Ben Palos, visiting Benson's client Kaiken in Argentina

Beyond Typical Employee Benefits: Benson’s Sabbatical Policy

By Ben Palos

Bocanáriz Wine Bar in Santiago

Bocanáriz Wine Bar in Santiago

Everyone, at least once in life, should take a few weeks to explore their interests in an environment free from the stresses of the real world. There are practical reasons people never do this. The most common excuse? “I can’t leave work for that long.”

Benson Marketing Group tackles this issue with its sabbatical policy, which is a benefit not often found at company of its size. Employees who have continuously worked at the agency for four or more years can take three weeks of paid leave to rejuvenate while stimulating creativity in an engaging environment.

I recently took my sabbatical, and—considering my passion for the wine industry—I embarked upon a wine-focused trip. I eventually landed on visiting several wine regions in central Chile and Mendoza, Argentina.

Since Benson works with two wineries in the area, Viña Montes and Bodega Kaiken, it was a good opportunity to learn about those clients in more depth and share my perspective on these wine regions with the rest of the Benson team post-trip. Just as important, I had facetime with our client contacts at the wineries.

Casa Rosada in Argentina

Casa Rosada in Argentina

Additionally, I added to my wine knowledge base and gained valuable context for the wines in these areas. I tasted Carménère everywhere I could in Chile and explored varietal wines beyond Malbec in Mendoza.

Another highlight was tasting my way through the burgeoning culinary scene of Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires. Of course, I took it upon myself to partake in non-food and wine activities like visiting local historic landmarks and attending a soccer game.

Best of all, I was able to unplug from my daily routine and accomplish the policy’s intention: “to renew energy and to provide an experience for personal enlightenment.”

And did I mention that the sabbatical can be repeated every three years after the first sabbatical is taken? I’m already brainstorming destinations for my next one!

No Ads? No Problem. How to Increase Your Instagram Following

With over 800 million active users, Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform. Instagram is of particular interest to Millennials (over half the users are under the age of 30), thus harnessing the power of Instagram is a key component to building your brand image. Inspired by Shutterstock’s recent Instagram hacks blog post, we’ve compiled a few Instagram tips of our own!

  • Follow, Follow, Follow: It’s just as important for you to consistently follow new Instagram accounts as it is to engage with your existing followers. When you follow accounts that share similar interests, aesthetics, and values you’re more likely to be followed back by these accounts and gain new fans from their bases.
  • Posting Time Matters: Sure, you can post whenever you want, but now there are tools that help you discover the optimal posting times. Use these tools to make sure your content is getting seen by the most people and on the optimal day.
  • Use Instagram Stories Wisely: Instagram Stories is not the place to just
    “throw” all the content you think is not up to your Instagram profile standards. We’ve found that Instagram Stories are essential in increasing engagement and followers. Though it sounds counterintuitive, carefully curate this spontaneous content to even more closely align your followers with your brand. However, you can let your hair down a little here and get creative with colors, stickers, and emojis. We’ve seen a threefold increase in the number of average followers acquired per month when we run Instagram Stories. Not to mention a sharp increase in impressions due to the additional content!
  • Leverage Your Influencers: Working with influencers is vital to supporting your brand’s digital presence. Ask your influencer to publish an Instagram Story featuring your brand to further leverage their followers.

Of course – this is not an exhaustive list, merely a few nuggets to get the gears turning. Without the fanning ad option that Facebook provides, you have to get a little more creative! Do you have any tips? Let us know on Twitter at @BensonMKGT or Facebook at @BensonMarketing.

BAM

Brand Awareness vs. Consumer Recommendation: Which is More Important?

If awareness is the #1 driver of brand “power,” and if awareness is driven by shelf placement, what happens to brand power if your brand isn’t on retail shelves?

This was just one of the questions inspired by Wine Intelligence’s presentation this month at Prowein 2018. CEO Lulie Halstead’s research identified and measured the effect of three criteria on brand “power”:

  1. Aided Awareness: % of wine consumers aware of a brand when shown its logo and name combination;
  2. Purchase frequency: number of times the consumer bought the brand in the last 3 months; and
  3. Recommendation rate: % consumers who would recommend it to a friend.

The rise or fall of these three criteria were measured for specific volumetric brands and, over a decade, the rise in aided awareness was dramatically higher than the rise in purchase rate and recommendation rate. Let me say that again: for successful, volumetric brands, awareness grew much faster over time than did purchase frequency and recommendation rate. In the U.S. between 2007 and 2017 Barefoot’s aided awareness rose from 27% to 71%, while its purchase frequency (31% to 37%) and recommendation rate (40% to 43%) rose more slowly.

The findings for power brands held true across thousands of consumers and 15 countries.

So what’s going on here? I’m afraid we have more questions than answers, but bear with us.

It’s not surprising that awareness drives sales. Duh. But conventional wisdom and a lot of research claims that peer-to-peer recommendations are the #1 driver of purchase, or at least intent to purchase (what people say in surveys and what they actually do can differ). Wine Intelligence’s research contradicts this notion: it claims that visibility has a larger positive effect than other factors for power brands like Yellowtail, Barefoot or Woodbridge. The other factors, purchase frequency and recommendation rate, are important but grow less than awareness does for these successful, volumetric brands.

So what drives brand awareness? At Benson, we grapple with this every day. We would posit that wine brand awareness is a function of press coverage, digital presence, advertising, shelf placement and ACV, and packaging, among other factors, and in no particular order.

Now, back to the original question: how are these drivers of awareness changing in a dynamic marketplace?

  • Imagine if 15%-20% of off-premise sales move to the home delivery model. That would decrease the potentially positive effects that shelf placement, ACV and packaging have on brand awareness, even if the delivery platforms offer brand advertising.
  • What about digital? If awareness trumps recommendations, digital spend should maximize reach and frequency at the expense of engagement (think Facebook ads versus clever boosted posts). That conclusion will be sacrilegious to many.
  • What about DTC brands? Of course, this study doesn’t directly address DTC, but it suggests what we all know: DTC brands rely very heavily on creating consumer connections, or “affinity,” as Wine Intelligence calls it.

And a final, humbling note: Even when prompted with a wine logo and name, the average number of wine brands a US consumer could identify was only 17, and for France the number was 8. Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Taken from the presentation, “Global wine brand power and consumer trends,” Lulie Halstead, CEO, Wine Intelligence. www.wineintelligence.com

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

 

Benson France Signs Champagne Vollereaux

Located in Pierry near Epernay La Maison Vollereaux has retained Benson’s Lyon office for a Brand Messaging Plan project to further refine its position in the French market. The project will be followed by a France-based PR campaign. The sixth generation at Champagne Vollereaux is lending its own perspective and creative to a long legacy of excellence. www.champagne-vollereaux.fr

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. (Wine-searcher.com 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 dtcwinesymposium@gmail.com. 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.