selling wine, especially in the tasting room, there is a difference
between marketing and branding. Yes, the two are often co-mingled, but
they must be interpreted and managed differently. Without a brand
identity it is hard to market wine. We do not want to take this
discussion into an esoteric direction, however, tasting rooms are an
opportunity to go far beyond just selling wine, the real bonus lies in
creating a tasting room to sell wine and reinforce a brand identity,
Maybe it would help to look at branding this way:
“Branding is to a company (winery) as personality is to a person.
Branding is as much inward as outward-facing. If you have a strong,
trustworthy brand, your employees are happier, more motivated, and more
loyal,” says Mr. Russel Cooke, A Customer Relationship Manager
professional. “Branding is the allocation of resources to promote
awareness of your brand, products and services. The purpose of
marketing, in a nutshell, is to communicate your brand’s value to
Branding is a process that happens over
time; like how our personalities evolve over time, but at some point,
the personality becomes defined for people to recognize. Marketing will
use advertising (print, radio, TV), designs, collateral materials to
build awareness for a brand and hopefully call the consumer to action.
a tasting room only for sales? I would submit the answer to be, “a
tasting room is a terrible asset to waste solely on sales”. A brand is a
legacy asset in perpetuity and sales is fleeting. Wine sales is an
effort that must be created anew each season; a brand lives on to be
destroyed or strengthened, so chose you brand identity wisely!
any marketing or branding experience the complexities of successfully
executing these tasks are mindboggling; truly. In the wine industry the
task can be exponentially more complex because of ancillary issues such
as: Federal regulations, outside issues that influence product
(weather), and local government constraints, et al. Selling coffee mugs
should be a bit less complex. In the direct-to-consumer marketing arena,
the tasting room is the only place where the winery can control and
execute their plans in branding and selling/marketing their product in
real time. Here, a visitor comes to you and says, tell me about your
product and by-the-way, I want to buy. Wow, what an advantage in
The tasting room is truly the only face-to-face time a
winery has to impact all the human senses that will influence a sale and
hopefully a repeat sale. I submit therefore, the visitors interface
experience with employees is the most important; why else do companies
send representatives to visit the customer? Airlines at one time felt
that e-mail and video conference calls would negatively impact their
business; facts proved that wrong. Nothing can replace the impact of
people looking directly at, communicating with, and feeling the persona
of face-to-face interactions.
Maybe you are still doubtful of this
line of thought, well consider the successes of reality TV. Shows like
American Pickers and Fixer Uppers are shows about people, experiences
and their lives. American Pickers or Dirty Jobs are shows that now spend
most of time focused on real people and their stories. A tasting room
experience is communicating with people who love wine and want to be
sold and want to learn about the brand story. Yes, taste the wine, but
tell the visitor the story of the brand.
Let’s assume for this
discussion that a significant number of people do decide to visit a
specific winery for any of numerous reasons. To illustrate the point. A
few years ago, I saw a study that listed various reasons why individuals
visited a winery:
Wanting to see the winery that made their favorite wine.
Referred by friends.
Wanted to experience a winery or location.
Wanted to buy wine to commemorate a visit to the region.
The premise is, branding through interpersonal contacts, within tasting
rooms, is important and maybe even critical, to all wineries; large and
small. This type of branding tool will give instant product feedback
about marketing and branding because the visitor is engaged with a
winery representative. Finally, public contact winery employees can
immediately address visitor product queries. We inherently buy products
(wine) and services based on relationships and a feeling (trust and
enthusiasm) about the relationship with the company/winery.
years ago, I visited a winery selling expensive wine; expensive by the
standards of 3 decades ago; and I ask a simple question: What makes your
varietal more expensive than another winery’s? When I ask the question,
I did so with an obstinate tone, to the credit of the tasting room
employee, she artfully engaged me and others within earshot in
discussing what makes their wines more expensive/quality. She was
responsive, unoffended, engaged and converted me to be a marketing
missionary for her winery’s quality wines. My first real experience with
real world branding.
I believe in the power of branding and how it impacts sales, production, finance and longevity.
rooms that draw upon a winery brand and reinforce the brand ultimately
will sell wines. Without a good brand, marketing is a very tough
exercise for a winery. My fantasy for tasting room effectiveness #101
Be met at the door and be given a brochure about the winery, its
management, explanation of the winemaker’s philosophy/approach to the
product, and information presented with a sense of pride. Whether the
tasting is free, charged, or one by appointment only; whatever the
business model, the brand experience is most important. For example,
have you ever been to a winery of humble facilities, yet you connected
with the brand because of the people? Conversely, have you been to a
very well-appointed tasting room and left feeling underwhelmed?
Realize visitors are buying an experience and hopefully a relationship.
Just read a list of old wine quotes and one soon realizes, wine has long
been elevated simply based upon the experience of wine.
Nice people that know the wines their winery produces.
Employees who engages me in understanding what makes their wines great that is part of their brand image.
Visitors want a story about the brand and then the wine.
If staff in the tasting room have a “belly-up-to-the-bar” presentation
to the visitor, the winery has diminished the value of a tasting room by
more than 50%, even if the visitor buys a bottle of wine.
If the branding and marketing effort work together, the sale happens.
Then comes the wine club sale, new vintage follow-on sales and direct
mail with collateral materials. As a channel of distribution, the
tasting room is a winner.
Know the vineyards from which their grapes come and why that is important.
Staff that are proud of the product.
Want to understand what I like and why.
Treat me respectfully and at my level of experience. The tasting room is
not about a place where the staff can show their knowledge of buzzwords
and technical points-bad branding.
And a tasting room that sends me on my way with a farewell that makes me
feel good about my visit and purchase. “Please enjoy my wine and drop
me a note to tell me when you drank it.”
A winery tasting room that does these things will encourage me to buy
more, share my experience with others, and give me a super long-term
view of what the values are of this winery-hopefully one of excellence.
a “back of the napkin” exercise, if you are a winery owner or tasting
room manager, write down precisely how you think your winery’s brand is
defined by the visitor, then the distributor, restaurant/on-premise
buyer and retailers. Then ask yourself, is that the brand I want, need
and can live with for the future. People buy the brand first and the
marketing story second; the brand lives on but the marketing story will
change because of many dictates.
Attitude and product knowledge of
the tasting room staff, interpersonal skills, level of interest by
management and staff throughout the organization; all these factors ooze
the brand definition throughout the organization. Winery’s do not need
to spend a lot of money to create a brand, but the tasting room is
coming from the inside out.
We never forget that branding and
marketing are complex and rarely turn out great without in-depth
planning, initiating experience, constant training and reinforcement of
strategies, buy-in at all levels, and updating of the plans.
tasting room should present the brand to the public as desired by the
owners. “Branding is the truth, reputation, and value of a small
business’s image, ethics, and craftsmanship. It is the stamp or logo on a
product that becomes a household name and trusted brand. Marketing
is the sales driven tactic which stands behind branding,” says Monique
Ouellette. Notice that marketing is behind the brand and drives the
“call to action” to drive the sale.
Apple is a great brand and
marketing organization. Look at the branding of their retail locations
(tasting rooms). Disney is another great brand that is on display in
their tasting rooms. Don’t confuse branding and marketing.