why is wine advertising so predictable?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wine, as anyone who cares enough about it to read this blog surely will agree, is an endlessly fascinating, deeply nuanced product that touches almost every aspect of our lives, our culture, and our history. Why then is it that advertising for such mundane commodities as toothpaste, toilet paper and soft drinks delivers memorable images, jingles, catch-phrases and taglines, and wine companies do not?

A search of Google images under “wine advertising campaigns” turns up a predictably shallow pool.

“At Paul Masson, we will sell no wine before its time” – a slogan not only laughable, but ancient, still tops the list. Nothing else remotely familiar pops into view. Some of the images have nothing to do with wine at all. One of the best is for the Sofa King, a low-budget U.K. furniture schlepper whose ads bellow “Our Prices Are Sofa King Low!”

Wineries, if they make any creative effort at all, seem content with linking their product to either 1) beautiful women wearing little besides a Come Hither expression; 2) shots of grapevines, barrels, tanks, bottles or labels; or 3) happy people drinking (of all things!) wine.

“Award-winning Wines at Affordable Prices” says one. “In Pursuit of the Ultimate” says another. “Pure Balance” headlines a third. Then there are the countless “Discover the Wines of [your country/region goes here].” Dull dull dull!

Where’s the hook? Or should I say, “Where’s the meat?!?” How come Nike can sell smelly jock gear with “Just Do It!” and the best ad minds in the world can’t come up with something as good for wine?

I see a glimmer of hope in some efforts by non-mainstream producers. “What’s The Best Gift Nature Can Give To Man?” asks an ad for a Lebanese wine. That provokes some thinking, gets you curious enough to at least note the wine in the picture.

I promise you, with the sort of ad budgets that go into the design and development of a major print campaign, there must be better options available. Let’s find them! Wine is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, gender-blending, transformative social elixir. It should be the easiest thing in the world to sell. Just do it. It’s time!


WinePro911 said...

I recently presented at the Society of Wine Educators Conference on wine marketing, and spent a fair amount of time on the lack of innovative thinking. The above blog touches on one small component of a much larger problem. With very few exceptions (Gallo, Constellation plus a handful), wineries do not advertise. In fact, very few conduct actual marketing as it is known in the CPG world.

A thousand reasons why the status quo is "just the way it is" in the wine sector, and very little happens by way of creativity. For starters the industry has been somewhat confused with respect to terminology; talking to wholesalers about "marketing" dollars has nothing to do with marketing. It's strictly sales related spending, yet the complaint that "marketing" does not work, is prevalent in the industry. Before we can get advertising right (and from my perspective this type of advertising spend has little relevance in today's marketing platform) wineries need to do actual marketing & communications work in the year 2013. Time to move on from tactics that are in line with the year 2000......those days are never coming back. My blog on related theme is at: Wine & Spirits Global Funnel Effect: Explosion of Brands, Constricted Channels of Distribution - http://bit.ly/153cGuw

Unknown said...

True that marketing dollars is not marketing but also tactics is not strategy and a large part of the problem is a lack of understanding of what strategy is (see latest post at corporate myopia.com (Objectives, strategy, tactics and goals: A recipe for confusion). There simply is not going to be any creativity in any marketing program without understanding the differences between these terms and how to apply them. Given the enormous amount of competition, the focus has been on sales without thinking about what makes any wine different and distinct. Winery managers have difficulty answer the question, "What makes your wine/brand different?"

On the other hand, some campaigns such as the one from Vibrant Rioja for the Rioja wine region have been creative with the way they have built consumer and trade databases and how they work their data to convert people to their wines. It's all under the radar but Rioja as a region has done a good job of building awareness as something distinct and with it, sales. It all goes back to strategy.

WinePro911 said...

Well said Jon, which is why we always begin every piece of client work with strategy. Your comment "Winery managers have difficulty answer(ing) the question, "What makes your wine/brand different?"", (which I agree is prevalent) begs a second one. Why is the winery in business if it can't articulate it's positioning up and down the channels? And why are people who can't answer the question managing them?

This can easily become a 100 page document or a multi-day conference topic, but so many wineries won't invest in strategy nor any of the necessary marketing communications steps needed to build their brand, and then point out that "marketing/social media/etc does not work." In the end, many won't be around in 3-5 years.....

Regional campaigns have different dynamics, and I would not address them in the same context. (While they are all fruit, it is a bit of comparing apples to oranges.)

PaulG said...

Great and thoughtful comments. I mostly just wanted to poke a stick in what I perceived to be a hornet's nest. Could I do better if assigned the task of developing a campaign? You bet! But that's not my job these days. Some fun wine videos are being made (see my Facebook page for some links). And I agree about the importance of thinking about what makes any wine different and distinct. That is exactly why the focus on a good story is what is ruling the sales world these days. But the story has to be authentic. And it has to be differentiated. And it has to connect the product to the consumer. And everything else - quality, pricing, timing - has to be right. What good advertising can do - if such exists - is provide some glue that creates a story where none may exist. Not a Happy Camper or Black Dress fantasy, but a real story that fills in the gaps around wines that otherwise are just nice wines.

John Wiley Spiers said...

1. A winery in Washington state, for the most part, is a consumer item, not a business. "I have a waterfront home, a Porsche, kid at Stanford, a winery, etc."

2. The wine business is about tax credits and subsidies. Take those away and 630 of the 700 wineries in the state disappear.

3. All advertising is about aspirations, and the winery itself is the experience to be advertised. About the only advertising for most wineries that matters is "Tasting Room, Next Exit."

4. What ads get produced are valentines to the winery owners. "Look at us. Aren't we special?" Google wine ads and google and any other industry. Every other industry shows an identifiable target market enjoying the product. Rarely a wine ad.

5. All advertising benefit inures to the leader. Royal Crown advertises cola, people buy Coke. Go ahead, let the tobacco company winery benefit from you advertising Washington wines. They already get import taxes on the wine they sell against you zeroed out, might as well finish yourself off.

6. So no advertising? Correct. Wine is an add on sale, so it needs to be cross sold: marketed not advertised. But since USA adopted the French wine trade laws, we are not able to compete effectively world wide, let alone domestically.

Deregulate the wine business and we'd get more better cheaper faster, and maybe some 300 of those 700 wineries would thrive. We can deregulate dope, but not wine?

PaulG said...

John, I appreciate the strong opinions, though I do not agree. The vast majority of wineries in Washington are tiny, mom and pop operations, shoestring at best. Your #4 point is exactly what I'm talking about. Why shouldn't wine be like other industries?#5 I don't understand. #6 makes no sense to me. Deregulate? How? Where? It's different in all 50 states!

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