Modern Wine Marketing Secrets

Unified Symposium speakers share specific advice in Sacramento

by Kate Lavin
unified Lodi
Dave Mering discussed the steps that went into developing the LoCA campaign for the Lodi Winegrape Commission today at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
Sacramento, Calif.—Mambo Media founder Siouxsie Jennett has been part of the Internet sector nearly since its inception; the past three to four years have spurred levels of change she has not seen since the web’s heady early days. Jennett shared her secrets about online marketing this morning with an audience at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.

In years past, marketing campaigns created spikes of activity followed by lulls in attention. Social media has changed that, Jennett said, allowing brands to create a continuous way to connect with consumers without dips in activity between large promotions.

She addressed the segment of the population that doesn’t see the point of social media, saying the age divide between those who “get it” and those who don’t is around age 40. That doesn’t mean wineries should relegate their social media tasks to the youngest person in the office, however, especially if that individual doesn’t have a history with the company. Instead, she advised creating a brand strategy that has been thoroughly thought out beforehand.

An intern managing social media channel is probably not the best person to be talking about your brand. “Make sure your story is being well understood,” she said, advising that newcomers to the social media platform not try to adopt multiple platforms (Twitter, Facebook, blog) all at once, but rather start with one and watch for changes in metrics. The advantage of this digital age is that newcomers will see results immediately—e.g., customers becoming fans on your Facebook page or following your Twitter feed.

“You want to make sure that you have a real ROI (return on investment) and that you’re measuring that ROI,” she said. “Social media is not necessarily budget intensive, but it is labor intensive. You don’t jut place media and leave.”

Staying consistent

Jennett offered an example: If a fan of your brand calls to ask a question about a contest running on your Facebook page, and the front-line person answering phones replies, “What contest? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the customer is left with a negative impression of that brand.  “If you’re going to do something in the social media world, make sure you follow through on it,” she said.

When it comes to blogs, identify the strengths of different people in your company and have each use their expertise to connect with the blog audience. Make sure they use the same keywords that consumers do, so your site shows up in online search results and you get more web traffic.

To stay abreast of what people are saying about your brand, Jennett recommended using Google Alerts to monitor what consumer comments about your product—and maybe your competition as well. There is a lot of data available—some of it for free—and companies should utilize ways to gather information about how they’re connecting with consumers—and whether it generates business.

It takes a lot of beer…
Joe Whitney, director of sales and marketing for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., said that until a few years ago his company sold all the beer it could produce and didn’t practice any marketing. However, after enough fans visited the brewery and said, “I didn’t know you did all this,” decision-makers at Sierra Nevada realized they needed to do a better job of telling consumers about their product; they set out to do it “in the most authentic way possible.”

Rather than sell their brand with the promise of blondes and bowl games, Sierra Nevada embraced the craft beer revolution and began a campaign to communicate with its already captive audience, focusing on building a community, its artisan brewing credentials and the pioneering nature of the brand, with the longest history of craft brewing in the country.

To further the idea of community, Sierra Nevada launched its Beer Camp. Fans can apply to join by creating a video explaining why they should win a chance to attend the weekend-long event and make beer in Sierra Nevada’s facility. The company also hosts more conventional beer dinners and special events.

Its second priority was to focus on the tasting room and tours, knowing that consumers who make the effort to visit the brewery are likely very serious about beer and the Sierra Nevada brand in particular. To show people how true to its roots the brand remains, the company planted a hop yard and created an estate ale, the first of its kind.

Finally, many beer drinkers weren’t aware that Sierra Nevada had been around for as long as it has, so for its 30th anniversary the brand gathered pioneers of the craft brewing movement and brewed together, sending a message of both experience and innovation.

As moderator Neil Stevenson of the design consulting firm IDEO put it, “If you don’t have an emotional connection to people, then you’re selling them a commodity; another brand will come along and you’re going to get swapped out.” If something about a brand resonates with consumers, they’ll find it harder to trade that brand in for the newest thing, he said.

An industry example

Dave Mering of Mering Carson relayed the story of his LoCA campaign for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, which he developed while looking to bridge the gap between the actual quality of Lodi wine and its perception. Find the emotional connection for people, he advised, and then back it up with facts.

In the case of Lodi, Mering’s team decided to highlight the opportunity for consumers to have a one-on-one experience with winery owners and growers, and emphasizing that the region’s small nature means many of the farmers are responsible for every part of the wine production process.

Next, it was time to develop a character for his message, and he adopted a youthful, vibrant attitude that would resonate with consumers. He also wanted to forego the idea of showy wines and focus on a no-fuss message to show that Lodi was starting to come into its own: the message of LoCA (an abbreviation for Lodi, Calif., that also means “crazy” in Spanish) was fun and exuberant.

See some of the images Mering Carson came up with here.

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