Tag Archive - branding

Can you taste the difference?

Would you buy this wine? It costs £7.99


This price is WELL above the average of around £4 per bottle in this country. If you are willing to spend double that amount there are only 2 main reasons:

  1. You are a “wine connoisseur” and know what you are buying and regularly spend this much
  2. You are buying for a special occasion; a party, a gift, a really special treat

I found it on the shelves of a local shop. Barossa Shiraz is world famous. Whether you know about the red earth, the climate, the issues of water shortages or anything else at all about the region, you have probably heard of “Barossa Shiraz”.

Now, you wouldn’t expect it to be cheap – generally speaking, if you’ve heard of the region (Chablis, Rioja, Bordeaux, …) the wine isn’t cheap, but it is Australia after all, not … FRANCE, that place where all good wines are really expensive. Anyway, do the French even make Shiraz?

2006? Should be good. Not too old. Time to check out some more clues.

What about this one, at the bottom?


St. Hallett? Many will not have heard about this producer, but there is actually a name on here that can be checked out. If you know anything about Barossa then the name of St. Hallett should ring bells. Old Block? Faith Shiraz? If you search for the name you’ll find this is a top producer with a great track record.

£7.99 for one of the best known names in the region? Cool!

If I bring this home to my husband or wife, or bring it to that dinner party on Saturday, they’ll be really impressed.

But wait! What’s that? At the top?


Sainsbury’s?

You want me to spend twice the national average on a bottle of wine, and when I bring it to the dinner party, despite it being a well liked grape, despite the well known region and the world-class producer, it says “Sainsbury’s” on the front label?

Erm …

  • You could say that if I say I wouldn’t buy it I’m being snobbish.
  • You could on the other hand, argue that if I’m spending this much money, a guarantee from a trusted brand like Sainsbury’s would encourage me to try it.
  • On the other hand, with all the choices available, do I want this name on there?
  • Or, are they using their buying power to get a great deal?

There is no easy answer, but these wines run all the way up to £12.99 for an Amarone and more and I am told that they are not easy to convince customers to buy (this is from the shop floor).

I know what I think, but what do you think? Premium wines (good ones at that), at reasonable prices, but constrained by the fact that it carries a non-premium label.

Would you buy it?

Stormhoek Origin and End

As was revealed today in Harpers, it seems that Origin Wine Pty, another producer from South Africa with existing international brands and strengths, will be taking over the assets of Orbital.

I can’t say I know much about Origin beyond what I have read elsewhere today, so I can only hope it works out for them and for the brands, including Stormhoek (why is it that neither of these companies seems to have any web presence of their own?).

What is interesting, and sad, is that as Origin already has UK offices it will not be taking on any of the Orbital staff, so I suspect there will be some pretty big changes in the marketing of the brand. I’m pretty sure, for a start, that it means the end of Hugh MacLeod‘s involvement.

It is probably a sensible result for those involved, but I guess there are those of us who will be disappointed that the result was not more … dramatic, and befitting the brand.

Let’s see what Origin can do for the wine. Good luck!

Stormy waters for Stormhoek

Lots of interest in the story about Stormhoek and Orbital going into administration that I posted recently, so I thought I would update it with a few more thoughts.

My first observation is that there has been a deafening silence from Hugh MacLeod on the subject of Orbital’s problems. You’d think that the uber-blogger and chief communicator might have something to say on the subject so I am guessing that either a) he is so thoroughly ****ed off that he dare not discuss it or b) – much more likely – that there is stuff happening behind the scenes and he is waiting for that to be made public. I certainly do hope it is the latter.

Secondly, Alastair brought up the issue of the 4P’s of Marketing (a subject I have covered before myself before) in the comments.

I do think that Stormhoek did manage to have a good Product, at an attractive Price and had managed to get reasonable distribution (Place) for the wine – and of course they were famous for the Promotion. Here was a brand NOT using Price as their main driver – hurrah!

The main reported reason for the failure of the business was a poor decision to upset a retailer by selling their wines cheaper to a competitor, resulting in them being delisted. Whether this is factually correct or not I do not know, but it reminds us that retailers have power over such young brands – and that without the P of Place/Distribution none of the other elements mattered enough, and the business suffered.

However, I would also suggest that there is another way they had suffered a little lately as Alastair’s story demonstrates (see comment number 5). The focus had moved too far towards packaging and the image. There were regular label changes, including for Valentine’s Day, special runs with new labels for facebook groups, awards dinners and Microsoft, etc. I’d suggest that all these distracted from the main business objectives and did not focus enough on getting fans to put their money where their browsers were and go out and buy the wine.

A small company cannot cope with lots of different labels and dispatching tiny lots of wines all over the place (for free!!). The key is focus, and in a competitive market like wine, to minimise costs. Instead, they started upsetting their fan base by fragmenting their product offering and making it harder to deliver on their promises.

The Wine Conversation needs to be as general and free-ranging as possible, and no brand could, or should, control it. Anyone can join in and so become interested in wine, whatever their angle is on the subject. However, as Josh pointed out, a winery or brand needs to sell wine in order to survive, and their conversation must ultimately lead people to the cash register.

I hope that Stormhoek 2.0 gets back to basics and uses its indubitable communication skills to get their product selling again.

More thoughts soon I’m sure when more news comes out.

[UPDATE: More news out now. See here. The Administrator is "optimistic" of reaching a deal next week.]

Wine & Photography – some further thoughts

My previous post solicited a few responses which I felt I had to respond to here and here.

The interesting thing is that photography could do lots of different things for wine. It COULD be about the tasting experience. It COULD be just about selling the product and packaging recognition.

But I think it COULD be so much more. I should point out that the whole reason for this blog is not to sell any wine, but to talk about how important wine is, or could be, in our society.

Let’s take them separately so I can explain my thinking, and the differences.

PHOTOGRAPHY AS A TASTING NOTE
As we have discussed, there are those who are already trying this, in particular Chateau Petrogasm. The point of the image is to express something unique or descriptive about what is INSIDE the bottle. They do not need to pick a brand for this as this concept applies to any wine. This is a very useful addition to the communications armoury of any winery or retailer.

The limitations of this, in terms of adding to the general perception and role of wine, is that it targets those who have pretty much already decided they could buy this product, but they would like to know a little more about exactly what they will experience when they open it.

But what about the undecideds?

PHOTOGRAPHY AS A SALES DRIVER
mince pieThe important point that Andrew made was that selling wine requires context. I agree. He mentions the kind of photography he likes, and happens to be very good at, which is wine and food. The photograph acts as a means to communicate an ideal occasion and partnership for the wine, be it food or location.

There may be people out there who had not yet conceived of buying wine, but whose occasion matched the image (dinner party, specific food match, …) who would be influenced by the communication of this image.

The trouble is, neither of these reasons does what I set out to do, which is to use photography to say something about the role of wine, or a SPECIFIC brand of wine, in an individual’s life or generally in our culture (the wine conversation).

[Photo by Wine Scribbler (Andrew Barrow) :: Unfortunately for a post about photography I do not have access to photos of these topics as I have simply made them up, so to brighten up this post I am borrowing one of Andrew Barrow's excellent photos for you to enjoy.]


PHOTOGRAPHY AS BRAND COMMUNICATION TOOL

Lots of wines will taste of brambles and spice. Many of these wines will be a great match for lamb and lentils. But which would you choose?

How about the one that is drunk by a George Clooney look-alike, whilst resting in a large leather armchair in an oak panelled room, and being served his food on a silver tray?

“I’ll have what he’s having!” It says ‘I like old fashioned luxury’.

Or maybe it is a wine that has refreshing citrus and exotic fruit flavours? Maybe you’d choose one that was matched to a grilled fish with cous-cous and aubergine tapenade drizzled with olive oil and set against a Greek sunset?

But how about the one that has diamonds drizzled in a glass instead, and shows the sunset from the deck of a yacht whilst the pristine white towel sits on the deck chair awaiting its mistress’ return from her dip in the sea?

“I’ll have what she’s having!” It says ‘I’m a modern, independent person used to always getting the best’.

This is branding. I could go on and maybe vary the target groups a bit more. How about a message about an active, independent retiree enjoying a moment of well-deserved relaxation with the family? Or how about a young woman surprising her partner with a bottle of wine as a little bit of just-affordable-luxury with their fish & chips to celebrate them buying their first apartment together?

The message does not have to be about the wine or even how it is consumed. It should be about what makes this wine different from all other wines, and what buying it, or consuming it, says about that person (even if they do not like it).

Champagne does exactly this. Spirits do this. Why not still wine?

Wine has not really come to terms with this and continues to focus so much on the product itself rather than these ‘extended’ features of the brand, something which is second nature to anyone in most other consumer marketing fields.

I am not advocating selling wine solely on this basis, as one of the things that separates wine from many other products is its “agricultural/natural” authenticity and individuality, and its continuously evolving nature. However, wine is a luxury, whether we like it or not, and there is a LOT of competition in this field from people and products who can do this better.

Whilst thinking about this topic I have browsed through the latest wine magazines on my desk and the quality of imagery in the advertising, other than for champagne, is woeful. I thought about it, but decided I will not even bother to reproduce them.

If wine producers ever want to sell their wine for more than simply the cost of production, and sometimes not even that, then they are going to have to start communicating some of the ‘other’ benefits of their brands.

So, is there a photo out there that says some of these things above about wine (ANY wine) without actually having to involve a glass or a bottle? Or at least only peripherally?

What emotions, actions, associations … do we have with wine that could be expressed visually so as to say something new about wine?

Maybe this is a meaningless quest, but I think it is worth at least asking the question. No?

Wine and Photography – some thoughts

Andrew Barrow from Spittoon is, as I have said before, a great photographer of wine ‘occasions’, particularly setting them off against food matches. Check out his photos here. He also pointed me to a friend’s photos here.

He and I have had a brief conversation about this some time ago, and I thought I would share my issues with this subject here in case others have any suggestions.

If you ask someone for a “wine” photo, you will get:

- a bottle shot, with or without props
- a vineyard shot
- a glass of wine (funny angle not required); swirling or dripping extra
- a smiling couple/group at a table with glasses raised

However well executed these shots are (and some are better than others), they have been done before by someone else. What is happening in 2007 with wine that we want to communicate? Is there nothing different today than there was 2, 10, 20, 50 years ago? I think there is, and we need to think about the visual language of how we get this across.

Let me give a comparative example culled from about 45 seconds searching on flickr.com

If wine were … snowboarding, then this is the photo we are using (This photo by Anh Quan). There is nothing wrong with it. It shows boards, the design alternatives and the set up is fine.

However, snowboaring enthusiasts might use this type of shot (Photo by T A K K):

Relevant, active, engaging, atmospheric, fun, modern, youthful, … good!

You might even go so far as saying that if you removed the board from the photo, there are still enough clues for the target market to say “Snowboard!” (or whatever a cool snowboarder actually says).

This is exactly what the perfume business and soft drinks markets already do. Perfumes are all about beautiful people being terribly attractive.

Soft drinks are the same. A can is boring, but Wayne Rooney draining a can after a tough game whilst condensation drips from the can or bottle is not. Of course we cannot, by law, do many of these same things for wine at least in the EU, but the concepts are there.

So, if snowboarding or perfumes were wine, what photos should we be taking to make it relevant, active … and all those other nice words up there?

Now, Chateau Petrogasm has attempted to move in this area, although not directly. Their concept is to link a photo (or an image more generally) with a tasting note. This is radical, and fun, but it is about the taste of the wine. I am still thinking a little more broadly about how photography might capture the essence of a wine brand.

Tom Wark at Fermentation also mentioned a similar issue recently, although relating to the graphics for the entire catalogue and not about a single wine or brand.

I believe that this area is ideal fodder for more creative bloggers who have a decent artistic streak and mastery of a camera.

Question: How would you ‘capture’ a wine brand WITHOUT showing a bottle, a glass, winery or vineyard? Has it been done? Any suggestions for specific brands (polite only please!)?

And then (you knew it was coming), how might we communicate the Wine Conversation and therefore the role of wine in our culture(s) in general using photography (bottles and glasses allowed this time)?

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