What Can Wine Learn From Whiskey, Diapers, and Pads?
I am inside the wine industry up until my neck, so it is evident that everywhere I look, I find news, articles, reports, pictures, and discussions about wine. There are plenty of wine writers, wine critics, wine bloggers, winejudges and wine enthusiasts discussing wine from different angles, but mostly it is always about the product and what surrounds it.
There is no shortage of product descriptions and of product news; even the most famous wine apps are product focused. My social media feeds are flooded with pictures of wine bottles that wine people drink, and I am getting bored. Why? Because it’s all product centered broadcasting!
Funny, boring, complicated, simple, or technical tasting notes are our industry’s product performance demos. This brings me back to my old days both as a brand manager at Danone Group (Dannon in the US) and as an advertising executive working on P&G brands.
Back in the 1990’s product feature was a key element to differentiate brands. The more zoomed in a product demo was in the ad the more convincing it was. Can you remember commercials with white and blue spheres of detergent passing through the fabric holes cleaning off the dirt? Even the little blue spheres in your washing powder had to have a reason to be.
We spent countless hours on product demos, crazy if you think about it! But to draw a parallel to wine, wine people do this. They analyze the product to its last drop, which isn’t a bad thing if you are a wine enthusiast and you do it for your own learning purposes. The problem arises when these obsessive product breakdowns serve as communication tools for reaching consumers.
Twenty years ago, a product’s functionality convinced us. There was no such thing as a mobile phone that empowered us to make up our own minds about our product choices. We believed in ads, with no questions asked.
In the wine world, we didn’t have TV ads (it is still a rarity) telling us which brands to buy, instead, we had critics scoring wines based on their product performances. Those scores were telling us which wines to buy (note the past tense, I like to think of it as something that is already in the past).
While there is a limited number of detergent brands to choose from, wine has millions. In this always-connected digital 21st century, product demos (read tasting notes for the wine category) or product broadcasting are not good enough for brand differentiation. Consumers need more than that!
Thankfully, things have changed in some industries. Even a huge brand like Pampers doesn’t always show how babies’ blue pee (because real pee is out of the question on TV) gets absorbed better, instead, it prefers to further build its already huge brand by giving goosebumps.
And while I am at it, Always pads’ commercials went from spending about 30% of a 30 second commercial in the 90’s demonstrating how the blue moisture gets absorbed (never be authentic about blood!) to showing no product at all in its #LikeAGirl campaigns. #LikeAGirl touches a much deeper issue in women’s lives.
But, why should the wine industry care about Pampers and Always?
Because the same consumer that buys Pampers and Always pads also buys wine. Not only, they most probably also buy beer and spirits.
Thinking outside the box and looking at the entire Alcoholic Drinks product category, gives a different perspective about wine. Take this chart from Nielsen’s Wine Audit Report for example:
ogether with Dr. Damien Wilson, Hamel Family Chair in Wine Business with Sonoma State University and Martin Wiederkehr, CEO at La Cave de Genève SA we spent a considerable amount of time analyzing what is behind this data. We looked at most sold brands per category, analyzed volume and value shares, average selling prices, etc. An exercise I recommend everyone involved in wine to do, it is eye opening!
Wine stands for only 4.6% of the total Alcoholic Drinks media expenditures in the US. However, cross-analyzing Nielsen’s data with AdAge’s 2016 Marketing Fact Pack, in 2014 the entire Alcoholic Drinks category (wine, beer, and spirits) represented only 1.4% of total US Ad spending. To make it even more tragic, wine’s media spend proudly represented 0.06% of total US ad spend.
What the market data behind this chart shows is that there is an urgent need for wine to learn also from beer and liquor. They have marketing budgets and are spending them on reaching the same consumers wine should be targeting. But how are they doing it?
As a follow-up on the analysis started with my colleagues, I decided to dig deeper and see what ad campaigns win at the world’s biggest creative festival, at The Cannes Lions. I gained access to their impressive archives and scanned through thousands of entries looking for alcoholic drinks ads that have won creative recognition. Here are three case studies I would like to share:
“The Gentleman’s Wager Case Study”:
Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Blue Label “The Gentleman’s Wager” campaign has won across several categories at Cannes Lions 2015. The original brief of this campaign was to turn Johnnie Walker Blue Label from being just another luxury whiskey brand into a lifestyle brand. At the heart of the campaign was a film that told the story of “The Gentleman’s Wager”, capturing the essence of modern luxury, rarity, craft but above all experience. The launch was executed with a strategic seeding through PR, data mining, behavioral targeting, and retargeting. The film received 45 million online views and gained 1 million engagements through Mr. Porter collaboration. The use of such a global icon as Mr. Porter (targeting a more sophisticated audience) enabled Johnnie Walker to engage with the desired audience. However, beyond these numbers the most important indicator is their business result, with a 41% sales increase on average across key markets, beating their business expectations.
Insight for the wine industry: powerful storytelling can lead to powerful business results. Johnnie Walker does not focus on product description to support product differentiation! They have first identified a consumer segment, understood their aspirations and then created a story to connect with them. This story resonates with clearly targeted consumers.
2) “Instagram your fridge”:
Another Diageo brand, Smirnoff wanted to help people make great cocktails with ingredients they had in their fridges. In this activation campaign, they asked people to send in pictures of their open fridge via Instagram. Their online bartenders looked at the pictures and worked out what interesting cocktails could be made from the ingredients they could see in the fridge. People were then sent a suggestion, followed by a personalized Instagram video showing them how to make a cocktail. Fridge photos were uploaded, cocktails were created, viewed and shared over 200,000 times, which given New Zealand’s population is a huge number. However, again, the most important figure to consider is the real business impact it had on sales. Since the campaign launched, Smirnoff’s sales jumped, increasing the value of brand sales by 20%.
Insight for the wine industry: Contrary to many beliefs, social media campaigns can drive sales. Consumers will engage on social media if the brand is helping them find solutions. It is easy to neglect social media’s potential to sell when there is a lack of creativity and imagination in communicating with consumers. They will not engage if the brand only talks about its product’s definitions and features, as it happens so often in the wine industry. Consumers do not need brands telling how many medals they have won, how many points their products have scored, and how much they have to be educated to understand the product’s language. Consumers want solutions to problems.
3) “If We Made It”:
Heineken, just like Diageo, understands the need to communicate with their consumers and spend a considerable amount on advertising and promotions. However, its Newcastle beer brand does not enjoy the same privilege as Heineken’s main brand. So how to reach consumers? They hijacked the biggest advertising moment in the US, the Super Bowl. Not having the budget and the permission to be anywhere near the Super Bowl they decided to steal the attention from other brands during the big game by creating a fake ad that never went on air. The results were impressive for an ad that was never made: with just 1/30th of the biggest American beer brand’s budget, Newcastle had 600 earned media placements, 1 billion media impressions, and 416% lift in brand conversations.
Newcastle made a follow-up campaign “Band of Brands” that also won Silver at 2015 Cannes Lions in the web and film campaign categories.
Insight for the wine industry: Having no budget is no excuse for not communicating at all. Relying on the same old and well-established wine communication channels will never help a brand break through to consumers and increase awareness of its values. Budget scarcity should stimulate creativity.
From product to brand
Now just imagine these same three campaigns but with a wine brand, maybe your brand if you are a brand owner. Actually, any of the products in these three campaigns could have been a wine brand, and they would have been just as effective!
So why Pampers, Always, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and so many other brands touch us and engage us?
Because they do not push or broadcast their product features! They tell a story of their values! A story that we, consumers, can relate to or even imagine being part of. These are stories that dictate values the brands stand for. They went from being just another commodity product to a brand with a story. Without a story, they would be an easily replaceable piece in the consumption system.
That is exactly where wine stands right now. It is just a replaceable product in consumers’ consumption habits. When people write down their shopping list, they presumably do not write down the brand name of their wine, they just write “wine” or “Chardonnay” or “Champagne”. And most probably, if they don’t find any convincing labels at their price point, they will buy a beer or a spirit brand they know better.
Beer and spirits categories have a better affinity with communicating with consumers. They both think beyond the utility and functionality of products and strive for the creation of loyalty and meaningful connections with their customers. And by doing so, their business operations result more profitable.
Now, look back at the graph above and you’ll hopefully see where the problem is. But why would we, wine industry, care, anyway?