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.