in fact, may not connect with anyone at all.
Ninety percent of small producers haven’t completed a branding or re-branding exercise. And, most of you are marketing the same way — logos, websites, email newsletters, social media, festivals and events. Without a clear brand strategy and message, how are you really different than the other 90 percent of “small family, boutique, premium producers” in the marketplace?
The good news is that if you’re winery has less than a 5,000-case production, less than 2,000 emails in your database; less than 1,500 Facebook and Twitter followers , and haven’t gotten a lot of press lately, then it’s not too late to re-visit, re-brand and re-focus your business. More good news — if you actually read this article there is hope for you. If you believe that doing branding work is important but can’t get started or don’t have the capacity, then call a professional for assistance.
Ad agencies do this type of work for corporate brands successfully. Think of any large consumer brand — Apple, Coke, Harley-Davidson, The Rolling Stones, Disney, etc. They have strong brand identities, know who their customers are; and their target audience knows how and why they’re different. These brands have created philosophical and emotional connections and their customers care. They don’t sell products, they sell feelings. Brand awareness puts them on the short list. Sounds difficult and expensive, right?
Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, who people perceive you to be. Your brand is a result of the images and experiences in people’s minds. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Why should customers trust and care about your brand? You need to give them the reasons. And they need to be authentic. You do this by looking long and hard at yourself first and personally; then extrapolate your philosophy, vision and stories to your winery business. Try writing your stories, and in both long and short form. Have a 20-second elevator speech that sums up how you are different and why people should care enough to pursue your brand. Remember to ask the “So What?” question on each point. This is hard work but needs to be done and will help you decide “What is Your Voice”. Get help if you need it from someone who understands the process, but by all means put in the time to differentiate your brand and identify your unique selling points; and audience. Once you have a clear constituency in mind, you’ll tailor your messaging to them and find them. If not, you won’t.
So how to get started? Do a standard SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) on your winery to establish brand position compared to your competition. Prioritize each of these items. Next, begin to think about story platforms that might work and with whom specifically your stories will resonate. Think of people and stories as interchangeable, in the sense that your target customer has needs, and your stories and brand have to fulfill them. Examples for stories your target audience can relate to — vineyard or winery legacy; family stories; unique varietals or winemaking styles; lifestyle promotional; social affluence aspirational; technical or educational perspectives; travel and adventure focused; independent minded entrepreneurial, creative and leading edge, etc.
Once you’ve identified your position in the marketplace; documented your authentic stories; and selected your specific target customer, you’re ready to work on messaging, which will be used for all verbal and written communications. This messaging is how you convey your promise to your customers and what gives them a reason to care about your brand and tell their friends they should, too.