Sipping in Singapore, Imbibing in Burma

As a wine & spirits marketer, the most fascinating aspect of world travel is discovering cultures through the lens of drinking. It was no different on my recent journey to Singapore and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Singapore has one of the highest GDPs per capita (almost $56,000 US); Myanmar has one of the lowest (just over $1,200). However, there is a stronger drinking culture in the poorer of the two countries. Here are a few insights I gained while drinking abroad.

Alcohol is Prohibitively Expensive in Singapore
Singapore discourages its citizens from drinking with a hefty “sin tax” on alcohol. Thus, a 12 oz. light beer can cost you almost $14 US! Wine drinkers will spend much more. A bottle of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi (take your pick of Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel) will cost you more than $60 US ($87.80 SGD). And that’s with a discount! The SRP is over $100!! ($144 SGD)

The result? The little bit of available wine stays in stock a long time. While checking out at a local grocery store, I noticed a Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon behind the counter… from 1999! Let me assure you, the display case was not climate controlled. My pity goes to the buyer of that poorly-stored bottle.

Myanmar Loves Campari
sodaCampari is a global spirit. No better reminder of this than seeing it prominently displayed on every back bar in the country and offered on multiple happy hour menus. Ironically, the flagship Negroni was not a specific option on menus, so I usually opted for a refreshing Campari and “pop soda.”

Craft Cocktails Feature Local Flavors
At the Rangoon Tea House—a hipster-esque local restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar—bartenders concoct creations where local ingredients shine. I sampled two cocktails: one with pineapple and red Thai chili peppers that gave the drink a spicy kick, and a sweeter option flavored with tropical purple dragon fruit.

The Medal System is Universal
Myanmar beer, the major local brew, has an adept marketing team. The ad below uses a tactic we suggest to some clients at Benson—using competition results to validate quality. In this case, Myanmar beer is the “international champion” with 12 medals between 1999 and 2010.

Myanmar Beer Advertisement in Airport

Bar at Rangoon Tea House

Decisions under duress: should you cancel that big wine event?

Paris trade tasting, November 16, 2015

At some point, every marketer faces the difficult decision of whether to cancel an event due to bad weather, a strike or some other problem. So our Paris trade tasting on November 16 – three days after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks – provides a particularly poignant example.

We had been hired by VinHOP, a Parisian wine distributor, to organize a tasting and series of seminars to showcase their portfolio of 65 wine producers and brewers. We booked La Rotonde Stalingrad, a beautiful although unusual venue for a wine event, located in the east side of Paris, and planned to welcome 650 buyers and journalists registered for the event.

Then the terrible events of Friday night occurred. The whole country was on edge.

On Saturday we checked all our traps, conferring with our client, the winegrowers, venue security, the district police department and others. After much deliberating, we decided to continue with the Monday tasting; we wanted to acknowledge the tragedy but to do what the French do best: eat, drink and socialize!

An official message was sent the 650 participants and posted on the client Facebook page. We received a lot of encouraging messages from trade and media who confirmed they would attend. And as it turned out, the sense of community and comradery that helped to shape the decision was echoed throughout Paris.

On Sunday, we arrived at an eerily quiet Gare de Lyon, but while driving up to La Rotonde across the district of the terrorist attacks, we saw more and more people having drinks at cafes and paying tribute to the victims with flowers and candles. Paris was still Paris!

On Monday at 9.30 am we opened the doors and, amazingly, 400 attendees attended the event, which had an unforgettable, positive spirit. We hope no one has to face our own, albeit modest, dilemma in the face of tragedy. We approached the decision making process by quickly getting the widest possible understanding of the situation—from our client, the community, authorities, etc. –and the result paid off.

Photo credit: ©Crédit Photos VinHOP

Newspaper Circulation Stats That May Surprise You

Which newspaper has a larger print circulation: The San Francisco Chronicle or the San Jose Mercury News? Would it surprise you to know that the Mercury News has nearly 3 times the circulation of the Chronicle? Or that the Mercury News is in the top 5 U.S. newspapers by circulation and the Chronicle doesn’t crack the top 20?

While everyone is busy heralding the fall of the regional newspaper, the circulation statistics below paint quite a different picture. Some of these newspapers reach A LOT of people on a daily basis and should not be forgotten when considering press outreach campaigns.

On the other side of the coin are monthly online viewers. Here we see a different story, with the Chronicle reaching more than 10 million people per month while the San Jose Mercury News barely reaches 1.5 million.

No matter how you slice it, none of these numbers are anything to sneeze at, and are a reminder that even in the digital age regional newspapers still have a role to play.


Print Circulation Numbers: Alliance for Audited Media
Digital UVM: Cision Digital Research

The Top 8 Things Not To Do in Wine Industry Advertising

Some contend that advertising is dead, but anyone who works in marketing—or who reads a magazine for that matter—knows it isn’t so. Advertising has changed tack and focus since the digital revolution, and there are still plenty of ways to effectively reach your target audience, provided you follow a few golden rules. The wine industry has its own specific advertising challenges, so we share our top eight things not to do in wine industry advertising below.

  1. Don’t silo your campaign: An integrated approach to an advertising campaign will increase its reach as well as the impact. Think about advertising as a partnership, not a one off expense line item. Developing relationships with media publications and working across a range of mediums—print, website, social media, emails and events—will help current and future campaigns go farther.
  2. Don’t accept a first offer: Rate card prices are almost always starting points for negotiating a better price, not a final offer. Do your research on competitor’s prices and just keep asking, “What else can you offer?”
  3. Don’t dive in blind: Before committing to anything, do your research to find out where and how the ad appears by looking at the publication’s current ads and asking to see samples. There’s nothing more disappointing than realizing that your digital ad appears at the bottom of a murderously long webpage once it’s already launched.
  4. Don’t skip the metrics: You should always know how the success of your ads will be measured. If running a print ad, know the number of subscribers and talk to the publisher to understand the most likely pass-along rate (i.e. the number of readers who read each copy, usually between 1.5-4, depending on the type of publication). If running ads online, ask the publisher to provide a report at the end detailing how many people saw the ads and how many clicked through. Better yet, link your Google Analytics account to the ad so you can actually see the results yourself.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of print: Print ads can still be key to an ad campaign, and publishers will go a long way to get you to run a print ad. Ask for added value in the form of digital ads, email sponsorship, social media posts, and even special events as part of your print ad run to get the full mileage out of your campaign.
  6. Don’t be narrow-minded: Traditional wine media may not be the best way to go. Sure, you’ll reach wine enthusiasts by advertising in the major national wine magazines, but you’ll stand out more and reach a less saturated audience in food, travel design and lifestyle publications. Don’t be afraid to branch out!
  7. Don’t plan a campaign around major holidays: Unless you have a $200K+ campaign, your message will be lost in the chaos of holiday advertising blitzes. Continuing with your regular advertising for consistency is smart, but save your extra dollars for a time of year when it will stretch farther, such as late spring when wine country tourism begins to pick up.
  8. Don’t forget to review industry guidelines: Follow Wine Institute’s Code of Advertising Standards and the Code of Responsible Practices set forth by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to help keep you compliant.



Forget First Impressions, Pick the Right Impression

What is the most cost-effective way to reach your consumer in today’s digital world? In the ever-shifting landscape of print and digital marketing, it’s important to know where you get the most bang for your buck. At the same time, price isn’t everything; impressions can be actual or potential, and some have more weight with consumers than others. So, it’s important to consider both price and impression type when designing a marketing program. Below, we compare the cost of impressions between four major marketing strategies used for one of our clients, a large U.S. winery.

Key Definitions
Actual Impressions: The number of people who see the content can be quantitatively measured
Potential Impressions: The number of people who see the content is an educated guess
Impression Weight: The quality and “stickiness” (i.e. likelihood of an impression “sticking” with a consumer) of an impression
Targetability: Ability to reach a precise and definable target audience
CPM: cost per mille (1,000) impressions

Facebook: $8 CPM (the average cost of a Facebook Page Promotion ad being served to a Facebook user. Data pulled from Facebook Billing Reports, Jan 2014- 2015.)
Impression Type: Actual
Impression Weight: Medium
Targetability: High
Key Advantage: Cost-effective way to reach a highly targeted audience

Public Relations: $10 CPM (web and print impressions calculated against agency PR fee using Benson PR project averages)
Impression Type: Potential
Impression Weight: Medium to high (depending on type of story placement)
Targetability: Medium
Key Advantage: PR impressions generate brand credibility

Email: $12 CPM (cost of sending an email to a consumer using Vertical Response’s 2015 pricing structure)
Impression Type: Actual
Impression Weight: Medium to high (increases significantly with a high open rate. 10% is an average open rate for consumer emails)
Targetability: High
Key Advantage: Provides opportunity to share more information and leads to further engagement

Advertising: $15 CPM (average cost of a targeted print and web ad campaign using Benson media buy averages)
Impression Type: Potential
Impression Weight: Low to medium (varies depending on type of ad. E.g. full page print ad in wine magazine vs. small digital ad on news site)

Targetability: Medium
Key Advantage: Creates general brand awareness with broad reach

While Facebook and PR are more cost-effective than email and advertising, the impressions for each strategy carry different weight and can be targeted to different degrees. An email is a “stickier” impression than a mention in a magazine article because it can target a consumer more effectively and can provide more information at one time by using text, images and links. In today’s marketing world, each communication strategy is valuable in a well-rounded marketing campaign.

Facebook ads are one of the most cost-effective ways to reach consumers.
Image Caption: Facebook ads are one of the most cost-effective ways to reach consumers.

How to Plan a Successful Press Trip

Press trips are a fantastic way to introduce journalists to your brand. There is no substitute for an in person, hands-on experience to communicate your story (although press events in other cities are important too, you can see “5 Tips for Planning Great Press Events” here. Recently, the Benson Marketing Group team organized a trip to the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) appellation in Monterey County for writers on behalf of our client, Hahn Family Wines. Here are a few takeaways from that experience that will help make any press trip a success:

Tell a Broader Story: Even though Hahn Family Wines sponsored this press trip, it was important to share the spotlight with other SLH producers. Exposure beyond Hahn Family Wines provided writers depth to the SLH story and created a richer, more fulfilling experience. Though counterintuitive, when clients share the spotlight it works in their favor, not against them. In fact, the first press result from the trip featured Hahn Family Wines prominently within a story about SLH.

Offer Authentic Spokespeople: It’s important that spokespeople are genuine so writers can focus on absorbing information instead of determining if a source is trustworthy. Spokespeople should be able to genuinely convey passion for the subject matter and a love for what they do each day.

Provide Access to Unavailable Experiences: While it’s important to demonstrate what experiences are available to the general public, writers also enjoy “off-the-grid” experiences that they could not have otherwise. For instance, one of the producers we visited has a tasting room outside SLH. Instead of visiting the tasting room, we met in the middle of the producer’s SLH vineyard for a conversation and tasting. On a press trip to the Languedoc region in France, we arranged a tour for writers in cars made by French manufacturer Renault. Also, something as simple as a private dinner with the winemaker and his/her family makes lasting memories.

Free Time Works in Your Favor: Leave approximately 90 minutes of free time prior to the evening’s activities so writers can relax or catch up on other work. Most will need to work on other writing assignments while they’re on the trip. Writers can also use this time to explore the area on their own and reflect on the experiences of the day. One writer, in particular, on the SLH trip used his free time to walk along the Monterey Bay and consider the source of the cool wind—a defining features of the Santa Lucia Highlands terroir—traveling from the Bay through the Salinas Valley.

Small Details Make Big Differences: The small details set a good press trip apart from a great press trip. Have a welcome bag with a hand-written note accompanied by an assortment of snacks and bottled water for them to pick up at check-in. Will you be outdoors all day? Bring sunscreen to share. And carry a phone charger with various cords to offer your writers a power boost in between destinations.

5 Tips for Planning Great Press Events

Whether you’re scheduling a lunch, dinner or one-on-one meeting, a well thought out event is a terrific tactic for meeting and keeping up to date with press. Creating a successful event starts with a few simple principles:

  1. You Must Educate. Today’s writer is likely working for themselves as a freelancer, so their time is money and they are selective about how they choose to spend it. Go beyond your own brand story and think about what you can teach them to make your event worth their while. You’re an expert in so many areas: pick one and expand the topic into event.
  2. Share Real Insights. How often have you read a winery’s vintage report that sounds like it was the most perfect vintage ever in the history of winemaking? This kind of Pollyanna storytelling does not play with journalists. Tell them something REAL. What are your real challenges and how are you meeting them? What keeps you up at night? Nothing frustrates a journalist more than a trained pony.
  3. Think Location. Most press events hosted on the road are going to take place in a restaurant or hotel event space. Think of the restaurant as a partner in your event. Work with the chef, sommelier and marketing/PR departments to create a compelling event that highlights them as well as your brand. Secondly, consider what the location says about you. Select a location that fits your philosophy, makes people think differently about you, or makes a statement.
  4. Keep the Real Goal in Mind. A lunch or dinner with 10-15 writers is an investment and can be a good one at that. However, something smaller can work just as well. It’s not the number of people at the table, but the quality of the conversations you start. The goal is not ‘butts in seats’ but rather ink on pages.
  5. Consider Timing. Keep your day of the week, time of year, and length of event in mind when crafting your event itinerary. Press are pressed for time. Keep lunches to no more than 2 hours. Keep dinners to 3 hours. Avoid Fridays and weekends. Finally, consider the time of year when planning an event. Hosting an event the same week as a larger conference or other industry gathering may seem like a good idea capitalizing on your time in the market, but competition with other brands will be stiff. Similarly, look at the calendar for religious holidays and pop culture events that may conflict with your event.

Happy educating!

Top 10 Ways to Take Advantage of #CabernetDay and Other Wine Holidays

languedoc-dayInternational Cabernet Day is this Thursday, August 27th, and the following week on Thursday, September 3rd, is National Cabernet Day (confusing, we know).  Although we fully support celebrating with a glass of the good stuff, that’s not the only thing you can do to celebrate. There is a day dedicated to almost every major grape varietal, and these “holidays” can offer easy and effective ways to connect with your fans and to reach new consumers. Here are our top 10 ways to take advantage of national/international wine days:

  1. Conduct a blogger/influencer mailing: Send a bottle of wine to bloggers or social media influencers with a note saying you hope they’ll enjoy it on the day. You may suggest that they hold a tasting party with friends, we’ve had good success with this strategy.
  2. Host an office/block party: Bring people together to taste and share comments about the relevant wine. Mix it up and include your peers’ wines in the lineup, in addition to your own.
  3. Share a special wine: Uncork a special wine, like a single vineyard or library vintage of that day’s varietal, in the tasting room to excite guests.
  4. wine-partyOffer a discount: Consider offering discounts on the featured varietal in the tasting room or online wine store. Spread the word to consumers via social media, emails, the website and the tasting room.
  5. Make it a sales tool: Encourage on-premise accounts to run a by-the-glass promotion or host their own party to celebrate the day. People love a reason to toast!
  6. Tap into existing resources: Several wineries and organizations run robust campaigns around a specific wine day (e.g. Wente leads Chardonnay Day, Duckhorn leads Merlot Day, and Summertime in a Glass sponsors Sauvignon Blanc Day), and they often have post ideas and images that they are glad to shar
  7. Get the word out early: Get involved 1-2 weeks in advance to encourage others to enjoy the wine and engage with you on the day. You can send an email blast, post it on your website, post on Facebook or tweet about it.
  8. Cheers to Pinot Noir DayJoin the conversation: Even if you don’t create original content, make time during the appointed day to get on Twitter and join the conversation. It’s a great way to find people who might be potential customers, brand evangelists and press contacts. To increase the number of people you reach, set aside two or three 30-minute time slots during the day to engage so that you’re connecting with different people throughout the day.
  9. Cue up posts in advance: Plan your social media content in advance so you can spend time actually interacting on the big day. Share anything from a pairing idea to a comment from the winemaker to a fun fact about the variety.
  10. Hashtags are your friends: Be sure to use the official hashtag (e.g. #SauvBlancDay) in all of your social media posts and to encourage others to do the same.