By Michelle Martin
We’ve all been there. Standing in the wine aisle, trying to pick out a bottle to bring home for dinner. For the vast majority who don’t know their Petite Sirahs from their Cabernet Francs, the process of elimination might start by looking for eye-catching labels. If none strike a chord, one might stick to a varietal they know, assuming they will get something familiar. And then there is always the price point option, as conventional wisdom tells us that the more expensive a bottle of wine is, the better it must be.
In a sea of competitors that all look the same, entrepreneurs have to find a way to stand out, be heard and more importantly, be remembered favorably. Winemakers face this challenge daily and have to position themselves in a unique way in order to rise to the top of their industry.
The following approaches taken by four winemakers can easily be applied by any entrepreneur looking to take their business to the next level and differentiate themselves in a saturated market.
1. Be authentic.
Consumers can smell inauthenticity a mile away. If you’re claiming to be an expert or thought leader in a specific industry, it’s vital that you truly eat, drink and breathe your expertise. If you don’t, why should anyone look to you for a solution? Invite customers into your world, and build trust through transparency. If you do, you’re sure to build brand loyalty that will pay dividends in the long run.
Second generation winemakers Sean and Lindsay Garvey grew up in the Napa Valley — from winemaking families Flora Springs and Buehler — and when the two married, the creation of their own winery, Revival, was a natural next step.
Truly living a field-to-home lifestyle, where days revolve around family, farming and living off the land, the Garveys decided to share that with their customers and enhance their business by launching Revival Made, a line of products that naturally reflect an extension of their lives.
According to Lindsay Garvey, the creative mind behind the brand, “Revival Made products are narratives formed from leather, cloth, and clay; tales of collaboration that speak to our values of honest craftsmanship and love of our family and home.”
By partnering with local artisans to create limited edition, small batch products, the Garveys have successfully expanded their wine business into an authentic lifestyle brand that allows them to stay true to who they are, while simultaneously inviting consumers into their lives, as seen in this captivating video featuring their family
2. Have a story that sets you apart.
Consumers gravitate towards brands that evoke an emotional response. Every company has a story; a reason why they launched their business. Think about your story. What is it? Are you able to tell it in a concise, personal way that will allow it to resonate with your customers? Make your story the centerpiece of your marketing plan and let it brand your product for you.
Santa Barbara vintner Steve Clifton was a professional musician until he put his musical aspirations on hold to pursue his interest in wine. More than 20 years later, Clifton can be credited for successfully establishing Palmina and Brewer-Clifton wineries, and with his latest venture La Voix, he has thoughtfully crafted a brand that marries his passion for wine and music.
French for “the voice,” La Voix was created to convey the voice of a vineyard, similar to the way music can elicit a powerful, emotional response. Each wine takes its name from a classic song, pairing the feeling you get from the music with the notes of the wine. For example, Rebel, Rebel is a funky Pinot Noir that is energetic and colorful, much like the music of David Bowie.
“A memory, a feeling or nostalgia can be conjured by a single note — or a single sip,” said Clifton, who also commissioned an artist to design the wine labels by letting the spirit of each song inspire her brushstrokes.
With a story like that, who wouldn’t want to open up a bottle and see how it makes them feel?
3. Design with purpose.
We all know (or should know) that there is a global imperative to address climate change, and no business is exempt. Incorporating sustainability into your company from the ground up should be a no-brainer, and according to a global survey by BCG and MIT Sloan Management Review, companies who don’t may struggle to survive.
In Uruguay, billionaire Alejandro P. Bulgheroni recently opened Bodega Garzón, a stunning 205,000 square-foot winery that is the first in the world to seek LEED certification for its entire facility. From an on-site generation of energy out of renewable sources to landscaping that is oriented to enhance biodiversity, Bulgheroni’s vision always took the triple bottom line into consideration.
The development of Bodega Garzón proposes a paradigm shift that will set a new standard for the region. With a deep respect for the environment, Bulgheroni is using the winery as a tool to lead by example, as demonstrated by his sustainable design that includes more than 75,000 square feet of green roofs planted with native species.
Carlos A. Hartmann, the winery’s architect summed it up best when he said, “Today is ‘green,’ but hopefully tomorrow this would just be a compendium of best practices combined and implemented by every professional.”
Savvy consumers care about how their goods are made, as indicated in the global survey. If your brand offers sustainable products or services, you will easily sharpen your competitive edge, ultimately increasing customer loyalty.
4. Have a mission.
Social impact matters. However, not everyone needs to be the next TOMS or Warby Parker with a one-to-one model in order to have a social impact. Consumers want to feel good about their purchases, and added value trumps the status quo every time.
Find a way to incorporate a give-back philosophy that is tied to a cause you champion. Entrepreneurs might hesitate to be generous when launching a new business, but more often than not, that might be the key to growing your customer base quickly.
During the 2011 holidays, Murphy-Goode winery partnered with Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization that helps military families in need. They donated a portion of proceeds to the nonprofit that year, but later decided to switch gears and collaborate in a more strategic way by releasing a custom bottle of red wine called “Homefront Red,” and for every bottle sold, the winery donates fifty cents to the nonprofit.
When asked how they chose this partnership, Winemaker David Ready Jr. said “My family has a long military background dating back to World War I, where my great-grandfather Bill Ready served in the Army. They were proud to serve our great country and would all be excited about helping our returning soldiers that gave so much for us.”
More than just a “red wine that gives back” as they coined it, it’s a marketing campaign that cleverly urges consumers to “Give Goode. Do Goode.” Murphy-Goode chose a cause that was close to their hearts and found a way to do well, by doing good.
Some of the most profitable business models find a way to blend profit and impact, so think about what matters to you and what kind of legacy you’d like to leave behind, and incorporate that into your business plan from the ground up.
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