What We Saw at Tales of the Cocktail 2015

TOTC_FlagThis July, the gliterati of the cocktail world descended on New Orleans for a week of 100% humidity, 95+ degree days and more cocktails served in small plastic cups than you can imagine. It’s a seminal industry event that has inspired “cocktail weeks” around the world and brings together the best in the business for a hefty dose of education, networking and serious hospitality. So naturally, we sent our intrepid social media marketer and resident cocktail maven Adrienne Stillman to check it out.

Here’s a taste of what we saw at Tales 2015:

  • People: 2015 was the best attended Tales yet (as far as we could see) including very high attendance at seminars (was this because it was even hotter than usualRamos Gin Fizz Line outside?). In addition to trade, more and more cocktail enthusiasts have turned out for Tales in recent years, and that trend continued.
  • Parties: As always, there was a selection of over-the-top parties given by major brands including the signature William Grant Portfolio Welcome Party. This year the theme was “Welcome to Yonderyear: 2084” and the festivities featured a Storm Trooper DJ, a Drambuie Cloud Bar and a Reyka Vodka Ice House — with ice inside of it —among others. At the Pernod Ricard Welcome party, there was also a Ramos Gin Fizz assembly line, shaking cocktails into the requisite froth.
  • Products: Pisco, Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whiskey and all manner of bitters,
    vermouths, and liqueurs were on display in an ever-expanding array of flavors from craft producers to large coglomerates. If you thought pisco was niche, meet Singani 63, unaged grape brandy from Bolivia, which is film director Steven Soderbergh’s new pet project. We’re not making this up.Latitude_29
  • Places: Latitude 29, the new Tiki Bar by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, opened earlier this year in the Frnch Quarter and is already a favorite among the bar community. Practically everyone who attended Tales of the Cocktail this year probably passed through its doors.

Here’s to hoping 2016 will be just as fun, but less humid.

Languedoc, Taste Adventure

To promote the AOP wines of Languedoc in the south of France for our client the CIVL, we produced this sizzle video to highlight the region’s export growth, high quality product and unique terroir for use in trade promotion.

VinExpo 2015

Francois_HollandeFor those who missed the 2015 edition of Vinexpo, here is our recap in 2,000 characters plus a few images from Jeanne Peron, Manager of Benson Marketing Group in France:

For the first time since its creation in 1981, Vinexpo was inaugurated by the French President. Francois Hollande took the opportunity to defend oeno-tourism, while at the same time reminding the audience of the importance of the Evin Law that regulates communication and advertisements for the liquor industry.

DauphinsAs in every year, the 2,350 exhibitors attempted to differentiate themselves in order to attract visitors to their stand. Perhaps the biggest stand out was Rhum Dictador, who hired a bevy of hostesses dressed in black leather to represent their product

The must-have accessory of the 18th Vinexpo was the vintage bag from Les Dauphins (a Benson Marketing Group client), which carried with pride by all the fashionistas in the crowd. Its popularity confirmed the return of retro style previously heralded by Wine Intelligence.

RVF_Chinese_WinesThis year, more master classes were offered to attendees including one on Chinese wines ranked by La Revue du Vin de France (RVF): a unique opportunity to discover 17 wines from China judged to be of high quality. The wines were primarily from the region of Ning Xia – a promising location according to Olivier Poels, deputy editor of the RVF. The whites were Chardonnay and the reds for the most part Cabernet Sauvignon. There was a certain freshness to the wines, accompanied by very drying tannins; it will be interesting to observe how domestic Chinese winemaking evolves in the coming years.

Barton_Guestier_PartyLastly, our client Barton & Guestier celebrated their 290th birthday on the Garonne River along with buyers and journalists from around the world. On this occasion, the company revealed its newest brand, Heritage, created in honor of its founders.

So, is it the end of Vinexpo? Well, the 2015 show was a success, attracting 48,000 visitors, as many as 2013. Next time it reconvenes in 2017, it will be shortened from 5 to 4 days – good news for exhibitors as the sponsorship prices will be reviewed as a result.

Wine Competitions: Factors to Consider When Selecting

wine-competitions-2015
by Ben Palos

Almost every week, your inbox receives another wine competition deadline reminder. With so many options for wine competitions, it’s important to choose which ones are worth the money, time and effort. We consider the following factors when helping clients select their list of top-tier competitions.

Why does your brand need a score?

Awards from wine competitions can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you know what you’ll do with the results before you get them. For instance:

  • Provide Sales Team Ammo: Medals allow your sales team to promote a wine’s good results in sales presentations or on point of sales materials.
  • Increase Regional Presence: If your brand needs traction in a specific geographic area, explore the available local or regional wine competitions that have name recognition with consumers.
  • Become the “Most Awarded”: Some brands enter as many competitions as possible and rack up scores and medals so they can claim to be the “most awarded California Merlot,” for example.

Remember, not all wines in your portfolio need a score. Wines that have limited allocation (such as tasting room or wine club only wines) and always sell out each year are typically not good candidates for competitions.

Who are the judges and/or organizers?

Many prominent wine writers are the judges and/or organizers of wine competitions. Entering their competitions is a great way to support this important audience and get your brand on their radar. Browse the list of judges, often prominently displayed on the competition’s website. If there are individuals you want to support or who you know enjoy your wines, then it’s a competition you should consider entering.

What’s the (real) cost?

When selecting competitions, consider more than your monetary budget and the cost per entry. Know how many bottles the competition needs for each entry and investigate requirements for the winners. Will winning wines need to provide additional bottles for a grand tasting event? Will a winery representative need to be present at this event? The costs can add up quickly, so make sure you’re prepared for them.

What We Learned at LuxePack New York

What’s hot in cosmetics? Is “anti-packaging” the new definition of “luxury?”  How are retailer and consumer demographics trends shaping a spirits bottle?

LuxePack NYWe were grappling with these questions — along with thousands of designers, suppliers and marketers of every stripe who descended on New York’s Pier 92 for LuxePack NYC on May 14, 2015.

Jeremy Benson moderated the conference’s only wine and spirits panel, along with Umberto Luchini (CMO, Campari America); Elwyn Gladstone (founder of his new firm, Biggar & Leath, and former SVP of Proximo Spirits); and Jean-Charles Forster, director of sales and marketing for SGP Packaging by Verallia. Here are some key takeaways, in our opinion:

  • There is a rich world of creativity in the bottle shapes, treatments, colors and add-ons in cosmetics that are increasingly inspiring spirits packaging (“A-sort” glass, anyone? It’s the clearest glass often used in high-end cosmetics).
  • Sweeping definitions of “luxury” are invariably useless – one person’s authentic micro-brew package is another person’s Avery label on an overpriced $9 bottle of beer.
  • Wine packaging is boring as compared to many high-end consumer consumable products (but yes, we knew that).
  • For every trend in packaging, there is a counter-trend, so predictions are dangerous.
  • Where to find inspiration? For “place” products, the culture of the people, other categories like olive oil. For easy ideas, cruise eBay.
  • The bottom line for spirits packaging: brand differentiation needs to be crystal clear to consumers in about 3 seconds.
  • Ok, some predictions, from a variety of sources at the event.  “Low tech/hyper local” still has legs.  There is excess demand for craft spirits, but ubiquity will dilute the trend.  Hyper narrow consumer segmentation. Beer will soon have its own “Patron:” a high-price, high-style package. Wine packaging and secondary packaging is ripe for innovation, if it can work around legal and distribution obstacles and prejudices.

Sitting down with Gil Family Estates

New Benson client Gil Family Estates is one of Spain’s leading family-owned and operated wine companies.

IMG_9754Gil Family Estates (GFE) owns and manages 9 bodegas ranging from their home base of D.O. Jumilla to Calatayud, Montsant, Rueda, Toro and others.  Recently brothers Miguel and Angel Gil, GFE General Manger Jordi Flos as well as their US Sales and Marketing partners Blue Ventures Marketing joined us at the Benson offices in Napa to talk over strategic brand messaging.

Here’s what we learned while hosting them:

  • The Gil family has been making wine for over 100 years.  Miguel and Angel are the 5th generation of the Gil family to own and manage the company
  • Gil Family Estates excels in the art of indigenous old vine grape growing.  Some of their vineyards have 100 year old vines
  • They are fanatical about wine quality and are unwavering, pioneering advocates of the up-and-coming, lesser known D.O.s in Spain

Five things I learned on my sabbatical

By Thea Schlendorf

One of the perks of working at Benson Marketing Group is that, after 4 years of being with the company, we are eligible to take a sabbatical trip. After 7 years with the company, I finally exercised this opportunity and took myself over to Australia and New Zealand this past March. Below are a few things I learned along the way.

*Note: WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It’s a global program that, in a nutshell, allows for city folks like myself to get the experience of a real working farm or vineyard in exchange for room and board.

A few things I learned on my sabbatical:DSC_0638

IMG_0374 IMG_0373
  1. Both Australia and New Zealand experienced earlier harvests in 2015 than in years past. This was particularly true of the Swan Valley in Western Australia and the Auckland region of New Zealand – the two areas where I was able to spend some time. Auckland saw a drier than average summer which bumped up harvest by about 3 weeks. It also caused our residential water tank to go dry. Twelve wwoofers*, one bathroom in the flat, no running water – a whole host of life lessons were learned.
  2. Turanga Creek, the winery in Auckland where I worked for a few weeks, is all organic (certified) and uses some biodynamic practices. Did you know that the dung used in the preparation involving a buried cow horn must come specifically from a lactating female cow? At Turanga, this employee’s name was JarJar.
  3. Vegemite, Australia’s signature spread, is a by-product of beer brewing as it is made from leftover brewer’s yeast extract. The Aussies do love their beer. Rich in B vitamins, Vegemite was originally marketed as a healthy food product for children during World War II. Rigorous proprietary testing confirms that it is still completely unpalatable to the average American (i.e. me).
  4. Qantas stands for “Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service” – and they serve really excellent food! (Vegemite excepted, though it should be noted that Air New Zealand is no slouch on the food front either)
  5. In the US, we call them flip flops. The Aussies call them thongs. Both names are obviously derived from a physical aspect of the footwear in question. The Kiwis inexplicably call them jandals….and even they don’t know why.

Finally – I learned that I have a new appreciation for New Zealand Pinot Gris wines. I think this variety could really have a future alongside Sauvignon Blanc as an alternative white wine offering from New Zealand. Less aggressively acidic than most Sauvignon Blancs and without those really green aromas and flavors, the Pinot Gris’ I tasted still possessed a refreshing acidity but also a more round mouthfeel and, on occasion, some residual sugar. The wines were sometimes fermented in barrel or saw some lees stirring to get that rounder, creamier texture and put more emphasis on the floral and ripe stone fruit aromas and flavors. Try New Zealand Pinot Gris today if you can find it on US shelves and lists!

What We Learned at Wine MarCom2015

image1Ben Palos and Elizabeth Caravati recently attended the inaugural Wine MarCom 2015, a workshop hosted by the Wine Institute’s Communications Committee in Sonoma. Here are five things they learned:

Take a Long Term View: Virginie Boone, Napa and Sonoma reviewer for Wine Enthusiast magazine, encouraged communicators to take a long-term approach to media relations. Don’t just reach out with a single announcement; take the time to build relationships with writers over a longer period.

Trendy vs Classic: Wine lifestyle expert Leslie Sbrocco pointed out that while alternative white wines (like Vermentino and Gruner Veltliner) are hot right now, classic wine varietals that have a compelling story will always be interesting. You don’t have to chase the current trend to create buzz around your product.

Don’t Be a Wine Snob: Sara Schneider, wine writer for Sunset Magazine, says as people take a less reverent approach to wine, she is following suit. This approach plays well with Sunset’s audience, many of whom don’t have specialized wine knowledge and are looking for a more fun, lifestyle approach to dining and entertaining.

Find Your Unique Story: Dave Mering, founder and CEO of creative agency MeringCarson, suggested wineries find a unique story by exploring their core values in a new context. As an example, MeringCarson implemented this strategy for Disney Meetings, the corporate conference and tradeshow arm of Disneyland, to position it as both the “Happiest Place on Earth” as well as a serious place to do business.

For Big Memories, Think Small: Barbara Talbott, CEO/founder of GlenLarkin Advisors and former CMO of Four Seasons Hotels, emphasized that being memorable doesn’t have to be expensive. If a guest buys a case of wine, always offer to carry it to the car. Are they heading to lunch? Go beyond recommendations: offer to call the restaurant and make a reservation. With little or no added cost, these small details create big “wow” factors to winery guests.

PR 101: Creating an Effective Public Relations Campaign

Why PR?

PR is an excellent tool for raising awareness about your brand. Here’s why:

Credibility
• Press offers 3rd party endorsement of your brand
• “Earned media” is more credible than paid media

Shareable
• PR creates more content than other marketing tools

Searchable
• Brands with content are easier to find online

Cost Effective
• Lower CPM (“cost per thousand impressions”), often <$5 versus $15+ for advertising

The Basic Approach

Before embarking on a PR campaign, it’s important to make sure you’ve created a Brand Messaging Plan. Your Brand Essence will inform the key messages you want to communicate, and which audiences you want to target. Then your PR team can identify the appropriate media outlets who will be receptive to your messages and can share them with those audiences.

brand-essence

What To Look For in PR Plan

How do you know if a PR plan is a good one? Here’s our checklist:

Audiences
• Identifies target demographics and segments and defines opportunities and challenges for each one

Messaging
• Understands what differentiates your brand and proposes novel ways for translating them into story angles

Content
• Logical strategy for creating online content that is searchable & shareable

Tactics
• Suggested actions flow logically from audiences, messages, content
• Warning: “creative story pitching” looks boring on paper, but it’s what you need

Metrics
• Identifies specific #s of placements by media category, CPM or ad equivalency goals

Looking to expand your company’s PR reach? Contact us to find out how we can help.

A Checklist: Benson Marketing Group’s Brand Messaging Plan

One of the most common pitfalls in marketing is to focus on tactics without first defining your strategic goals and messaging. Defining and documenting your messaging provides a compass for all sales and marketing tactics. Best of all, you can do this for free.

Born from years of working with wine and spirits brands of all shapes and sizes, we’ve developed a checklist of exercises that will help lay the foundation of your own Brand Messaging Plan.

The first step is to gather together key decision makers in each functional area (ownership, winemaking, DTC, etc.) and schedule a 4-hour brainstorm meeting. Identify a moderator or two who will lead the discussion, preferably in an offsite location equipped with a large whiteboard and free from interruptions by calls or emails. We also recommend designating one person to take notes.

Here’s the checklist of exercises, in the order in which we think they are best discussed:

  1. SWOT: The basic SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis is a great way to get people to start talking.
  2. Purpose Statement: If money were no object, why would your company still exist? Why would your team want to continue working for you?
  3. Envisioned Future: Pretend it’s 10 years in the future. What were the key milestones that defined your success? Eg, reaching 10,000 cases or being on the list at the French Laundry. (This is less intimidating than asking, “what are our goals?” and you’ll get more insightful responses.)
  4. Brand Essence Wheel: Identify your brand’s essence.brand-essence
  • Values: What concepts are important to and represented by your brand?
  • Personality: What is the core disposition of your brand?
  • Properties: What are the physical attributes and assets of your brand?
  • Essence: After identifying your values, personality and properties, distill these down into the 3-4 basic, inherent qualities of your brand. These become the main concepts that are communicated consistently and repeatedly throughout your sales and marketing actions.
  1. Key Brand Benefit: Identify WHY consumers should buy your wine: “Consumers purchase our brand because it (fill in with solution), and it makes them feel (emotional response).” If you have trouble coming up with this sentence, try this working through these three steps:
  • Capture your brand’s most important attribute in one sentence
  • Provide 3-4 verifiable supporting points
  • Summarize in one sentence why a consumer/trade buyer will care
  1. Positioning Statement: Complete the sentence:“For (target audience), our brand is (differentiated, sustainable position).”
  2. Elevator Pitch: Describe your brand to a stranger in 10 seconds. During the brainstorm, develop this sentence together.

After four hours, stop. These meetings can be tiring for everyone.

Over the next few weeks, synthesize the notes and results of the brainstorm and return with the same group to review, refine and complete the document. You’ll arrive at group consensus on what messages you should – and shouldn’t – use and why. Then, armed with your Brand Messaging Plan, you can get down to the nitty gritty tactical details of creating a PR plan, advertising, email marketing, social media, trade promotions and more.

The process is relatively easy and fun, plus you’ll get the team on the same page and have clear direction on the right tactics to pursue.

This Checklist was adapted from a presentation delivered by Jeremy Benson the UC Davis Wine Executive Program, March 25, 2015.

Looking for help refining your brand strategy? Our team is here to help. Contact us to schedule a consultation.