The dream is to have a brand. Everyone who is trying to sell a product dreams of the day when that product name becomes something recognisable, something that jumps to mind when you speak of a category. Search engine: Google. Cooldrink: Coke. Technology: Apple. Wine: ?
Now that is a matter I have been struggling with recently. I am in the business of wine brands. Research, developing, marketing and distribution are my passions. I love identifying opportunities and making then work. But more and more, I must question whether wine brands are only wine names. Whether, except for the few famous châteaux such as Pétrus and Margaux, the wine industry is perhaps one of commodity, and whether wine brands are merely names and differentiators between the various options available in the market.
Can we think of wine as more than a commodity? Perhaps to be a wine brand, there are a few extra boxes to tick?
The traditional brand was a name for a product with a set of associated values. Today, the brand focus is increasingly more on experience. Even when you have all your ducks in a row with the traditional 4 P’s of marketing, it is Experience, more than Price, Product, Promotion or Place that will differentiate between product names and brands.
Whether you have a product with a name or an actual brand, the world of commerce is very competitive, and loyalty is a disappearing trait. That is why I think Experience is such an important element of business. Experience should not negate quality or the traditional marketing components, but without an experiential element, in today’s world, I think your ‘brand’ will only be a name.
The experience brings three important factors to the brand: authenticity, accessibility and ‘appability’.
- Authenticity shares something of the brand’s origin and story and values. It shows that this is something real.
- Accessibility makes it easier for the consumer to connect with the brand, it shares ways of enjoying the brand or ways of customisation. It involves and includes the customer.
- ‘Appability’ takes the experience digital. The development of technology, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, social media, apps and e-commerce take the experience to the consumer, they do not have to visit your tasting room.
Technology evolves at a rapid pace and it changes the way we think and do. Businesses have to keep up with trends and technology, while staying true to the brand promise. For instance, in today’s fast-paced world people need ways of recharging and focusing on wine’s relaxation properties might therefore strike a note. Well-being is a trend and healthier options like wines with lower alcohol are more popular. With many options at their fingertips, consumers demand seamless access to information and easy transactions. Apps make our lives easier and in China we already see staff-less wine shops! Not being available online is not an option, but it is not all about ease, it is also about reputation. You must stay true to your values and have to be responsible in your dealings with nature and society.
The South African wine industry is exceptionally successful when it comes to creating an experience around wine. The local wine tourism offering receives international acclaim and creates memorable experiences and emotions, something that sounds more like brand than commodity.
So, does ticking the boxes of experience, trend and technology mean you have a brand? And if you are not in an industry of brands, is it not enough to have a successful commodity? Is brand in the case of South African wine perhaps less about individual labels and more about the country’s complete offering?
This article originally appeared in WineLand, November 2018