Wine Strategic Marketing Plan

How to Write a Wine Marketing Plan: 7 Considerations

What should you consider when writing a wine marketing plan?

There is no single answer or list that is right for every winery, of course. But there are actions and processes to consider, whether it’s for a one year or five year plan.

The process of creating a wine marketing plan can be likened to planning a family vacation. Start with the general goals – e.g., relax with the family! — and get progressively more detailed — let’s rent a 3-bedroom cabin! Let’s apply this format to a marketing plan.

Seven Steps to Consider

1. What overall business goals will the winery marketing plan address? 

A marketing strategy must be grounded in a concise, written definition of the company’s short or medium-term goals, such as, “sell X cases by 2025,” or “gain retail distribution in Z states in the U.S., by X date.” Start with the big picture before you start talking about campaigns and a marketing mix.

2. Document how and where the brand will compete.

A series of brainstorming sessions—sometimes moderated by outsiders—are useful for identifying and documenting how your brand will complete. Some examples:
a. What is inherently differentiated about your brand?
b. What are the values your brand espouses? What is your brand’s DNA? Do these align with long-term consumer trends?
c. If money were no object, why would you still create a wine brand?
d. What is the 5-year “future state” of the brand given this year’s plan?
e. Why will consumers want to purchase your wine?
f. Where will your target consumers see, engage with and purchase your brand?
g. What will make your consumers lifelong ambassadors?
h. Why will wholesalers and retailers want to represent and sell your wine? What’s in it for them?
i. What is differentiated about your path to market?

3. Identify your marketing mix to include the right tactics.

Matching a set of appropriate marketing tactics — your marketing mix — to address specific business goals takes a disciplined approach. Avoid a common pitfall of starting with tactics rather than your business goals. For example, if your business goal is to drive DTC sales, then PR should not be your primary tool in your marketing toolkit.  PR is great for building credibility, but not as efficient as other direct response tools.

4.  Start with a Calendar, Budget and Metrics.

Identify what major marketing actions will take place when, how much you are willing to budget for them, and how you’ll measure success or failure. Don’t burn valuable time getting caught in the weeds of creative ideation. Identify whether you need new POS, not the colors of your shelftalkers, for example.

5.  Identify Project Champions.

Name one project champion for each major activity or function to ensure accountability.

6. Identify the Process.

So now you know what marketing functions can support your broad business goals, how your brand competes, and a broad overview of what actions will be done when and how to measure them. Next, define and document a project management process that integrates project champions – including inhouse teams and outside partners — with common management tools you’ll use, how often you’ll meet, etc.

But you’re not quite done!

7.  Get Buy-in.

Your marketing plan needs buy-in from owners and senior managers. But not just for the obvious reasons. Tap their network of contacts, their expertise, and ensure they’re publicly championing big wins across the whole company.

Additional Benefits of a Good Wine Marketing Plan

Whether long-term or short-term, a good wine or winery marketing plan produces additional benefits:

  • Goal Alignment: A clear line connecting marketing actions to larger business goals.
  • Message Consistency: Tools that help internal and external teams speak about and present the brand, consistently.
  • Transparency: A project management structure with accountability, and that is viewable across the company.
  • Accountability: Ownership of results, not just process.
  • Excitement! A good plan gets a company excited about the future.

We hope these steps — some obvious, some less so — will help make creating your plan both easier and more effective. Again, it’s not an exhaustive list — we could discuss metrics and budgets much more thoroughly, for example. But it’s a good start that avoids some missteps.

You are welcome to contact our founder and president, Jeremy Benson, for any input or advice on your own marketing plan.

 

Additional Resources and Related Stories:

Bread & Butter Wines: Uncomplicating the Category

Bread & Butter Wines Says “Don’t Overthink It”  

In an increasingly complicated world, new 360-degree campaign gives wine lovers the freedom to simply enjoy 

Novato, CA – October 20, 2020 – Life has gotten much more complicated in 2020, and Bread & Butter Wines wants to make it much easier. In a new 360-degree marketing campaign, Bread & Butter has one piece of advice – “Don’t Overthink It.”

Rolling out now, the new campaign juxtaposes complicated life decisions and overworked wine tropes with the simple, reassuring choice of picking up a bottle of Bread & Butter wine.

“It’s time to uncomplicate the category,” said Jeff Ngo, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Bread & Butter Wines. “Bread & Butter’s no-nonsense, stylish package and high-quality wine in the bottle make the portfolio a simple and delicious choice for easygoing enjoyment. No matter the situation, ‘don’t overthink it.’”

Today, Bread & Butter is the fastest growing wine brand in the $12-$15 category*.

“The media plan meets our target audience where they are throughout their day,” added Ngo. “As Bread & Butter rapidly gains in popularity across the country, we created a campaign that speaks to our times as well as a long overdue need to cut through the complicated nature of wine.”

Since its introduction, Bread & Butter Wines, with its elegantly straightforward black and white label and memorably easy name, has developed a loyal consumer following who return to the brand again and again because of its high quality, classically styled California wine. The Bread & Butter portfolio includes wine for all occasions – a juicy Pinot Noir, rich Chardonnay, robust Cabernet Sauvignon, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc, and refreshing Rosé. Bread & Butter is sold at wine retailers across the country and online at www.breadandbutterwines.com.

* (Nielsen Total U.S. Food: latest 26 weeks ending 9.5.20).

Edna Valley Vineyards of Baileyana Winery

Why Cool Climate Edna Valley is Hot

Five things to know about Edna Valley AVA.

Burr

The Coolest AVA Around.  Sitting just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and Morro Bay, Edna Valley is the single coolest AVA in California, as cited in a study from the University of Southern Oregon. This rare transverse valley funnels fog from three entry points keeping the valley particularly cool creating a long growing season. Additionally, the Morro Rock sits at the mouth of the valley. A deep, underwater ravine right off the coast creates a large mass of cool water that feeds afternoon winds and fog that settles in overnight.

Longest Growing Season

Perhaps the longest growing season in the state. Budbreak can occur as early as February and harvest lasting into November. Long, cool growing season = ultimate ripeness of fruit, while maintaining refreshing acidity levels.

Cool Climate Varieties Star

Chardonnay is the leading variety planted in the Edna Valley AVA followed by Pinot Noir. The Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay at $20 showcases the region’s famous style – fruit forward wines balanced by a backbone of acidity.

Baileyana Wines

From Chick Peas to Chardonnay

The modern era of grape growing in Edna Valley started in 1973 when the region was better known for its garbanzo beans than its Chardonnays. The AVA was recognized in 1982. Baileyana Winery’s founder Jack Niven came to the valley in the early 70s. With input from both UC Davis and Fresno State Universities, he began planting wine grapes in 1973. Jack Niven was also instrumental in the Edna Valley becoming officially recognized as an AVA.

Small but Mighty

The AVA is home to less than two dozen wineries, including client Baileyana Winery. 25,000 acres are planted in total within the AVA. (For context, there are approximately 637,000 acres under vine throughout California according to the Wine Institute – 2018. Napa Valley, another small AVA, has 46,000 acres planted to vines).

Bonus

The San Luis Obispo region, as a whole, is a favorite with filmmakers. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, for example, were used in the 2007 Pirates of the Caribbean installment

Expert Source: John H. Niven, Baileyana Brand Ambassador. John H. Niven, grandson of the late Baileyana founders, has lived and breathed Edna Valley wines for the last 20 years.

The Modern Wine Rack

The Modern Wine Rack

We’ve assembled our criteria for each coveted spot in a six-bottle wine rack. So here’s our take on “the modern wine rack.”

Sparkling Wines Shared at Other Iconic Celebrations
Save a space for some bubbly, because there will always be something to celebrate – even during Shelter in Place.

Hospitality Wine
Another space in this rack needs to be home to your ‘house wine’. You never know when you might be having someone to dinner, or even when that next virtual happy hour is.

It’s Always Rosé Season
No longer a fleeting style only seen and enjoyed during a few months of the year, rosé wine should now command a permanent space in your collection. We recommend an easy-going and approachable rosé.

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are
What really resonates with you about a wine is its story, not just its age ability. When looking at what to buy, we recommend stocking up on wines that are giving back to their communities or are produced in a way that aligns with your own values. There are also ways to support the #BLM movement by stocking up on wines from black owned wineries or winemakers.

Travel Through the Power of Your Glass
Everyone needs an escape now and then and if we can’t do it physically, do it through a wine glass. Stock up on wines from a place you’ve been to and truly love, or even some place you haven’t been, but have always wanted to explore.

Whatever Wine You Are Curious to Learn More About
There’s always something new to learn about wine, but you can also always go more in depth with the familiar. So, keep a slot in your wine rack dedicated to wines that represent something you want to learn more about.

Let us know if you need help finding a wine in any of these categories. Our clients have an array of wine that is sure to hit the spot! Contact monty@bensonmarketing.com to connect with wines to fill your rack.

panoramic view of Santa Lucia Highlands

5 Things to Know About the Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands flies under the radar for many wine lovers, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay enthusiasts know to look to this region for remarkably consistent wines. Here are five more facts to get you oriented to Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) AVA.

  • Cool Climate Varieties Dominate: The SLH AVA is comprised of 6,400 planted acres, with a majority being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is worth noting that the appellation stretches roughly 18-miles long, two miles wide, and 22,000 total acres, much of it unplantable mountainside.
  • The Pioneers: In 1973, the first commercial plantings began with early pioneers, such as Hahn Family Wines founder, Nicky Hahn, established the first quality, modern-era vineyards. In 1991, compelled by the application submitted by pioneers like, Mr. Hahn, the SLH was officially recognized as an American Viticulture Area.
  • Cool+Dry+Wind = Loooong Growing Season: It’s not atypical for a Santa Lucia Highland growing season to stretch from February through November.
  • More about that Wind: A defining feature of the region, strong daily 5-25 mph winds off Monterey Bay are key factor in long “hang time” and phenolic ripeness – winds diminish photosynthesis early in the day, extending the growing season.
  • Location, location, location: Located in Monterey County adjacent to the famed Salinas Valley, the eastern facing vineyards of the SLH stretch between 50’ and 1,650’ above sea level.

Expert Source: Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines, has spent a career understanding the wind, sun and soils of the Santa Lucia Highlands.  If you’re looking for more information regarding the SLH or about Hahn Family Wines for any upcoming features please contact Alex Parker at parker@bensonmarketing.com to schedule an interview.

Paul Clifton beside wine barrels
Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines

5 Fun Facts about Wine Direct Shipping

Here are five fun facts about winery DTC shipments, and some resources for stories on wine direct shipping.

Wineries Everywhere!

Over the past three decades, the number of U.S. wineries has increased five fold to more than 10,000. There’s one in every U.S. state!

What drives the DTC Issue?

Consumer choice. America’s wineries produce more than 100,000 new labels each vintage, more than any wholesaler or retailer could stock. It’s all about consumer choice, not, as many believe, the rise of e-commerce although that has certainly contributed.

Why do so few states allow for retailer DTC Shipments?

Over the years, wineries cooperated and supported a common “model” direct shipment bill. Additionally, many powerful local retailers oppose DTC shipping. Read our blog post

What is a “Capacity Cap?

Some states have implemented arbitrary rules banning shipments from wine companies producing, in aggregate, more than 250k gallons, about 106k cases, each vintage. This reduces consumer choice since more than 90% of U.S. total wine production is from wineries and companies producing in excess of the capacity cap. As of September 2020, two states continue the ban (NJ, OH), while others have repealed them (MA, OH).

How Many Legal States are There?

Free the Grapes! has worked with industry lobbyists, regional associations, and the Coalition for Free Trade’s legal team to streamline onerous regulations and to increase the number of legal states from 17 to 45 as of September 2020. Kentucky is expected to be number 46 by year end. (CFT “retired” in 2014 after achieving its goals. And that’s a fun fact: how many wine industry associations have shut down upon success?).

What Does Free the Grapes! Do, Anyway?

Free the Grapes! is a client of Benson Marketing Group, hired by the industry way back in 1998 to run this campaign. The coalition advocates for augmenting, not replacing, the three-tier system with limited, regulated direct-to-consumer shipments.

Free the Grapes! focuses on two strategies:

First, the coalition engages consumers to actively advocate for DTC bills that support wineries, consumer choice and meet the needs of state regulators and tax collectors. Second, Free the Grapes! keeps the issue alive in the media, especially in states with pending legislation.

Free the Grapes! was founded by five wine industry associations which together represent thousands of U.S wineries. A 501c(6) non-profit California trade association, Free the Grapes’ operations are funded exclusively by contributions from wineries and net income from the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium, an annual conference.

Expert Sources and Resources

Virtual Wine Tasting Events for Press Interview

How to Host a Private, Virtual Wine Tasting for Press

How to do you plan and host a successful, private virtual wine tasting for press?

Sarah Jones Gillihan, vice president at Benson Marketing Group, was interviewed by journalist Stacy Briscoe for Wine Industry Network. Here are the key points from their video interview:

  1. Find the Intersections.  Regardless of the format of the virtual tasting, find the intersection where your winery’s story intersects with current trend, or, if it bucks trends.
  2. Webinars are Storytelling Opportunities. Facts like pH and row orientation don’t make good storytelling. Think about these virtual press encounters as opportunities to share your winery’s insights and expertise, not just facts and figures.
  3. A Webinar is not a Wine Tasting.  Too many press webinars simply try to translate an in-person wine tasting to the digital realm. But the experience itself is different, because the medium is different. Generally, if you might have a 60 minute in-person tastings for a journalist, do the virtual version in 30 minutes.
  4. Use Multimedia. Two dimensional virtual tastings benefit by the use of pre-recorded video, props, and other “show and tell” that convert a boring monologue into a more engaging encounter.
  5. Who’s Your Audience’s Audience? How does your webinar connect with the journalist or freelancer’s specific audience? So do your homework: research their last 5 articles, understand the demographics of their media outlet, and know the outlets slant.
  6. Share their Story. Make a point of sharing the writer’s story through the winery’s social channels; their ‘report card’ is often determined based on engagement.

Until then…we’ll focus on virtual press tastings, webinars.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes

Additionally, there are practical tips for ensuring the webinar is productive and professional.

Here are a few mistakes we often see and ways to correct them:

  • Weak Internet Connection: Wherever possible, use a plugged in Internet connection rather than WiFi during your session. We’ve seen live interviews from the vineyard on a cell phone, with poor cell coverage, in high wind – it doesn’t work.
  • Bad Audio: Use a wireless or wired microphone/headset for better audio quality. Simple earbuds are often better than relying on your laptop’s mic.
  • Poor Lighting; Find an indoor location with good lighting on your face that avoids shadows.
  • Unflattering Camera Position: Ideally, the camera should be positioned slightly above your head, pointing down to your face, not the opposite.
  • Reverse Video: If you hold up a bottle to show a pretty label, make sure you know if the image is reversed for the viewer.

At Benson, we believe virtual press tastings are here to stay. Today’s wine writer is likely a time-strapped freelancer who needs to pitch her editors and get assignments. She doesn’t have time for luxurious lunches and multi-day press trips unless there’s an assignment.

Bottom line: it’s about respect. Respect for journalists’ time, respect for the demands of their editors, and respect for their audience. If you take an empathetic approach and do your research, you are more likely to help deliver successful, productive virtual wine tasting events for you and the media. That leads to coverage.

Resources and Related Stories

WIN Interview: Stacy Briscoe, Sarah Jones Gillihan
Interview Series: Jeff Ngo, SVP Marketing, WX Brands.

Where’s Stella Rosa? America’s #1 Selling 750ml Brand Reports Record Demand

Stella Rosa, America’s favorite semi-sweet, semi-sparkling Italian wine, is shockingly absent from shelves. The top selling wine brand in the U.S., Stella Rosa has seen such high demand in 2020 that some of its favorite wines are currently available in very low quantities or completely out of inventory.

Want the new Stella Rosa Watermelon or Blueberry? Perhaps you desire something island inspired, such as the Stella Rosa Pineapple or Tropical Mango? Maybe you had your heart set on one of the Stella Rosa packs of single-serve cans for your socially-distanced get-togethers with friends. Retailers around the country are reporting that clamoring fans have just one question, “Where’s my Stella Rosa?”

Stella Rosa planned for increased orders of its favorite wines in 2020 but could not have predicted the even higher demand during the current Covid-19 pandemic. When the winery released their popular wines in single-serving cans, for example, stock was sold out in less than one month. “Stellabrations” will, indeed, return soon. A new shipment of Stella Rosa’s favorite flavors is in rotta from Italy as we speak.

In the meantime, the family-owned winery has created the Supply My Stella Sweepstakes. Can’t find the Stella Rosa flavors you’ve been looking for? Enter the Supply My Stella Rosa sweepstakes to help the winery restock Stella Rosa in your area faster. Winners receive a $500 Visa gift card. Stella Rosa will give away a gift card every day until 9/18/20! Must be 21+ and a US resident to enter. Contest ends 9/18/20 at 11:59 pm PST.

About Stella Rosa® Wines: Stella Rosa is a selection of semi-sweet, semi-sparkling Italian wines. Among its impressive achievements are a 7x Impact Magazine Hot Brand award and its positions as the #1 Italian import and the fastest selling wine brand of the top 20 brands, according to Nielsen. Stella Rosa is created by the Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery, a Los Angeles establishment since 1917. For more information, visit www.stellarosawines.com.

Wine Marketing Interview Title Slide

Pivoting and Re-imagining Wine Marketing: Digital, DTC and PR Winery Marketing During COVID-19

Back in spring we published a blog on how winery marketing can pivot to adapt to changes wrought by COVID-19. Like you, we wondered which adaptations in DTC and 3-tier sales, trade education, PR and social media marketing would stick after COVID influences lessen.

But rather than pivoting, shouldn’t we also be re-imagining these strategies? Rather than “only” moving some marketing actions online, shouldn’t we also re-think end results and then back into new ways of achieving our goals?

Changing your point-of-view opens vast new possibilities.

For some perspective we asked Jeff Ngo, Senior Vice President Marketing at WX Brands to weigh in on this topic. During this mid-August 2020 interview, Jeff identifies areas that WX Brands and others are pivoting to and re-imagining for a post-COVID world — what will stay, and what will go?

 

Jeff Ngo, Senior Vice President, Marketing, WX Brands

Jeff Ngo, SVP Marketing, WX Brands

 

Here are some shifts we’re making at Benson:

More Comprehensive Story Pitches: Take the full story to them. With myriad restrictions on travel, we’re providing our network of journalist contacts with a much richer set of resources than pre-COVID. Zoom calls are fine for some occasions, but we’re also building more robust, multi-media ‘packages’ of stories, anchored with prerecorded and live winemaker Q&As and tastings. Our colleague, Sarah Jones Gillihan, covered this topic in an interview conducted by Stacey Briscoe for the Wine Industry Network.

Broadening DTC Wine Symposium’s Benefits: Rather than just porting the Symposium’s program online, the Steering Committee and Benson team are re-imagining how to broaden the conference’s educational scope, part of its mission. Previously, many DTC managers didn’t have the budget or time for a 2-day conference. But a virtual conference can certainly achieve our twin goals of providing a robust, practical educational conference while raising funds for Free the Grapes!

Stay tuned for more exciting news this fall. www.dtcwinesymposium.com.

Advertising that Drives Retail Sales: We’re expanding social platform advertising to drive more consumer sales at our client’s retail partners, not just winery DTC sales. More consumers now are enjoying the convenience of receiving wines directly from retailers, and digital ads are a cost-effective way to reach them.  And yes, we need to cite multiple retailers to stay within tied-house laws.

 

Related Posts:

Wine Digital Marketing Post-Covid: https://bensonmarketing.com/wine-digital-marketing-post-covid/

Rethinking Marketing Budgeting, Part 2: https://bensonmarketing.com/rethinking-marketing-budgeting-part-2/

Riboli Estates Group PR Launch Image

Riboli Family Wines Creates New Division

Los Angeles, CA – August 25, 2020 – Riboli Family Wines, a family-owned company founded in 1917, announces the launch of Riboli Estates Group, a new division dedicated to its portfolio of ultra-premium and luxury wine brands sourced from the Riboli family’s estate vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa Valley. The Riboli Estates Group will focus on growing the family’s portfolio of wine labels including San Simeon, Maddalena, Opaque, Riboli Family Vineyard, Windstream, and a forthcoming new brand, Highlands 41.  

The Riboli Family, while experiencing amazing success with Stella Rosa, the #1 selling 750ml wine brand and one of the fastest-growing wine brands in the U.S.*, has always had an eye to the future and the next big endeavor for the company.  In 1986, the family purchased their first piece of land in Rutherford, Napa Valley, then continued to purchase land in Monterey and more recently invested in acquiring and planting new vineyards in the highly desired Paso Robles region. Today, the family owns over 1,000 planted vineyard acres in California – which are 100% sustainably grown in Paso Robles and Monterey – from these prestigious wine regions.  

In addition, the family completed construction on a state-of-the-art, sustainably certified, energy efficient winery and event center in Paso Robles several years ago.  The Riboli Family Winemaking & Event Center, was designed with the very latest sustainable winemaking technology that shows the family’s commitment, not only to creating fine wines, but to preserving natural resources. Of note, the winemaking facility is entirely powered by solar panels and recycles 100% of all water used.   

“From ground to glass, maintaining control of our estate-based wines is essential to the sustainability of our family business,” says Anthony Riboli, fourth-generation vintner. “Our tremendous viticultural and production investments behind these wines play a critical role with the development of this new division. We are committed to growing these exceptional wines for the California wine industry and future generations of the Riboli family.”  

While dubbing the new division with trade partners over the last several months as “Project X,” the Riboli Family made significant enhancements to their infrastructure and invested in a dedicated marketing and sales teams. Consumers and distributor partners alike can now explore all the award-winning wines within this portfolio under the name, Riboli Estates Group. 

“We understand our wine consumer not only through our 100+ years in the industry, but also through our tasting room and a team keeping a pulse on industry trends and staying competitive in the ultra-premium and luxury wine business,” says Paul Hecht, National Sales Manager. “These remarkable wines now have a setting to shine and allow us to remain forward thinking, with a strategic approach to our distributor partners and consumers alike; all with the intent of setting up everyone involved in this new division for success.” 

The Riboli Estates Group consists of: 

  • Estate Grown Wine 
  • Certified Sustainable Winery & Vineyards  
  • Family Owned since 1917  

To download Riboli Estates Group photo visit our Dropbox 

About Riboli Family Wines 

Riboli Family Wines, a family-owned company since 1917, celebrates over a century crafting award-winning wines from both California’s most prestigious wine-growing regions of Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley, in addition to Stella Rosa®, the #1 selling 750ml imported Italian wine brand. With a natural affinity for creativity and innovation, the 3rd and 4th generations of the Riboli Family continue to lead the industry and push the boundaries of winemaking and the wine drinking experience. For more information, please visit www.riboliwines.com. 

Press Contacts  

 Marie Christina Batich, Benson Marketing Group  batich@bensonmarketing.com, 917.633.6002 Ext 15 

 Natasha Hayes, Riboli Family Wines, natasha.hayes@riboliwines.com 415.608.8050