THE BOOZE BIN
By Emily Valentine (@ebvalentine)
Just before the holidays, I invited a friend over for a glass of wine and asked her to bring a bottle of her choice. When she arrived at my doorstep bearing a bottle of Cupcake Chardonnay, I couldn’t help but smile. This must’ve been exactly what the Cupcake marketing team had in mind when it built the brand back in 2008.
Picture a 20- or 30-something woman browsing the supermarket wine aisle. She wants something tasteful, but she doesn’t have much time or money to spend. Suddenly, her eyes land on a bottle that might’ve rolled right out of an Anthropologie store. It’s elegant, classy, chic … just like the woman she aspires to be. When she picks it up for a closer look, her decision is sealed – and if this wine brings her as much enjoyment as its pastry namesake, she’ll be a very happy customer.
Consumer opinions on Cupcake’s approach to winemaking and labeling vary, but with a million cases sold in 2011, the brand is no doubt basking in its success. And, regardless of whether you like Cupcake wines, there’s much marketing wisdom to be learned from their example:
1) Know your audience – Cupcake’s first shrewd move was to identify a) the customer group with the greatest potential to grow wine sales and b) what that group wants from a wine. The Cupcake line, says winemaker Adam Richards, is designed to “please the palates of the next generation of wine drinkers” who are always looking to try something new, especially at an affordable price point. In a somewhat miraculous feat, Cupcake has managed to bottle a lighthearted, feminine formula that delights everyday wine drinkers without appalling the wine elite.
2) Differentiate – No other winery before or since has used such sugary terms to describe its blends, but it’s working for Cupcake. The genius of calling a wine Red Velvet, Angel Food or “reminiscent of lemon chiffon” is three-fold: it’s unusual enough to make an impact, familiar enough to stick, and simplifies wine terminology for beginner wine consumers.
3) Appeal to emotion – In 2008, the gourmet cupcake craze had begun to take hold in the U.S., and Cupcake’s founders sought to emulate the emotional drivers behind this trend. The Cupcake brand was crafted to invoke the feeling people get when they reward or indulge themselves – be that with wine, sweets or other “bite-sized bits of fun.”
4) Curate relevant content – Brands that find a way to be relevant to their customers’ lifestyles and continuously offer fresh, useful content are apt to succeed in today’s marketplace. It didn’t take Cupcake long to figure out what occupied its customers’ minds … and how it could get a slice. The brand now has an entire section of its website geared toward brides-to-be. Visitors to Cupcake’s Bridal Headquarters can find advice on everything from party planning on a budget to selecting the perfect wedding wines. (Eat that, Martha!)
As its blue and white wine bottles continue to fly off store shelves, Cupcake has taken its branding recipe to the next level with a line of flavored vodkas that promise to be “as rewarding and delicious as the wines that came before it.”