Messaging and Branding – What’s your Story?

End of year is a great time to work on ‘Messaging’, as we start preparing next years marketing plan. Messaging directly influences wine sales and brand building results. Remember, your brand and its messaging are not about Product. Producing excellent wine is just the start. Quality wines are assumed by the consumer, and quality is the price of admission for any premium wine brand in this crowded marketplace.

Your brand is the set of experiences and images in the minds of your consumers. Please read that last sentence again and think about how your brand is different from other brands, and how you can create compelling and memorable experiences for consumers.

Let’s talk about Differentiation…

Have you ever used these words when describing your wines to consumers – artisanal, burgundian-style, elegant, complex, terroir driven, well balanced, reserve, etc? Although there may be some truth to all of these, consumers hear this messaging all too often. We need to tailor our messaging in ways that are important to our customers and compel them to buy our wine, join our clubs and become ambassadors for our brand.

Start by documenting your winery’s unique and relatable stories – the inside stories of the winery, property history, personal stories of the founders, winemakers and team members. This can be an excellent team building project that results in distinctive and consistent communications whenever you are engaging or selling wine to consumers (eNewsletters, events, tasting room, website, traditional and social media).

Do this Exercise!

Everyone has heard of the ‘Elevator Speech’ where you have 30 seconds or less with a total stranger, to provide them enough information to peak their interest and search out your brand. In 30 seconds (or about 100 written words) verbally explain who your winery is, how you’re different and why a consumer should care. After each statement ask the question “So What?” to test relevance. I did this exercise recently with a client and found that everyone on staff had a different elevator speech! Some were surprised at what others were saying and new facts were discovered by all. This activity can be difficult to do, but should result in the distillation of a few key points of differentiation, your unique position in the marketplace and what your winery brand really stands for.

Why aren’t they scanning my QR Code?

I was enamored of the novelty of QR codes for small wineries when I wrote a related post in June. I still am. However, I’m hearing that scan rates are very low and consumers aren’t getting it. Who’s to blame?

A wine savvy social media technologist I know weighed in recently stating “Wineries are at fault”! But how can this be so? Even small wineries are coming online with QR codes, recognizing the use and importance of mobile devices.

Wait a minute! What’s obvious to us in marketing isn’t always so with consumers. I see QR codes as bridging the gap between traditional (print) and new (social) media, but just placing them in a print ad is not enough. Tell your readers to “Scan This!” next to the code and offer a specific reward for doing so. Make sure your landing page is optimized for mobile devices and has an offer with a specific call to action (not just your website). Eventually consumers will realize there are rewards at the end of the QR codes!

Connecting with Consumers

I think we all know that social media is not going away. If you are currently involved in social media marketing, you are a leader and early adopter. Most small wineries in the Willamette Valley know they need to have a social media plan and a program but just can’t find the time or justify the effort. Don’t we all survive on ‘word of mouth’ marketing? Think of social media as conversational media. It is one and the same. You are sharing information about your winery, and creating a conversation where the consumers are and how they want to communicate. Here are answers to the top 3 questions I get from winemaker/owners on this topic:

1.        Will it help me sell more wine? No, it will not … directly. However, it will help drive consumers to your website or tasting room where you can transact Consumer sales

2.       What is it going to cost me? Virtually nothing but your time. It’s like having your own media department! The most important thing to remember is that it does take time … social media is not an immediate return on investment opportunity.

3.       Where will I find the time? Make the commitment, keep it simple, carve out 1 hour/day, and use social media tools like TweetDeck and HootSuite to your advantage; there are countless resources via the web. By the way, the mobile applications for these sites are very easy to use, so you don’t need to be tethered to your desktop to be engaged.

You may already have setup the basic platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a winery blog. Be sure you understand the rules, etiquette, appropriate content and frequency for using these tools. An important rule for engaging is that for every one self-mention, talk about others four times (80/20 rule).  Promote everyone else and you will benefit greatly—that’s what makes this type of engagement “social.” Have a marketing plan and be consistent. There is plenty of talent right here in the Chehalem Winemakers Association. Reach out, and get the conversation started!

Economic Impact of Wine – Oregonian Article

Hard to believe direct/indirect wine related revenues almost doubled in 5 years. Profitability for small producers certainly hasn’t. What am I missing here? I think percent of total increases due to Direct to C0nsumer is understandable. Byron Dooley’s comments about his strategy and results are a testament. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this from all wine corners in Oregon. Here’s the article:

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2011/07/oregon_wine_industry_nearly_do.html

DTC Wine Sales up 12%

This Ship Compliant Study and Napa Valley article keep coming up in conversation with other consultants and clients, so it’s time to comment, and yes I know the sales increases are for larger Napa Valley wineries, but wine bottles like everything else roll downhill. That is to say the best practices and strategies of the large wineries and success of their DTC programs point the way to our small producers here in Oregon, and validate taking Winery Direct to Consumer to the next level. Here’s the story:

http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/direct-to-consumer-wine-sales-growing-more-than-twice-as/article_7ac71de2-a37e-11e0-8378-001cc4c002e0.html

DTC Sales Help Wineries Rebound

Here is an important article from Steve Heimoff for small production wineries to consider: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2011/05/26/dtc-sales-help-wineries-rebound-study-suggests/

My comments were:

Great conversation folks. It seems to me that a balanced channels approach makes the most sense, including distribution, retail and DTC. Having a strong DTC marketing program is not optional for small producers that must move product and build their brand, and as such I agree with Steve’s comments about DTC margins. Only a few cultish and well established wineries here in Oregon can survive selling FOB and wholesale only. That said, growing DTC revenue is a slow burn and requires advance planning and creativity, which many small wineries have yet to do.