Wines & Vines Home
Welcome Guest

Sonoma Seeks Wine Image

Experts help define a diverse county's branding

by Andrew Adams
sonoma branding
Branding experts Trini Amador, left, and Hunter Hastings of BHC Consulting presented their firm's strategy to focus and strengthen Sonoma County's brand as a wine region.
Santa Rosa, Calif.—When wine drinkers pick up a good bottle of wine priced higher than $15, they choose a Sonoma County label only 5% of the time.

Vintners in Sonoma County hope to double that rate to 10%, and are pinning their hopes on a new branding campaign to crystallize the image of Sonoma County wines as authentic, well made and providing a thrilling experience.

Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners, announced the branding effort Jan. 12 at the group’s annual meeting in Santa Rosa. About 300 members attended the meeting held at the Vintners Inn.

Comfort said one of the group’s key goals in the coming year is to focus on presenting a strong, unified brand image of Sonoma County. “In some ways, this is the hardest work we do,” she said.

The county is both huge and diverse, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay and California’s interior mountains, and encompassing many distinct terroirs and wine regions. To help solidify the Sonoma County brand, the vintners’ group hired BHC Consulting headed by Trini Amador, who is originally from Sonoma County and whose son and daughter work in the wine business.

To gain in-depth understanding of Sonoma County’s wine industry and its challenges, BHC staff met extensively with industry insiders and outside experts, then followed up with what Amador described as “decision acceleration” to further define the identity and focus of Sonoma County’s branding efforts.

Amador attended Thursday’s meeting along with Hunter Hastings, a senior consulting partner at BHC and former brand manager for Procter and Gamble and vice president of brand management for brewing giant SBC, now part of SAB-Miller. BHC clients include major international brands like DuPont, Jack Daniels and Clorox.

Create an ‘irrational relationship’
The key to successful branding, Amador said, is to create an irrational relationship between people and specific products: Classically, the Pepsi drinker who refuses to drink Coke. “If you go to the store and this brand is not available, you won’t buy a replacement,” he said. “It’s irrational.”

Hastings said in the case of Sonoma County, 80% of core U.S. wine drinkers only pick Sonoma County wines once out of every 20 times they purchase wine. “We have to change their attitude, thinking and feeling to change their behavior,” he said.

The core target group, according to the consultants, consists of people who are older than 30, educated and earning more than others in their peer group. They are active, social and enjoy travel and cooking. Hastings said wine is important to their life—but not everything.

More importantly, he said, this core audience is focused on experiences and puts an emphasis on experiencing new things and sharing these discoveries with others.

He recommended reaching this audience with a brand message to convince them that Sonoma County is home to world-class wine and an unparalleled blend of experiences that provide thrilling discoveries. “I found this wine and this great winemaker…that’s a thrill,” Hastings said as an example.

Hastings said that with this message, the diversity of Sonoma County’s wine country becomes one its most attractive qualities, rather than a perceived liability. Each of the many regions and AVAs—from the Sonoma Coast to Rockpile—can provide their own message and strengths under the larger umbrella of Sonoma County.

The next step, Hastings said, will involve incorporating the branding language of Sonoma County into “creative briefs.” These can then be tailored for specific promotional needs targeting, for instance sommeliers, distributors or wine writers. He said this will ensure that wherever the Sonoma County brand is directed, the message is uniform and geared for maximum effect.

During the next six weeks to two months, Comfort said the vintners group will work with leaders in each of the county’s AVAs to add detail and focus to the creative briefs. She said the group also has contracted with San Francisco-based Landor Associations to provide images and other creative material to accompany the brand message.

The campaign’s goal, Comfort said, is not only to make Sonoma County wines more competitive, but to focus consumers’ minds on the concept of the county and its wines. When they’re faced with a wine shelf, Sonoma County ideally should stand out because the consumer knows the brand. “We have one chance to do this—one chance to do it right,” she stressed.

The concept of countywide wine branding took a step forward last year, when a state law mandating “conjunctive labeling” went into effect. Backed by a majority of stakeholders, this requires that any wine label that includes one of the county’s AVAs also be identified as Sonoma County. The law will become fully effective in 2014.

Group announces new board members
The Sonoma County Vintners also announced three new members to its board. The new members are:

Stan Fridstein, a partner at Mulberry Trample, a wine brokerage that specializes in placing excess wine inventory into the most discreet channels possible, in a way that does not hinder long-term branding and selling efforts. Fridstein is also the co-founder and president of The Right Start, Inc.

Bahaneh Hobel, an attorney in Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty’s Alcohol Beverage group. Hobel’s practi ce focuses on all aspects of alcohol beverage law, including state and federal licensing and regulatory compliance for wineries, breweries, distilled spirits plants, importers, wholesalers and retailers.

Dan Kosta, co-founder of Sebastopol’s 11,000-case Kosta Browne Winery and a Sonoma County native who sits on the board of directors for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair and participates in judging events such as the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, West Coast Wine Competition and San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Currently no comments posted for this article.

Wines & Vines Home
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 $546 million
$6,988 million
March 2014 $572 million $7,451 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 $177 million
$1,483 million
March 2014 $213 million $1,634 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 253
March 2014 292 210
MORE » Released on 04.14.2014

Wines & Vines
Packaging Conference
Learn More »

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
Search the PWV archive »

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
Download full report »

  • April 23-26
    CABs of Distinction in Paso Robles
  • April 26
    Siera Pelona Valley wine festival
  • April 27
    TAPAS Grand Tasting
  • April 29
    Rendez-Vous Laffort
  • MORE »

Article: Starbucks Expands Wine Sales to More Cities »
Pretty amazing that the 1st wines chosen are from Argentina, Italy, and New Zealand! I...
Reader: Jacques Brix
Article: Starbucks Expands Wine Sales to More Cities »
Given Starbucks commitment to sustainability and global responsibility, I expect this move could be a...
Reader: Guest
Article: What to Do About Red Blotch »
There is NO correlation with planting density. Also FPS is working on the problem. New...
Reader: Guest
Article: Premiere Wine Auction Nets $5.9 million »
Thanks for letting us know Janet, we've updated the story. Cheers
Reader: Andrew Adams
Article: Will Barrels Go the Way of Floppy Disks? »
Fun piece. Particularly enjoyed the three clearly superior attributes of standard barrels, including looking cool...
Reader: Tom Gable

Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
Advanced Search »
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
Wines & Vines Magazine
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
Latest Job Listings
 Coordinator, Vineyard ...
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Direct Sales Operation...
 Healdsburg, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Direct Shipping Clerk
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Lmr Estate Guide
 Saint Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Tasting Room Associate...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Tasting Room Associate...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Cellar Staff
 St. Helena, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Napa Valley, CA
Winemaking and Production
 California State Sales...
 Healdsburg, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales & Marketing Admi...
 Wenatchee, WA
Sales and Marketing
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:

Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.