Why do wine brands think they don't need a positioning/proposition?

All other categories in the liquor sector have a very strong and focused positioning. Why not wines?
Your wine should have a very strong and focused positioning. (Attribution: Robert S Donovan)
It seems as if wine estates believe their name, story, label, packaging and content is enough to build their brand. It is well known that "word of mouth" is the most powerful marketing tool there is. But can one rely purely on this?

This phenomenon is worldwide. There are thousands of wine brands out there, well over 100 to choose from in SA alone. I could find roughly 70 brands globally that have a proposition for the consumer and maybe 10% of those could convince the consumer to try the wine. Such as Bolla's "Wine is like love, when the right one comes along, you know it". Or William Hill "Elegance. Defined." Or Graca's "The talking, eating, drinking, laughing, singing, sharing wine." Or Leopard's Leap "...follow your instincts". Often these propositions are only campaigns and do not appear on the label, why? Consumers need and deserve a reason for trying a brand. With so much choice out there, why not give them one?

Brand and value

A brand is all about value. The higher the margin the higher the value. No other category has such a wide spectrum of prices. From R20 to R500 for the same wine / cultivar. It seems to me that wine makers simply do not believe they need to market their wines. Why else is there so little spend on ATL advertising (ca. R100m per annum of which 20-25% go to sparkling wine) when SA produces now 11Mhl of wine per year.

What I love about wine, is the variety of tastes. Beer drinkers are notoriously brand loyal, once a Castle drinker, always a Castle drinker. Whereas a Chenin or Sauvignon fan has many different options to choose from. Bar the mass wines / box drinkers, the more discerning wine drinker is far less brand loyal. Always seeking for the little gem out there. Every year is different. The search never stops. But we need to find it. So please use marketing (neck tags, print ad, posters, radio etc.) to point us to your gem Mr Wine Maker. Make us an offer that convinces us to try your wine. How do I become a fan of your wine if I never try it?

Small things can change a brand's path

Often wine brands / cellars say they do not have the budget for marketing. There seems to be a misconception that it will cost an arm and a leg! To put a neck-tag on a bottle is very cheap, or printing a pay-off line on a label. It is the small things that can change the path of a brand.

Came across an article by Bruce McGechan (Wine Marketer) which spells it out perfectly: "The brand proposition is how your brand benefits the consumer. Not your heart felt statement about yourself. Although family and chemical free wine making practices may be important to you, are they the driving reasons why someone would choose your wine? And if you think they are, how else are you going to standout versus other family wines in the consumer market?"

It seems as if the marketer of today (and not only in the wine industry) have lost the drive / dreams for their brands. There seems to be a lack of entrepreneurial spirit.

The lack of guts to give it a go!

About Rolf Akermann

Passionate Marketing / Brand Strategist with substantial industry experience - Thrives on building and growing successful brands...
Mike du Toit
Hi Rolf,I am a trademark attorney and wine lover so I find your comments interesting from a brand point of view. I am torn between two views on the topic. On the one hand I take short cuts to get to the really great wines by reading Platters or Good taste magazine or attending tastings and then going purely on what works for my palate. In this instance the safe bet is to go for the good ratings. On the other hand, when I am out buying wine I am influenced by the appearance on the bottles of Veritas stickers, Michelangelo Awards, Platter stars etc or I buy the wines I know and like.Unfortunately, in both instances, the brand or sub-brands or pay-off lines play little or no role in my decision making process. I agree that the discerning wine drinker is less brand conscious or not at all. Life is too short to drink bad wine! I for one would not buy Graca because it is a talking, eating, drinking, laughing, singing, sharing wine. Having said all of that and putting on my trademark practitioner's cap, the modern day labels such as Porseleinberg or Secateurs from the Swartland or Saronsberg's Provenance labels excites me because they are so distinctive from a brand point of view compared to the old fashioned labels such as the old generation Nederburg labels or Simonsig's labels produced in terms of the previous labelling requirements.However, that does not mean that I would ignore a good Alto Rouge in favour of some new funky labelled blend on the market.Having attended last year's Swartland Revolution wine tasting week-end and booked for this year's, I believe the new, young and upcoming wine makers epitomized by the Swartland winemakers, are the wine entrepreneurs of today. Take the Mullineux Winery as an example. They received the Platters winery of the year award for 2014 with the most 5 star wines in Platters of any winery. The husband and wife team is fairly young and their labels are relatively bland for such a modern winery but their wines are exquisite. They hardly need any introduction and nothing speak better than their track record. In their case a 5 star Platter sticker on a bland label sells far more wine than a swing tag or neck tag or pay-off line. The other wine makers of this region are all young, very young for that matter but they have all produced award winning wines despite the relative short period in the business and despite not having the benefit of selling their wines on the back of an existing and established brand, for example Nederburg vs Mullineux. I think, despite the importance of brands,unless you have a great product in the wine industry, you will soon be found out if all the marketing cliches such as " best vintage ever" or " dry and refeshing" or "cool coastal breezes" or "hand picked or "lingering aftertaste" turns out to be just that, cliches.Mike du Toit
Posted on 9 Jul 2014 14:47
Rolf Akermann
Agree with all you say Mike. But I often find awards/medals etc. do not define a good wine for me. There are many great wines that are not judged, but deliver a great taste/nose and satisfy many a pallet. So they need to stand out to be tried. If all wine lovers simply follow Platter, Michael Angelo, Veritas etc. it will only be those judged/entered that will sell! I like finding the gems that are not big names/brands. That is , for me, what makes drinking wine so exciting.
Posted on 10 Jul 2014 15:34
Courtney Holmes
Unfortunately, for many wines we do not get to taste before we buy. Packaging does one thing - it conveys value. If the producer puts thought into the packaging the buyer thinks they have likely put the same amount of thought into the wine. The taste of the wine is what sells it the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time. But rarely the first time.
Posted on 13 Jul 2014 02:10
Bob Lewis
One big problem with branding straight cultivars (in particular) is that their characteristics can change from vintage to vintage. Since one of the generic promises of any good brand is consistency, this is maybe why it's always been safer (although less imaginative) to brand the estate, its 'vision', its winemaker, etc., than any particular wine.Like Graca, the only successful attempt to brand individual wines, seems to come from blends which can be tweaked year to year to provide a individually characteristic taste. I think of Douglas Green's Saints range which are certainly market stayers, although not in the snob class - and that's because, if we are to believe DG, they can source their cultivars from any source at any time.
Posted on 15 Jul 2014 16:41



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