Influencer Marketing

Driving Local Wholesale, Retail Awareness

Client Hahn Family Wines, California

Goal Create a one-time, cost-effective local wine promotion in Los Angeles market.


  • Strategic Partnership: Partnered with Los Angeles-based lifestyle blogger, Kate Richards, “Drinking with Chickens”
  • Hosted Event: Hosted a “in real life” party with Kate and 10 additional influencers. Contracted social media posts, Instagram stories, and blogs with the influencer partner.
  • Paid Media: Purchased a digital media partnership with, which included a custom article, social media posts, and digital ads.

Select Results

  • 215k Instagram followers reached from IRL wine event with Drinking With Chickens and event attendees
  • Generated high-quality social media images for client
  • 400k impressions generated from media buy with

Additional: Read our blog post, “8 Tips for Selecting a Wine Influencer Partner.”

Rethinking Marketing Budgeting, Part 2

In last month’s blog post we floated the idea that wineries should consider total sales and marketing budgets together, rather than separately, to adapt to changes in the retail marketplace.

That is, to consider above-the-line sales expenses and below-the-line marketing costs as one total budget.

Since then, this idea has struck a chord with wholesaler and winery thought leaders we’ve met. There is a sense of anxiety about the wine marketplace. At Benson, we believe the industry is at an economic inflection point that will reward dramatic action and efficiency, and punish complacency.

Sales & Marketing Headwinds

We all know that wine sales are soft, with some notable exceptions.

The middle tier faces headwinds including the effects of private/custom labels on brand sales, the growing influence of the larger wine and spirits retail chains, the effects of home delivery on in-store activation results, and chronic under spending by wineries on creating consumer demand.

On the other hand, wineries are seeing a crowded three-tier marketplace dominated by large wholesalers and retailers, a DTC sales channel constrained by winery visitation, and only the occasional anecdote of how these two channels can support each other. (The DTC Wine Symposium 2020 has an interesting Workshop scheduled on this topic.)

How can clever marketing help address these market conditions?

Moving Toward Integrated Sales and Marketing

We’re not suggesting spending more money; just spending smarter. Here are some suggestions that could apply to wineries selling in the three-tier market.

  • Push thematic marketing campaigns to the local level: Take a marketing campaign’s central theme and don’t just create a hashtag campaign or a tasting room promotion, but extend that theme into a sales plan with POS, incentives, instore tastings, etc. Schedule in-market winemaker dinners, press meetings, and geo-targeted advertising in support of that theme. In short, create a 360-degree campaign in key markets, at specific times. (While that may sound obvious, very few wine companies execute at this level.)
  • Create Better Digital Assets: Wholesalers and retailers need winery trade sites to provide easy access – be careful of clunky share drive platforms, and password-protected trade sites.
  • Know how your ABL budget is spent. Sales incentives, depletion allowances and other above the line costs are often opaque, high decentralized, and may not actually support marketing activations or brand image goals.  And, are the wholesaler allocations actually being spent?


We will be the first to admit that promoting integrated marketing is self-serving! It’s in our mission and it’s how we staff account teams. But we also know it works. And who would oppose budget efficiency when faced with a sluggish market, extreme competition, and built-in obstacles to the two main sales channels?

So, what are we doing about it? In addition to our normal planning activity, we are paying more attention to a few areas:

  • Brainstorming Out of Scope: Creating campaign themes and sharing our experiences with extending themes into sales campaigns with POS, incentives, in-store tastings, contests, PR, etc. That is, thinking more broadly, and often way beyond the scope of current client agreements. At times like this, we need to invest even more time in our clients’ success.
  • Repurposing Digital Assets: Reviewing how investments can be efficiently repurposed and recycled.
  • Supporting the Middle Tier: Asking wine importers and wholesalers how our agency can better serve their needs.

We recommend you keep these ideas in mind as you plan for 2020-21. Thanks for reading.

Marie Christina Batich

Batich Joins Benson NYC

Building out Benson’s ability to connect clients to New York press, the agency has added Marie Christina Batich to its team. Prior to Benson, Marie Christina worked for importers such as Kobrand and Remy Cointreau, and agencies including Sopexa and Bullfrog & Baum. Her brand experience includes top tier Champagne Houses, Ketel One Vodka (and the launch of Ketel One Botanical), Gérard Bertrand Winery, as well as a bevy of French & Italian wine trade councils including Cognac, Loire Valley, Burgundy and Brachetto d’Acqui.

Time to Rethink Marketing Budgeting?

“How much will it cost”?

That’s a frequent question from prospective clients. The expected answer is an annualized figure, but how about if we answered, “our fees will be $2 per case”?

Why isn’t that a reasonable or at least an expected answer? Two reasons: first, the Profit & Loss financial statement, and second, it’s “not how we’ve always done it.”

Our point: While wine and spirits brands are rethinking how to better integrate marketing and sales, maybe we should rethink how we budget and measure these results, too.

Above and Below the Line

As you may know,  wholesaler incentives like depletion allowances and similar sales-oriented expenses are deductions from gross revenue. They are captured in the P&L statement “above the line” separating revenue from expenses.

On the other hand, marketing costs for third party marketing agencies like ours live “below the line,” alongside other expenses like compensation, insurance and rent. (And, yes, there are other definitions of this concept but let’s not get carried away.)

Don’t worry accountants!  We are not suggesting changes to the P&L. What we’re positing is that this (arbitrary?) separation of the costs of sales incentives (as deductions from gross revenue) from the costs of creating demand (as expenses) tends to separate functions that should be considered together.

Don’t Separate, Integrate

Put another way, it doesn’t make sense to separate budget lines for pushing product and pulling product through the sales channels for two reasons: the lines separating marketing and sales are, if not indistinguishable, then at least blurred; and second, the marketplace is leaning toward placing a higher value on results driven by the integration of sales and marketing.

Some examples:

  • A grocery chain buyer asks a brand owner, “what are your digital marketing plans in our market and how is that going to help us sell your wine”? Should that digital campaign be an above the line deduction from gross revenue, or a below the line expense? How can the local sales team best leverage the marketing spend in its sales efforts?
  • A brand conducts a city promotion combining billboards, digital and sales incentives. Can they discern how the elements contributed to sales or creating demand?
  • Are the costs of sponsoring a brand on a delivery service an above or below the line cost? Is there an opportunity cost to channel those funds to off-premise sales incentives instead?

In conclusion, brand owners may be able to better meet the demands of the market by considering the total sales and marketing spend, and actions, together, in order to understand how the dynamics of push vs. pull tactics are playing out on retailer shelves and restaurant lists.

Achaval Ferrer

Achaval Ferrer, Arinzano Join Client Roster

Argentina’s iconic Achaval Ferrer, as well as emerging Spanish gem, Arinzano, have retained Benson for a U.S. PR campaign to raise awareness of both brands, which are imported and distributed by Stoli Group. Achaval Ferrer’s single vineyard “Finca” wines spotlight three stellar Malbec plots, while red blend Quimera, and the Mendoza line of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, round out its focused portfolio.

Arinzano is the first winery in northern Spain to be awarded Vino de Pago status, and one of only 17 in all of Spain. Located in Navarra, Arinzano’s Pago designation recognizes not only an estate-based winery, but a unique microclimate, geology, and resulting quality winemaking.

Alexzandria Parker

Alexzandria Parker Joins Benson

We are very pleased to add Alexzandria Parker to our team of professionals. Alex joins our New York office with a background in PR, social media marketing and event management, most recently with amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. Prior to that, she interned at Nike Communications.

Iconic Cakebread Cellars Taps Benson

Founded by Jack and Dolores Cakebread in 1973, Cakebread Cellars is renowned for its acclaimed wines and gracious hospitality. The Napa Valley-based winery has retained Benson for a comprehensive social media program to engage current and new consumers. And there’s plenty of news to share including launching a new visitor experience later this year, and ongoing innovations in the vineyard and cellar. But after 46 years, some things won’t change, such as the Cakebreads’ dedication to crafting quality wines.

How to Launch an International Wine in the U.S.

[Editor’s Note: During a fall 2018 seminar in Bordeaux, we tried to answer a difficult but frequently asked question:  how does an international winery successfully launch a new wine brand into the competitive U.S. market?  The seminar led to a blog post on our French site, here, but we thought others might want to read the English language version, below.]


Are there common characteristics of successful new brand launches in the US?

Based on our own experience, as well as some research, we came up with five traits that appear to influence success. While there is no single feature or strategy, a combination of several guidelines should help set yourself up for success. And that’s the key: planning. Wine does not sell itself.

First, a caveat: as a marketing agency we take a marketer’s perspective. Second we are assuming a path-to-market through the traditional three-tier system as opposed to direct import, DTC sales through an intermediary, and other options. Also, this post does not include important topics like compliance, licensing, taxes, etc.  And for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on French wines exported to the US, even though many of the same points apply to all wineries, and spirits brands.

  1. Articulate Your Brand Story in 30 Seconds

When in front of a buyer, state your brand’s key features and benefits in 1-2 sentences. Americans prioritize information from beginning to end; the most important info is at the beginning. Your first sentence or two should summarize your story and why a buyer should care. And make it relevant — for example, can you tie your brand story into recent trends? How is your wine or spirits brand different from the wines that he or she carries from around the world, not just France?

  1. Be an “Easy Sale”

For importers and wholesalers, an “easy sale” often has these components:

  • Addresses a Market Need: A differentiated brand that is relevant for, and targeted at, specific consumers and trends is very important. That is, the more your brand features are differentiated from competitors approaching the same desirable consumers, the better your chances of success.
  • Right pricing for category.
  • Fills a gap in a wholesaler’s portfolio – it is an incremental versus substitute sale, or in sales parlance, an accretive vs. dilutive sale.
  1. Share Your Marketing Plan

Have an organized, well-designed marketing presentation (PowerPoint is fine) that includes plans for in-market visits, digital marketing, in-store tastings, events, etc. Scores continue to be very important for importers and wholesalers, especially.

  1. Focus on a Few Markets

While not a truism, many successful brands start by focusing sales and marketing efforts in specific cities or regions, rather than attempting to be a national brand in the first few years. Why? You want to demonstrate sales success to help attract wholesalers in new states. Test and, if necessary, re-work your “home market” blueprint strategy to accommodate for the distribution and market specifics of your expansion markets.

  1. Maximize Chances to Gain Wholesaler Attention

Park Street gave a terrific presentation in 2018 that advises companies to prioritize retailer re-orders, as opposed to large case sell-ins. In other words, showing “turns” is very important to establishing retailer sales momentum.  Second, start with a small portfolio, maybe 2-3 individual wines, for the same reasons stated above. (While Park Street’s presentation concerned spirits brands, we have seen success using this strategy for wine brands. See link below.)

In summary, do your homework, have a plan, and ensure your plan is based on what the marketplace needs, rather than just what you can produce.

Everyone needs to “win” in your transaction:  consumers, retailers, restaurants, wholesalers and importers. There are at least 100,000 wines for sale in the U.S. which drove sales of an estimated 4.8 billion bottles of wine in 2018.  While it may sound harsh, assume no one in the US needs or cares about your brand. That will help frame the task ahead,  presenting a cohesive plan with the right wines, at the right prices, with a memorable story.

For more information, here are two good resources, which we draw from:

Finally, Benson has created a suite of services geared to help French wineries launch in the U.S.  For more information, contact Jeanne Peron, Directrice, at, or +33 (0)4 37 44 02 83

What We Learned at Social Media Marketing World

Every spring, 7,000 marketers from dozens of industries gather in San Diego at the country’s largest social media conference. We sent Benson’s digital marketing team to Social Media Marketing World to keep up with the latest trends and tools. In this blog, we share our five key takeaways from this year’s event. None of this will be new information exactly, but it was reassuring to hear confirmation of these trends.

Bigger isn’t always better

While gaining more follows should be an ongoing goal for your social media account, don’t assume that more fans equals more success. It’s better to have a smaller audience who cares than a larger audience who doesn’t. So focus on engaging the audience you do have by prioritizing social listening and sharpening your brand messaging strategy. Vanity metrics won’t love you back the way loyal fans will.

Focus, with flexibility

Spend your efforts on what you do best. Seeing a high number of shares when you post videos on Facebook? Spend more time on making videos than on photo shoots. Of course, leave room to readjust strategy. Monitoring metrics closely helps keep an eye on shifts in audience preferences.

Something isn’t better than nothing

Choose a primary platform for your brand’s social media communications. Have a highly engaged audience on Twitter? Put most of your time into developing customized content for Twitter; engage with your followers there. Design content that’s optimized for your focus platform, and then repost it on other channels.

Be conscious of your audience’s attention

Audiences have less trust in brands now than ever before. How does this translate into developing a wine brand’s social media strategy? Only talk if you have something to say, because redundant or generic content only contributes to the static. Be conscious of your audience’s attention by posting intentionally and choosing quality over quantity of messages.

The future of social media is relatability

Instagram and Facebook stories. Private messaging. We’re all seeing a shift towards more personalized and meaningful communication on social, in large part due to privacy concerns. Brands find success by doing less broadcasting and more human interacting. At Benson, we connect with our clients’ fans through commenting on and liking their posts, even when they don’t overtly reference wine.

Case study: One of our winery clients was struggling to grow their audience on Instagram. Through our community management tactic of interacting with followers posting about wine-adjacent topics like home entertaining and cooking, we were able to achieve 10% organic follower growth month over month.

Similarly, sharing content posted by followers and winery employees creates more personalized messaging. And we recommend taking the digital conversation a step further by utilizing private messages to communicate with fans.

At Benson, our team education efforts are ongoing. In case your missed it, here were the top takeaways from our visit to Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium in January.

Anecoop Bodegas Teams with Benson

Anecoop Bodegas, a consortium of 1,000 winegrowers exporting 200 wines to 50 countries, has tapped Benson for a U.S. brand strategy project. Based in Valencia, Spain, the company operates out of three wineries and seeks to raise its profile and sales in the U.S. market. The company is backed by parent company, Anecoop, a $1 billion leader in fruit and vegetable growing, processing and exports.