Sometimes you get an opportunity to dine really well. In an environment with old world grandeur, attention to detail, polished service and a sommelier presenting your wine. It is hard to resist the charm of real luxury. It brings a sense of drama and entertainment and it makes you feel special. But if your business is not only aimed at the elite, perceptions of exclusivity can be intimidating and not always positive for your brand.
There will always be the high-flyers who enjoy everyday opulence, but to the Average Joe, other than paying top dollar, what is at the heart of luxury? Exclusivity? Quality?
According to Mr. Santo Versace, Chairman of the VERSACE Group, luxury is presented in three tiers; absolute luxury where perception is everything, aspirational luxury where it is about imitating opinion leaders, trendsetters and influencers and accessible luxury where the focus is more customer-driven. (Read more)
I am under no illusion that Mr. Versace’s reference to accessibility and aspiration might be different from what most of us would understand from these concepts, but they are familiar terms in brand and marketing meetings and I thought about what they imply for wine brands.
Those of us who enjoy an everyday glass might not think of wine as a luxury, but in South Africa, the wine lifestyle can still be an intimidating experience. How do local wine brands go about positioning themselves? How do they maintain quality perceptions and those aspirational aspects without being intimidating? How do they balance aspiration with approachability and affordability? You don’t want to end up just being cheap and cheerful, but you also want to be a regular on the shopping list.
I think aspiration lies in more than opulence and price. It is also about appreciation, being able to recognise quality and uniqueness. There is an educational element to it and of course without exposure to wine and the lifestyle associated with it, the whole wine experience can be a bit intimidating. That might not be because of the product, however, but rather in the way you present it. Although some styles of wine might be more accessible, I don’t believe you have to compromise on the quality, but rather focus on the attitude of how you pour, present and sell the wine. Your brand ambassadors have to be approachable. Your marketing language and material have to include rather than exclude. In this way, you can keep the aspiration, but remove the intimidation – even for expensive brands.
In my opinion, real aspiration for wine consumers should not be in luxury, extravagance or what they can afford, but rather in appreciation – some knowledge of wine and an understanding of what they really enjoy.