Practical Winery
58-D Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903-2054
phone:415/479-5819 · fax:415/492-9325

July/August 2000

Understanding Creative Marketing

Jim Murphy

Earlier this year, I enjoyed one of my favorite pastimes — being a spectator at major league baseball’s spring training. I love the sport, the psychology of the game, and the unique role each team member has.

The number one fact in baseball is that games are won and lost by teams. When the New York Yankees won the World Series in 1999, it was truly a team effort. Each player on the team made a contribution to the final winning outcome. Whenever I watch a baseball game, I’m always reminded of the many similarities between the game and creative marketing.

In baseball, when every member of the team does his job — from the manager to the coaches and the players — the game goes like magic. In the same way, a working team is the key to any successful creative marketing venture. Nothing is more productive and powerful than a team — management, marketing, design, and production — working with creative synergy, sharing common goals.
Teamwork allows for gathering of many ideas to produce one. It encourages joint ownership of the creative idea and allows the various disciplines to address all aspects of the creative process and resolve all issues. It is a highly effective weapon.

Understand the objective
Being a member of a creative marketing team can be a real adventure. The fun part is that nobody on the team really knows where the creative process will take them. The only given at the outset in development of a product or new package promotion is the creative direction that supports a predetermined marketing objective. Good marketing will help inform the creative process by giving a clear indication of what the “weather” conditions are within a specific market, including a breakdown of a specific audience and a real target to aim at. That’s really important stuff.

It’s important to understand that background information is necessary whether your team is pulled together from internal or external resources, or a combination of both. At Robert Mondavi Winery, nearly every major brand promotion and package design project is championed by teams of people from inside and outside the company.

In some cases, team members are even recruited from outside the wine industry. Therefore, we have to begin with an education process. But providing industry knowledge is more than simply educating those team members — it’s a way to build relationships within the team itself.

As the client, it’s our responsibility to make sure these team members know and clearly understand: the project’s scope, including an accurate historical overview of the brand; the brand’s sales and past, current, and future goals; the brand’s market position and marketing category; brand awareness — the brand’s icon value; past marketing efforts (what worked, what didn’t, and why), and who is the competition. We must also give them a realistic timeline to get the job done.

The better this background information, the better the team will do its job. The success of a project depends upon how this information is used by the team members and how well they communicate with each other.

You can’t begin to develop a package design or a product promotion until there is a clear understanding of the program’s marketing objective, its desired goal, and its position. The success of the new product or promotion rests on being able to justify it using these points.

You must be able to define your brand; know who’s buying it; know your competition; and be prepared to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You need more than a demographic understanding of who these customers are. Try to become your customers. Once you understand what makes them react to your product, finding solutions to address their needs will become easier.

Know what to expect from your brand. How big is it? How big can it realistically get? Understand quality versus price. Know your selling environments. Look to other areas to identify how your brand fits in the marketplace. Before you can put a jigsaw puzzle together, you must lay out all the pieces to figure out where to start. Creativity opens your mind to the countless possibilities that are waiting to be discovered.

Communicate one message
Good creativity relies on good marketing.

True synergy occurs when your product’s message is communicated effectively through a variety of mediums. All the parts and pieces must be integrated for maximum impact. Understand that a package design, the in-store point-of-sale materials, the marketing and sales brochures, and the advertising must all fit together to look, feel, and communicate one message.

A well-integrated program will reduce the odds of failure. Integration creates a climate of synergy that allows each piece of the program to work off of the others, thus ensuring a more powerful product position.
For example, the marketing position for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi is based on one simple message: “Choosing a bottle of good wine doesn’t have to be the biggest decision of your life.”

We know, through research, that the novice wine consumer can find buying wine a very intimidating experience. With that in mind, the Woodbridge brand attempts to overcome the consumer’s fear through a series of promotional vehicles that convey this one simple message (see sidebar), including print, TV, and radio ads, POS materials, case cards, and neckers.

All work together to reinforce the Woodbrige brand position. “Why Woodbridge? Simple: It’s the perfect wine for any occasion!”

Believe in creativity
Just like the folks on Star Trek, I believe, to be really creative, you have to venture where no one has gone before. That means you must go beyond the obvious and start where the competition stopped. The obvious is usually a good place to begin a creative discussion, but it’s just the first hurdle every team will encounter in the creative process. So it’s vital to get beyond it quickly — don’t look back, just move forward.

It’s important to have faith in your own creativity. It takes time to build the confidence to believe that what you see as creative is just that. A free mind is a free spirit, and a free spirit creates.

It’s also important to see with your ears and hear with your eyes. Using your sense of sight and hearing to justify a creative position can mean the difference between a promotion that looks great and one that looks great with a future. Looking and listening are some of our most powerful resources.

The words I most often hear when people are trying to justify a creative direction are — “It feels right” or “My gut instinct tells me it’s right.” Well, what are these feelings of right and gut instinct?

I believe they are your experience talking. Gut instinct really represents more than just a hunch. It’s the actual foundation that creativity is built on. It’s the one gift we all possess — the ability to take verbal and visual information that we hear and observe — and turn it into a message of communication.

Take creative risks
You must also take some creative risks. Taking risks is a way to earn the respect of other team members, the target audience, and the industry. It’s a way to let them know that you would not be putting yourself in this position if you did not truly believe in your own creativity. The key here is to justify it against what you hear, see, and feel. Another off-shoot of risk-taking is shadow-casting. Shadow-casting happens when a package or promotion enters a market and overshadows the category leaders through unique design and positioning. It requires taking even bigger risks, because your team must develop creative materials that are unique and that go against the category grain.

Shadow-casting seems to work best for companies that want to break into established markets by creating a big bang on a small budget. Although it’s a risky venture, when it works, it can sometimes create a proprietary product position. Let’s look at some promotional examples of the creative process guided by teams that took some risks to create a proprietary market position and at the same time stay on the leading edge of creativity and the wine industry itself.

Bonterra — Wines nurtured by nature
When it introduced Bonterra in 1992, Fetzer Vineyards saw the wine as an opportunity for future growth. The wine itself was made from 100% organically grown grapes, and the natural foods market was steadily growing. No other winery with national distribution had a wine like it. All marketing data showed the timing was good and a target audience was already in place. Unfortunately, initial sales were nothing to brag about. In fact they barely made a blip on the charts. What happened?

With the initial release, Fetzer created a typical package and positioned the wine as earth-friendly, targeting an audience that really consumed very little wine.

Up to this point an organic marketing position and the package design were driving this brand, but the package had no real message. This was a big problem that needed a big solution, and the answer was right in front of them all the time. Fetzer was in the wine business, not the natural foods business.

The key was to create a new position for this brand: “Bonterra — A great wine that happens to be made from organically-grown grapes, grapes grown in a natural environment.” When it comes to making wine, quality begins with the fruit. As a result of the natural growing methods, the grapes harvested for Bonterra were particularly high quality. This new marketing strategy focused on high-end, trendy restaurants as the primary market target and made the natural foods market secondary.

The thinking behind this unique wine had to produce a unique package. After a thorough review of the product — the grapes, the winemaker, how the wine is made — a creative direction was developed that embraced the very essence of Bonterra. The message was clearly identified — “Bonterra is a natural, hand-crafted wine of great quality.” The key to package design was to provide a look and feel that walked the talk while it educated the target audience. In order to do this, imagery had to play an important role.

The design team began by exploring the possibility of using recycled paper for the wine label. In researching this effort, the creative team found a small group of commercial paper producers that were making treeless paper from sugar, seaweed, and Kannaf, a plant grown only for the creation of paper. The choice of Kannaf paper for the Bonterra label created a whole new dimension for this brand.
This same thinking was applied to the bottle. How about using recycled glass? The glass producers at first said it couldn’t be done. But Fetzer shared the risk, and the antique green glass bottle was produced from 40% recycled glass. The closure was simple — natural bee’s wax.

A series of point-of-sale and marketing materials were developed to support the new brand position and educate consumers. Using the same treeless papers with soy-based inks, each of these sales tools told the Bonterra story in a natural, handcrafted, high-end quality way.

The beauty of this creative effort was that Bonterra had a much bigger story to tell as a result. Fetzer created a public relations story that encompassed the wine, its packaging, and the company’s commitment to protecting the earth’s natural resources.

Gotta Danzante
Robert Mondavi, along with its Italian partners the Frescobaldi family, recently introduced Danzante to the domestic market. It’s a new brand of Italian wines priced in the $10 to $12 range. Our creative team took some risks to create a proprietary market position and at the same time stay on the leading edge of creativity and the wine industry itself.

Our Italian partners felt that the wines’ package design should be based on a traditional look and feel — very simple and somewhat understated. Although tradition played a major role in the package design development, the brand’s market position was far from traditional. We agreed to target this brand at a younger audience, 25 to 35 years of age.

The wine was named Danzante, which translates as “dance” or “dancing.” The creative marketing team developed a brand position of selling tradition in a non-traditional way. Using the dance theme as a keystone for this brand, all promotional pieces were developed to capture the energy of dance and movement.

We created an energetic theme line: “Gotta Danzante” — short, sweet, and youthful. All of these materials were created first to capture the excitement behind Danzante, and then also to give it a priority look and feel. Distributor kick-off meetings included dance troupes as well as a video of a young man dancing with energy and excitement that sets the tone for the brand by encompassing the essence of Danzante.

All of these promotional pieces give tradition a contemporary youthful look of energy.

Ask questions
Creativity always begins with a question. The quality of your creativity depends on the quality of your questions. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. The questioning process really becomes the adventure itself. You really don’t care as much about the solution. Whatever the solution, the process will be a learning experience. You may begin looking to find red only to learn that what really works is blue.

The unique thing about asking questions is that one question usually leads to another and another and so on. Asking questions can be a rewarding journey of discovery. In addition, questions have a way of uncovering the logic necessary to justify a creative idea. So, what is a question? Here are some things to think about:

A question has no end or beginning. It is:

• An opening to creation
• An invitation to creativity
• The beginning to an adventure
• A point of departure
• An answer in disguise.

If you look at creative solutions around you, chances are each one started as a problem that was revealed by a question. Sometimes this need to ask why leads to breaking tradition.

Break with tradition
As an Old World tradition, wine has been packaged in a glass bottle with a cork stopper for hundreds of years. The foil capsule covering the opening and neck of the bottle came about as a protective device to deter rats from eating corks in bottled wines in French cellars over 300 years ago.

Robert Mondavi, being an industry visionary, asked why virtually every wine in the world was still being bottled the same way. To his surprise, no one could give him an answer, other than, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” Robert Mondavi’s answer was even simpler — there needs to be a change. He said it’s the right thing to do, and it will be good for the industry, the environment, and the company.

As a company, Robert Mondavi has always been very sensitive to environmental issues and has taken a leadership role in the wine industry to promote organic farming, recycling, and reduction of material waste. So in keeping with the company philosophy based on natural solutions, Robert Mondavi embarked on a quest to reinvent wine packaging. The result was introduction of the flange-type bottle with a C-cap seal.

This was a bold step, considering that such a move, if it failed, had the potential to ruin the company and its products. But the even bigger issue was that the wine industry needed something fresh to hang its hat on. Hence this revolution in packaging moved forward and is still with us today.

Don’t kill creativity
Usually in marketing, things go from bad to worse when someone takes it upon himself to ruin a great idea and kill the creative process. I honestly don’t think this is intentional; it just happens for a variety of reasons. For example, I can’t tell you how many times people come up with a solution before they have identified the problem.

I refer to this as a vision without a plan. This type of solution usually raises its ugly head early in a creative discussion. Someone acknowledges: “What a great idea!” Someone else says, “That was easy,” and the meeting ends shortly thereafter. That’s when the problems really start.

Author Harvey McKay compiled a list of ways to kill creativity. Here are 10 from his list:

10. “It’s not in the budget.”
 9. “It will never work.”
 8. “They will never go for it.”
 7. “The competition doesn’t do it that way, why should we take that risk.”
 6. “Why mess with it, it already works.”
 5. “It’s too late to fix it.”
 4. “It will create more work for everyone.”
 3. “We tried that five years ago, and it didn’t work.”
 2. “That’s not how we do things around here.”
 1. “Sounds like a good idea, let’s run it by legal.”

It’s important to remember that the success of creative marketing is based on every team member’s agreement to keep an open mind and be willing to take a certain amount of risk.

Failure can be good
You can’t learn to walk without falling down. The process of creativity is based on failure. It’s OK to fail, in fact, I encourage it. As a team member, whenever I’m faced with coming up with a new promotion, my initial goal is to break new ground.
I know we are going to have to take some risks, and I encourage the other members of the creative team to do just that. Sometimes when we screw up, especially in the beginning, we get a rare opportunity to experience areas of creativity that would be missed if we played it safe. Remember: being creative is an adventure. You have to experience failure if you’re going to be successful.
Experience — it’s our greatest teacher. If you don’t believe me just ask Michael Jordan — he was cut from his high school basketball team — or Walt Disney — he was once fired from a job for not being creative enough — or the legendary Babe Ruth — he holds the record for most strikeouts by a major league ballplayer.

Don’t forget
What are the key elements of success for working as a team?

• Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the objective, position, and goals.
• Be prepared to take some risks.
• Rely on your gut instinct when making a decision.
• It’s OK to fall down before you walk.

Remember, a team working together can produce magical results.
Being creative requires truly believing in yourself. Creativity is really an attitude: how you approach it is sometimes more important than its outcome.

Edited from a presentation to the Third Annual Global WINE Package Design and Marketing Conference, March 23–24, 2000, in San Francisco, CA, produced by Murray J. Lubliner Associates.