Practical Winery
65 Mitchell Blvd, San Rafael, CA 94903
phone: 415-453-9700 ext 102
email: Office@practicalwinery.com
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Winter 2011
WINE MARKETING
I was fortunate to have created the Ariel Non-Alcoholic wine brand. It taught me that I prefer alcohol in my wine — but then I can drink alcohol. It also taught me the power of an article in media other than that dealing with food and wine.
Most of the time our PR people were busy sending samples to wine writers and food and wine folks. With Ariel we got an article on the front page of the business section of the New York Times for pioneering reverse-osmosis to remove alcohol in our winemaking. It was a thousand times more powerful than any food and wine review.
When I was in my 20s I owned a retail wine store on the east side of Manhattan (New York City) with my brother. I was privileged to have been invited to lunch with the then-VP of Dreyfus-Ashby. He told me two things I have never forgotten. “Bill, wine is very easy to sell; anyone can do it. Wine is very difficult to deliver” and “Bill, wine is a relationship business, you sell one bottle of wine, to one person, one at a time.”
“Wine is very easy to sell; anyone can do it. Wine is very difficult to deliver ... wine is a relationship business, you sell one bottle of wine, to one person, one at a time.”
It took me about 15 years to understand the first axiom. Ariel did that for me. No alcohol, no restrictions (except in places like Georgia), and still expensive; and still very difficult to deliver. How many orders do we get that are short-shipped or worse yet never get delivered? Wine is heavy and expensive to ship.
Believe me, if you are a winery with any significant volume, you need your distributors; you need your retailers. They are extremely valuable partners in building your business and building your brand.
“Believe me, if you are a winery with any significant volume, you need your distributors; you need your retailers. They are extremely valuable partners in building your business and building your brand.”
Marketing your brand today
Right now is the most exciting time in wine marketing in my 37 years, and I believe that we at Hahn Family Wines are revolutionizing how wine marketing is done by applying technology to a very old idea. As a marketer of premium and luxury wine, I, like all my colleagues, stand in the shadow of Robert Mondavi. I have no doubt that if he were alive today; he would have beaten me to the tools and ideas that I am utilizing.
Mr. Mondavi set the rules for premium wine branding: big is bad; small is beautiful; build brands on-premises first; no direct advertising on TV, etc. Instead, use Public Relations. He got into gossip columns, created the first wine charity events and auctions, winemaker dinners, comparative tastings, the component solution seminar, barrel seminar, classes, concerts, the Great Chefs.
Hotel Food & Beverage managers were invited by Mondavi to Napa Valley to conduct tastings for their core lists. He tied wine to the arts; selling a lifestyle. He spoke of his “mission”; he would go into any restaurant anywhere and say, “bring out your best French wine and let’s taste against my California wine.” These were all tremendous tools for their time.
Today, however, I receive requests for wine donations literally every day. We book winemaker dinners for 40 and six people show up. I believe you can build brands off-premise first; and on-premise. While these tools that Mr. Mondavi created still work, they are terribly costly and inefficient today.
It only took me 35 years to truly understand that wine is a relationship business, selling “one bottle to one person one at a time.” Now technology has caught up. We can reach people in a manner that was impossible even one decade ago. We can create an emotional connection, one-on-one, with literally millions of people via social media, internationally, at low cost.
My marketing philosophy stems from the idea that wine is best sold word-of-mouth, particularly today. I do not need wine ratings or medals for validation. (Do not get me wrong, I will take a 94 score in the Wine Spectator any day, I just do not count on it or build my marketing plan around it.)
As I said before, we are a jaded, cynical people these days in the U.S. Who do we believe? Who do we look to for advice when purchasing wine? Our friends and colleagues — people we trust.
“Word-of-mouth is far more powerful than any other method of selling wine.”
All the studies show that word-of-mouth is far more powerful than any other method of selling wine. Wine bloggers and online newsletters as a group have more power and influence than Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator combined.
Next time you are in a store browsing through the wines, pay attention to consumers around you. It will not be long before you see someone standing in front of the wine section texting or calling their friend, asking for an opinion about some wine.
When that consumer is standing there in the aisle, asking about wine, I want the person on the other end to say, “Hey, do they have Hahn? It is great.” Or better yet, hopefully we have a placement, the person asking has heard of Hahn, and the person on the other end validates the selection.
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