THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
From fashion to packaged foods to technology, big business has long analyzed consumer tendencies as a basis for sophisticated brand building, according to specific demographic categories, including age and generational ranges. For some reason, however, this seems a little foreign to the wine industry, which has tended to focus more on romance, packaging and product placement. Maybe even the term “brand building” seems to take the romance out of a product that is, at base, all about pleasure.
A recent Business Week article by Duane Stanford spoke of a large wine company looking to shepherd their brands into modern day brand building, similar to other publically traded companies like Proctor and Gamble or Coca-Cola. The world’s second-largest wine seller, Constellation Brands includes well-known wine brands like Clos du Bois, Ravenswood, and Robert Mondavi. As Stanford put it, Constellation “is trying to introduce brand building to an industry unaccustomed to sophisticated consumer targeting.”
When it comes to marketing, like many other wine brands, Constellation chooses to fish where the fish are. According to the article, “more than 40 percent of Millennials increased wine drinking last year.” Given the sheer size of the Millennial generation, comparable to that of their Baby Boomer parents, and their leanings towards wine consumption and brand experimentalism, it is no wonder big companies are paying attention.
In the hopes of reaching this younger generation, one major consideration on Constellation’s collective mind is the importance of authenticity. I’ve previously discussed the particular importance of authenticity in reaching Millennials, because of our overly tuned BS-radar, but this can be a challenge for large conglomerates managing many varying brands with widely ranging stories. As quoted in the article,
“They don’t want to look like a giant mass-produced wine company,” says JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analyst Neal Rudowitz. “You want to appear authentic.”
For Constellation and other forward-thinking wine companies, big and small, social and digital is the way to get there. Considering their marketing strategy previously only included ads in Wine Spectator and in-store promotions, the increase in their digital marketing budget by 150% is a serious step forward. CEO Robert Sands believes it to be the future, “because drinkers have long discovered new tastes through real-life social networks. ‘If anything lends itself to social media, it’s wine,’ he says.”
One part of this budget went to recruit digital marketer Karena Breslin from Gallo (the #1 largest wine seller). Since starting, Breslin has founded a ‘Digital 101’ class for her colleagues, encouraging engagement, conversation, and the “soft sell” in social media. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and everyone is looking for ROI. On that note, Breslin proved social and digital can equal profits through the her Arbor Mist campaign.
This success story includes the development of Facebook’s most popular wine brand page with 270,000 fans and during an online promotion with social media components, Arbor Mist sales jumped 20 percent. Albeit not my cup of tea, clearly there are some serious Arbor Mist fans out there and Breslin and Constellation have found a cool way to engage them via social and digital.