“A good distinction is that a product is something people buy for its functional benefits, whereas a brand they buy for emotional benefits.” This is just one of many lines in a brilliant article by Jonathan Cahill on marketing in the wine industry. It is worth the read – click here.
There is much in the article I agree with, the importance of storytelling, being one.
In the wine industry it is very easy to fixate on product. Especially if you love the product, are involved with the production from vineyard to cellar, enjoy drinking and talking wine and are surrounded by like-minded people.
Not too long ago, we all used the product as the main focus for marketing. The opinion of wine writers, the golden stickers awarded by wine competitions and ratings by wine experts were what we hope would differentiate our product and make it the consumer’s choice.
But, to quote Cahill: ““Zesty”, “crisp” and “citrus” are words which regularly feature. When comparing these different descriptions the overriding impression is of verbal wallpaper with minor variations in design as opposed to the articulation of clear differences for one Sauvignon Blanc against another. As in Mindwise, referred to above, they are largely defining themselves by the attributes that make them the same as everyone else.”
What I take from this is that while to us in the industry, the subtle nuances and differentiations between two Sauvignon Blancs can be very important, relating that to the consumer is not that easy. In the end, all the wines sound more or less the same and no surprise, you pick the one on promotion.
While product quality is non-negotiable, for successful marketing in the modern era, you need something more. You should focus on the emotion rather than the product and this emotion lies in the brand story and brand experience.
Perceptions about your product should be managed. It can be as simple as the packaging of the product, or it can be more challenging with associations around the name or origin or style. And while perception sounds a bit superficial, it is real and it is the challenge of marketers to create and manage perception around products.
Creating emotion around wine should be easier than with some other products because of its lifestyle association. Take tyres for example. How do you get emotional about a tyre? But tyre brands using ads with families safely reaching their holiday destination, rather than going into the technical details of the tyre, will definitely resonate stronger with consumers because of the emotion.
Now, to get back to storytelling. First we need to identify our stories. I believe they should be true and not manufactured. It is good if they are very different. One brand’s story might come from a rich heritage of wine-making, another might be a small guy’s dream. The challenge is to recognise your own story and then to create ways in which to tell the story and share it in the form of experiences. Today, this is what we call wine tourism.
Wine tourism really is one of the important ways in which we tell our stories and create emotion around our brands. And in the world of social media, where everyone can be a journalist, the stories around your wine will bring you much further than the product on its own. But there are more, clever ways to do this and, as Cahill describes so eloquently, this is what wine marketing should be about.