Making Your Weak Points Stronger

By Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Every brand identity has a weakness.  There are some stronger brands that have the lingo of the day over take them, others find what once was a strength is now perceived as a weakness, and finally some brands find their brand identity  has obscured their product.

Language changes

Many years ago a small businessman started a pest control service, Pest Management Services.  In the intervening thirty years the initials PMS came to have a totally different meaning.  As his business was a low margin business rather than renaming the business, he simply asked his associates to change their verbiage to use the term “Pest Management’ rather than the initials — a quick, free fix.

Located in Seoul Korea, it’s hard to believe that the World Taekwondo Federation is unaware of the urban slang that their acronym (and colorful logo) represent in much of the western world.  Either they have too much vested in the logo, or they don’t care. If I were advising WTF I would encourage a two step process change the logo then rework the name.

World changes

For several years, Dunkin Doughnuts were known for their ubiquitous commercials touting time to make the doughnuts.  Their story was fresh baked doughnuts made by real people who got out of bed just to bake your doughnuts — until doughnuts became a dietary target and no matter how freshly baked people were trending to Starbucks for coffee and leaving Dunkin in the lurch.  Time for a brand revamp.  What are people stopping for?  Coffee (and a pastry) what is the biggest drawback to Starbucks — the line.  Bring on a new brand position that brings in patriotism, hints at health and productivity – America runs on Dunkin’.

I had nothing to do with this campaign but I have to believe it was a tough sell — “you plan to use fitness to sell doughnuts?” .  I consider this to be one of the strongest brand pivots in recent memory.

Losing Yourself to Your Brand

One of the fundamental marketing challenges is to develop a memorable brand identity that complements the product without obscuring the product (and the consumer benefits).  The most successful brands see their brand come into common place use for the product.  Sunkist Oranges are a good example of a brand name that speaks to the product.  Now what about the King campaign for Burger King.

This well funded campaign never managed to capture the campy image it wanted.  Instead the ceramic headed king started showing up places one would not want their brand associated (strip clubs, etc) and parents complained loudly that the iconic figurine was “creeping out their kids”

One might ask how Ronald McDonald might be perceived in today’s culture rather than the mid sixties era he was launched.  In this case, Burger King dethroned the King and most folks thought they waited too long.

If you do a 360 degree review and focus on what you do well, speedy service, great coffee, excellent value build your brand position base on strength of you unique selling position — and don’t be afraid to modify that position as time moves forward.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

 

Photo Credits:   World Taekwondo Federation, Dunki’n Doughnuts, hubze.com

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What’s Your Story?

By Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

In considering developing, creating or honing your winery’s brand position, I encourage clients to take a long look in the mirror.  What makes your wine different than ALL the other wine that is out in the market?  Newly minted marketing guys (and gals) like to discuss your USP, Unique Selling Proposition.  Back in 2009, An Economist magazine article defined the USP in this way:

A unique selling proposition (USP) is a description of the qualities that are unique to a particular product or service and that differentiate it in a way which will make customers purchase it rather than its rivals.

Rather than using the USP verbiage, I find that a more in New York style question of “What’s Your Story?” generally drives the brand awareness conversation.  Everyone has a story to tell and told properly these stories can help to sell your wine.  Stories/ideas that have worked include tying to the real or imagined vineyard location (Pine Ridge, Silver Ridge, Pillar Bluff), linking in with celebrity ownership (Coppola Estate, Newman’s Own, Andretti Winery), or elevating a winery/vineyard process (Toasted Head, Barrel Oak, Twisted Vines).

One “encore career” client demonstrated the ability to not only identify his USP but to wrap his brand around it.  Jim Turpin of Democracy Vineyards is a self described “recovering lobbyist”.  His back story of politics in both the Virginia State Capital and the Nation’s Capital made for the selection of the winery name somewhat a no brainer but he and DV owner Susan Prokop took the concept even further.

Turpin wears bright red white and blue outfits to festivals and other winery owners have taken to calling him Captain America.  Each of Democracy’s custom crush wines have  names that evoke the concept of Democracy.  There portfolio currently includes Velvet Revolution, Declaration, Emancipation, Sufferage, Unum, Parliment and Alabaster.

Another wine brand I use in these discussions is South African Winery Mulderbosch “Faithful Hound” brand.  In addition to being a fantastic red blend year after year.  I have witness folks break into tears when reading the story printed on the label, that tells the tale of the dog, whose owner moved but returned every evening to sit on the porch and wait for his return, the dog died with his love unrequited.  This is a wine with a story.

Another way to look at the nurturing of a brand is understanding how you, or the winery owner, or the grower or the winemaker are the face of the winery.  People want to know people.  They love getting inside scoop on the upcoming vintages or harvest so they can impress their friends with their understanding of the business.   The best person to be your “face” may not be the owner.  But a word of caution, if you invest significant brand equity in an employee or partner, recognize this as a strategic decision and think how you will respond when they move on.

Above all else be true to who you are in your brand positioning.  If you can’t stand dogs, don’t put a dog on your label.  Just like fear, consumers smell phony from a mile away.  In addition, if you don’t believe it why should anyone else.

Here’s your homework, sit down with a pad of paper and write down ten things about you that make you unique and think of how you might integrate these into your brand positioning.  It may not be a label concept at all.  One client was an avid Ford F-150 driver.  That’s all he owned his entire life a series of these Ford Trucks.  Rather than put that into the label concept we simply added a new title to his signature Winemaker & F-150 Driver.

You have to be genuine, interesting and unique.  It’s all that easy and it’s all that hard.

Respectfully Submitted,

GMG

photo credits: Andretti Winery, Neon Cactus Wines

 

 

 

Winery Weddings — I Do or I Don’t

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Wineries, like any other business, are often looking for ways to diversify their income by maximizing their assets.  Vineyards and wineries tend to be romanticized and provide a great backdrop for a wedding where the goal, not unlike wine, is for the relationship to grow better over time.

Photo Credit: First Colony Winery

Constructed properly weddings (and other private events) can add significantly to the bottom line of a winery.  A quick review of the central Virginia wine market found  banquet room rentals can be between $2,000 and $8,000.  This is before you add in any wine minimum.  Several wineries do over forty weddings a year, this can generate over $200,000 gross revenue annually.  Even just one wedding a week in the three summer months would equal $60,000.

In addition, you are introducing a large number of individuals to your property, selling a large amount of wine (many wineries have a minimum), all during time your tasting room would usually be closed.

Residual sales also benefit as folks marrying at the vineyard tend to return and purchase.

So it is clear there are several reasons wineries consider doing weddings.  Why would a winery not want to serve as a nuptials host?

Winery location is too remote
Not enough space vineyard for a tent
Staffing demands
Wear and tear on facility
Security issues
Neighbor concerns
Fear of Bridezilla
Does not fit personality of the owner
Takes away from other guests’ experience

In my years in the wine business, I have often found that the very characteristics that make a great winemaker are not always the same features of an accomplished wedding planner.  The most successful “wedding” wineries tend to have dedicated staff willing to work with the Bride [and the family] for a year or more prior to the event and most comfortable holding their hand through the planning, decision making and the actual event.

If you are planning a winery, determine if you believe your personality fits hosting events, if not, can you afford someone on staff with these skills?  Then prior to even laying out the vineyard, no less the winery, visit several wineries that do weddings.  Read their websites, meet with their approved caterers, understand their challenges and try to build your venue to be both different than theirs but learn from their comments.

Just as with marriage, weddings aren’t for everyone.  The best way to minimize risk, is to go in with eyes wide open — that’s pretty sound matrimony advise as well.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Wine Distributors – Friend or Foe?

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

There are a least two divergent views regarding distributors in the wine business.

Photo Credit: Palate Press

While the first group can’t stand them and sees them as the enemy, the second group could not accomplish their business objectives without their existence.  Which winery is in which group tends to focus on the ownership’s previous business experience, the winery sales objectives as well as the winery’s geographical footprint.

All of this ties back to the end of prohibition and the creation of the “three tier system” of alcohol beverage control.

In 2009, Jeff Seigal wrote a great piece on the three tier system on the Palate Press wine blog.  Siegal explained the creation of the system in this way:

The only consistency, really, is the three-tier system, which exists in some form in every state. In the three-tier system, consumers (with some exceptions) must buy wine from retailers (or restaurants), who must buy from wholesale distributors, who buy from the producers. Retailers can’t buy direct from the winery and consumers mostly can’t either. Say what you will about the system, says Blau, but in 1933, when state officials were looking for a way to regulate alcohol after Prohibition, it was the best thing they could find. And, since then, it has done what they wanted it to do—made it easier to collect taxes, to regulate alcohol sales, and to prevent the corruption and abuses that existed between manufacturers and retailers before and during Prohibition.

Considering the importance of the three tier system to their business their defense of it makes perfect sense.  In Virginia, a well crafted compromise has emerged.  Farm Wineries (a legal distinction in Virginia) are permitted to use a “co-op” distributorship that is virtual in nature.  Orders are placed on the distributor web site and the winery delivers the wine, collects the payment and sends the payment to the virtual distributor who cuts a check on a monthly basis.  This option is available to wineries under 3,000 cases in the market.

My experience has been that most distributors are not terribly interested in wineries under the 3,000 case level because they are historically unreliable.  Don’t take that the wrong way, it just is under that level (and often above that level) vintages run out before the next vintage is ready placing the distributor in a position where they will likely lose a placement for lack of wine.

I also have found as wineries reach the 3,000 case level, it becomes increasingly difficult to self distribute.  In Virginia, as in many states, you can not peddle wine; you must order wine and deliver in another visit after orders have been placed into the system.  Even if your winery is limiting the distribution to a 100 mile radius around the winery, that still a a great deal of ground to cover especially when one account in the southwest territory needs 6 bottles and one account in the northwest corner has an order for a case.

Now, that you know I believe distributors are winery friends, I have to fix a myth in the industry.  There are some that believe “Now that I have a distributor, I don’t have to work outside accounts, that’s why I’m paying the distributor”.  That’s a recipe for low sales for the winery.  In order to achieve their scale, the distributor represents a number of different labels.  The job now increases in complexity, not only do you have to get the account excited about your brand, you have to get your distribution sales team fired up as well.

All in all, self distribution works to a certain level but working with distributors is a net positive step that can help a winery grow exponentially.

Respectfully,

Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy