The 90 Day Wine Branding Workout

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Brand awareness is at the core of most good marketing programs.  Whether you call it mind share, recall ability or awareness, the sales reality is people like to buy things that they have a positive feeling about.  That positive feeling may be nothing more than an faint memory that they remember the name perhaps the brand itself generates a positive tone.  Most of the wineries I talk to have a basic understanding of branding, often they get the set up right but fail in the follow through.

The big question is why?

Much like establishing and maintaining a vineyard, a brand requires a significant commitment to make it successful.

These days branding can include not only name generation, label design, signage, public relations, e-mail, advertising and other sponsorship supports but also includes social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Yelp and whatever is next.  The good news is that these are very learnable skills the bad news is they are time consuming without direct return on investment.

Just as you would establish a spray program in the vineyard, the best tool for starting your branding efforts is an old fashion calendar.

If your goal is increased visits to your retail room, look at your busiest month; what would it do to your bottom line if you doubled visitation that month?  Do you have the infrastructure (and the wine) to support such visitation and sales?  If yes this will be our target month.  If not, your goal should be to extend the month to eight weeks (Sept-ober).

For this example we will use a winery event as our foundation event and build a 90 day branding calendar based off that date.

For scheduled social media posts, I prefer to create each account’s own rhythm with posts.  I also encourage my clients to link their social media accounts so that when one is updated they all are updated (tweetdeck is a popular tool for this).  I usually schedule updates for the start of the day so that if something topical comes up I can post it later in the day and not upset the built in rhythm of posts.

I often create a type of post for each day in addition to Wine Wednesday, I may include a wine quote on Monday, a vineyard update on Tuesday (during the growing season), a cellar update on Thursday and a wine recommendation with pairing on Friday.  Don’t forget the power of images.  People love to feel like they know where their wine is coming from and who is behind it.  Tell the story of your winery through these methods each and every week.

With your scheduled posts entered and ready to rollout, there is a need for earned media (publicity that you don’t pay for).  As a marketer, I encourage clients to be strategic in their anniversaries.  If your winemaker has been with you for seven years, schedule a special event in the retail room during your busiest month (it really doesn’t matter that he was hired in February seven years ago).

Coordinate your wine releases with media releases and special tastings in the retail room.  Well written media releases from good sources become content for blogs and newspapers.  I generally advise sending one media release a month.  While I have broken this rule when the event is newsy enough, it is a good rule of thumb.

The branding schedule therefore needs three media releases going out Day 1, Day 31, Day 61.

Anytime you send a media release, rewrite it to be appropriate to be a newsletter to your e-mail list. Email recipients love that they got the news as an insider before it appeared in the paper.

I also work to schedule local radio interviews starting Day 61 through to the event.  Owners, vineyard managers, tasting room manager and winemaker all make interesting spokespeople (but require some level of spokesperson training).  If the foundational event is newsworthy I would also include a media advisory that goes out via e-mail to your media list on Day 83 and on Day 89.

The foundational event also needs some paid advertising support.  In terms of media buys, I tend to shy away from television and glossy magazines as I do not see them delivering the value for the buy right now.  I like local radio and local newspapers.  I also have had good success with targeted Facebook advertising.

Before you get to Day 100, draft a post mortem memo highlighting all the things that went well and went poorly.  Include any discernable data regarding how guests learned of the event.

Looking over this list it is clear why many wineries fall short on their wine branding efforts — it is a great deal of work.

The benefits of properly feeding and nurturing a wine brand is the same as such efforts in the vineyard and equally worth the time.

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson, the Grumpy Marketing Guy, is the President of The Trellis Group LLC a marketing consultancy focused on East Coast based wineries.  He can be reached at