Benson Speaks at Les Vignerons Indépendants de la Drôme

Our French Director, Jeanne Peron, was invited to speak at Les Vignerons Indépendants de la Drôme at Vercheny on Thursday, March 8th. She discussed how wineries can improve their image with different types of communication tools. See some of her key points below!


Click here for more information on Les Vignerons Indépendants de la Drôme.

What is your objective?Objectives, benefits and solutions


Unpacking “Advocacy Marketing”

Advocacy Marketing At Work

Is Tesla a car company, or an energy company with a car division?

How companies describe their products and services is not only important to how they are perceived, but also how they function and innovate.

We help wine and spirits companies phrase their strengths every day, and the impact on their teams and customers is thrilling to watch.

Occasionally, we turn the focus on our own company.

Early this year Benson added “Advocacy Marketing’ to our list of services. This is a common phrase among marketers but perhaps less so outside the realm of marketing geeks. Once we tried on the idea, it fit like a comfortable jacket. Here’s why.

We help create brand advocates by working with the media: journalists, bloggers and online influencers.

We also work with advocates in the professional trade by, for example, coordinating regional trips, educational seminars and private events for sommeliers, buyers and importers.

And increasingly, we orchestrate media partnerships that can combine advertorial, editorial, events and social platforms. ( did a story on this topic last month that featured how Benson helps clients target customer segments.)

But rather than dividing services strictly by audience – “this is a trade promotion Idea” or “that is a press idea”—the term “advocacy” pulls together trade and media and consumer audiences into one. So what, you say?

Well, what happens next is where it gets interesting. A simple word change is driving our agency’s mission – integrated marketing –the core of Benson’s ethos. If each of us perceives our responsibilities more broadly than trade or consumer, earned or paid media, then we can better integrate services. And integrated campaigns create better ideas, better results, and higher ROI for clients.

Changing a few words is knocking down mental walls, and already sprouting new ideas and perspectives. Immediately, our team thought of promotional ideas that will help both our clients and influencer contacts. We discussed new processes and the systems that can empower those ideas. We will report on some of these results in the following months.

NB: To answer the first question, Tesla’s stated mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” See their website.

Billecart-Salmon: 200 Years of Independence, Family Expertise

In 2018, Champagne Billecart-Salmon will celebrate its 200th anniversary by meeting champagne aficionados in five global capitals. Benson is proud to help this family-run company share its modern vision for the future. The year will be punctuated by a series of collaborative events and activities, including exclusive tasting events in New York and Los Angeles with rare cuvees and Michelin-starred chefs.

Cassoulet Day Campaign for Client Languedoc Wines

For the last three years, we have capitalized on this cassoulet trend along with an influencer marketing campaign accompanying national #CassouletDay (January 9, 2018) to bring the wines of Languedoc to a new audience.

DTC Wine Symposium 2018: Another Success for Industry

At Benson, we have the pleasure of working with the Steering Committee and managing the DTC Wine Symposium, the annual summit that raises funds for Free the Grapes!, the industry coalition that has helped open states and replace onerous regulations.

In its 11th year, the Symposium attracted another sold-out group of wine club, tasting room, marketing and DTC managers from 19 states and four countries. Along with speakers, volunteers from Sonoma State (thank you!), and sponsors, nearly 500 execs packed the Hilton Concord hotel for a 2-day program of 5 keynotes, 7 sponsor sessions, 7 workshop sessions and 4 Town Hall sessions (whew!).

Great Feedback. In our post-event survey, 105 respondents gave high marks. Ninety-six percent recommend the summit, and 86% said the conference was either “excellent” or “good.” Many people said it was the best DTCWS yet. Astra Digital even blogged about it.

Importantly, we also received great suggestions for improvement. The beauty of the DTCWS is that it is a “big tent” for the industry to learn what’s new and next, and to network with peers, vendors and experts.  Constant improvements, and a rigorous speaker vetting process, helps propel the DTCWS and helps the whole industry build the $2.6 billion sales channel.

Thought Leadership. This year we repeated the popular Town Hall-style discussion sessions, which put up some huge, positive numbers in our survey. For keynotes, we brought in one of the leading thinkers on design and AI, IOT and mixed reality, Phil van Allen, professor at Art Center College of Design. From inside the industry, we had a legislative update by Wine Institute’s Steve Gross (bottom line: rigorous compliance is key). Larry Cormier, GM at Sovos, gave us a sneak peek of the Sovos/Wines&Vines 2017 DTC report. Bottom line: YOY volume and value increased 15%+.

So Where does the Money Go? The summit is presented by and a fundraiser for Free the Grapes!, a client of Benson Marketing Group. While wineries, Wine Institute and Napa Valley Vintners contribute generously to Free the Grapes!, the vast majority of funding comes from the DTCWS. We then execute a state-specific campaign including hiring local PR agencies (e.g., NJ, AZ), creating and advertising in social channels, writing email campaigns, and an app that allows consumers to send personalized messages to their state legislators. In the first five weeks of 2018, we’ve worked in MS, AL, IN, DE and NJ, generating numerous press placements and 1,374 letters to state legislators.

How about 2019?  Soon, we will announce the dates and location for the 12th summit. In spring, we will bring the Steering Committee back together to plan how 2019 can be even better! If you’re interested in serving on the S.C., email us at If you are interested in speaking—and are willing to share detailed case studies and participate in mandatory rehearsals—we want to hear from you, especially if you have not had a chance to share your expertise at other industry conferences. (We like to shake things up.) But wait till the S.C. publishes a Request for Proposal in summer 2019. We’ll keep you updated as long as you sign-up for the Free the Grapes! email list.

New York, Lyon Offices Expand with New Hires, Clients

Benson’s New York and Lyon offices are growing with the addition of new professionals. Meryl Bouchier and Pauline Ben hamou have joined Benson’s Lyon office. Meryl’s previous roles included communications responsibilities at Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and a New York agency specializing in food and wine. Pauline joined the agency earlier this year, focusing on digital communications–creating and executing social media content and digital media campaigns.


Several new clients have joined the French roster as well, including Veuve Ambal, AOP Montlouis-sur-Loire, Wine Objectives, Château d’Antugnac and Gabriel Meffre.


In New York, PR specialist Emma Criswell brings experience to Benson from her previous role as PR manager at Maisons Marques & Domaines, the importing house of Champagne Louis Roederer and its properties. The agency is now better equipped to manage U.S. campaigns for new clients including Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Clos du Val Winery, Bread & Butter, Double Lariat, Reata and others.

WX Brands Retains Benson for PR and Digital Campaigns

WX Brands is one of the largest wine-producing companies in the U.S., with divisions in exclusive brands, contract production, and national brands. The forward-thinking company retained Benson to join its brand marketers on new promotions to raise awareness, trial and sales of its growing portfolio of national wine brands.  In December 2017, WX Brands announced the addition of Jelly Jar to its national brands portfolio, which includes Bread & Butter, Double Lariat, Reata, Chronic Cellars, and Our Daily Wines, among others. The campaign will encompass digital marketing, social media, and Public Relations.


WX develops exclusive brands of wine, beer and spirits for retailers around the world, and offers a unique portfolio of proprietary wine brands that are sold globally. Products are sourced from 17 countries and sold in 12 countries resulting in over 6 million cases sold worldwide.

Resurgent Clos du Val Taps Benson

One of Napa Valley’s benchmark wineries, Clos du Val is set to reimagine the Stags Leap District winery for the next generation. Spearheaded by a dynamic team of industry veterans including Steve Tamburelli (CEO), Ted Henry (winemaking), Jon-Mark Chappellet (production), Clos du Val retained Benson to help communicate its new approach.

2018 will be a busy year. The winery continues its transition to a focus on estate-based wines, and unveils a new visitor center and experience that will connect guests to its Stags Leap District home, Hirondelle Estate Vineyard.

As Steve Tamburelli says, “The history of great wineries aren’t written over a few vintages—they are written over decades and generations. They are captured in dusty bottles, and new vintages of wine aging in the finest French oak. As its stewards, we are writing Clos du Val’s next chapter. When we cut our Cabernet production in half to focus on estate wines, it was incredibly exciting. It said to people, more than anything, we care about making extraordinary wines.”


What’s the future of marketing?

As previously covered in this blog, we placed a client (Campari America’s Dave Karraker, VP of Engagement and Advocacy) at ad:tech New York, which took place the first week in November. This provided a good excuse for several of us to attend and we’ve captured some thoughts from spending 2 days with the leading and largest agencies serving Fortune 500 companies.

Too much noise! Creative content is king.

While marketers are getting better at targeting specific audiences with the right message at the right time, we are far from proficient, or effective, in the eyes of many experts. The result is just noise. Conclusion: nobody cares if the content isn’t good. This conclusion carries some extra weight when it’s coming from the likes of Microsoft, Kimberly-Clark, Samsonite and others. Implication: great, creative content that addresses consumer concerns will win. Wine and spirits has amazingly rich content, but often we’re not focused on seeing our brands as solving consumer needs or problems.

Practical data use wins out.

The global VP of Media and CRM from McDonald’s gave an impassioned delivery about how companies can do a better job focusing on creating a “value exchange” between company and customer. Conclusion: companies that are best at using their own data to address their customer’s needs will succeed. Develop your own data, and don’t rely just on the walled gardens of Facebook and Google.

AI is scary, not scary.

The Internet of Things (IOT) applications, a subset of AI, are about to play a much larger role in our lives, removing the boring elements of our lives. But, wait. What? We like some of those boring elements! Sometimes, technology seems to replace things that encourage human interaction. What do we lose with efficiency?

AI is here, get over it.

Microsoft’s CMO ran two video ads from Japan and asked everyone to vote on their favorite. Of course, most preferred the artistic one – remember that the audience is full of ad creatives – over the one with a dog spouting green sparks (we’re not making this up). But the ad that did best in Japan was the latter one, created entirely using AI.

Audio search is here

There was much breathless excitement over the advances of voice-based search—not surprising since about 40 million Amazon Echoes have been sold. Also, ad technology, plus the popularity of podcasts, are coming together to provide more opportunities for highly targeted podcast sponsorships and native ad content.

360 Customer Views are a Fantasy

We all hear vendors purport to provide 360-degree views of your customers, a complete history of interactions through multiple touchpoints. But when senior execs from Samsonite and Citibank – who have the resources and a vested interest in this topic – tell you this is pure marketing fantasy, you have to listen. One of them said, and we’re paraphrasing here: “there are only three companies that have a 360 degree view of customers: Amazon, Google and Facebook.” Their recommendation, as we interpret for wineries: work with these “walled gardens” but create your own internal processes for understanding and owning your customer data.

Data, tech, content.

If there’s an overall theme from ad:tech, it’s that these three elements are just getting more important. Control your data destiny and use it to create solutions for your customers (e.g., Fitbit). Adtech technology will continue to improve audience segmentation and targeting (e.g., Facebook). Finally, none of this matters if you can’t turn ad content into desirable content unique to your brand (e.g., the LEGO movie).

It was an inspiring 2-days. But we have a lot of work to do!


Speaking Engagements: You’re Missing Out if you’re Not Participating

Not everyone likes speaking in front of crowds. It brings back memories of your college public speaking class. You’re sweating and your knees buckle, so why would you do it? Speaking engagements at leading conferences give brands added exposure and marketing executives a chance to establish their companies as thought leaders within the industry. This year, Benson secured five speaking opportunities for Campari America executives at leading marketing conferences including iMedia’s Brand Summit, Brand Innovator’s Brand Week and Argyle’s Leadership Summit.

Now, Campari America’s Dave Karraker, vice president of engagement and advocacy, is joining the ranks of esteemed executives (you may recognize names from Google and Visa) to speak at November’s ad:tech conference, a leading two-day marketing and advertising technology conference in New York. This is the conference where today’s top marketers go to exchange notes on the latest marketing trends and advertising innovations. This year’s conversation will focus on how technology has completely transformed the marketing landscape, empowering consumers and forcing brands to re-think how to deliver valuable content. The event schedule is so compelling that our team members will be attending (hint: there will be another post with the inside scoop, so stay tuned).

For a wine or spirits company, marketing conferences can be overlooked or ruled out. But if you have a point of view and something to share, here’s a list of reasons why you should reconsider:

“Guilt (Gilt) by Association”—This isn’t the same guilt by association for being friends with that bad kid in the class. Think of it as ‘shining’ among other leaders in your field. Speaking amongst these high level executives associates you with a class of thought leaders. Other consumer brand executives want to hear your perspectives on marketing wines or spirits. You have great ideas; share them!

Brand Representation—If you look at any conference website, you will see all the brands that are participating. There are usually several different places for a brand to receive recognition. Whether it’s through social media, media coverage, or their newsletter, conferences promote the brands that will be represented during their event. This brings us to our next point…

Media Coverage—Some conferences are held by media outlets, which means they are covering the event and as a participant your brand can be incorporated into press coverage. In addition, some conferences invite top-tier media to attend or speak on select panels and keynotes.

It’s Free – You read that right. Many conferences are willing to pay for your flight, hotel and even provide meals (and not gross ones).

If you’re thinking about where to start, take a look at Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium. It’s a combination of marketing and wine so you get the best of both worlds. We want to help you speak to other brands and executives, don’t be shy!