8 Things We Learned at the 2019 DTC Wine Symposium

Every year, the DTC Wine Symposium addresses the timely issues affecting direct to consumer marketing and sales. Group panels and keynote speakers zero in on what managers need to know now in the context of a rapidly changing sales channel.

Our team identified several actionable takeaways from this year’s symposium. In no particular order, here are eight.

Micro-influencers are misunderstood

At Benson, we engage influencers in “wine-adjacent” lifestyle topics such as home entertaining, décor, and travel to pull new consumers into our clients’ digital ecosystems. So while our clients have had success with these programs, it was fascinating for us to hear DTC managers’ perspective – many complained that micro-influencers are always asking for comp’d tastings! Our suggestion: shuffle influencer inquiries to the PR team or your PR agency for vetting to ensure that consistent brand messages are shared and the most is made from their visit.

Rules governing social media are evolving

Making the wrong move on social media, even accidentally, can result in loss of license or severe fines. Thankfully, Tracy Genesen at Wine Institute shared some important rules and best practices for staying legal on social media. These are the key lessons we walked away with:

  • Put your social media in the hands of industry-savvy professionals you trust
  • Get all stakeholders on the same page on what is and isn’t legal before starting social media program.
  • Don’t assume previous rules are still in effect.

At Benson, our team stays up to date on regulations in the wine and spirit space, better protecting our digital marketing clients. Should you have specific questions about what is and isn’t legal in your marketing campaigns, we recommend referring to The Wine Institute for more information.

Social media is often overlooked

Social media is not always valued as an important part of the overall marketing communication strategy. We heard that some DTC managers of smaller wineries view social media as an optional extra that might be tacked onto an employee’s existing job duties. With this mentality, social is simply not used to its full potential – as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Social media can be utilized to strengthen bonds with your existing fanbase, to share time-sensitive information, to encourage online sales and in-person visits, and moreover, to communicate your brand story to a new audience. In planning out your brand’s social media content and putting attention into community management, your holistic marketing strategy is immediately strengthened – as well as your ability to reach a wider (and often, younger) demographic.

The wine industry is overlooking female consumers

… and missing out on the 7 trillion dollars they spend in the US each year. The previously dependable “older male, wine collector” customer persona is increasingly becoming a relic of the past. To keep up with the times, Kristi Faulkner of WomenKind urged DTCWS attendees not to underestimate the buying power, and wine interest, American women possess. If you’re ready to take the jump, don’t assume marketing to women will be similar to your previous tactics. Kristi recommends to:

  • Create an immersive/engaging experience in your tasting room
  • Draw your female customers into the story of the brand
  • Create an emotional experience for her, as it is more likely to be remembered

The key question tasting room managers should be asking themselves is: When a woman walks into your winery, what senses can you engage in the first five minutes?

Creating a personal online experience is key

Commerce7’s sponsor session “3 Transformational Changes Impacting the Digital Customer Experience and How to Apply them to Your DTC Program” hammered one key point home: consumers want to build a relationship with your brand. Some digitally savvy wineries achieve this online through smart member dashboards and segmented email lists. Our take: don’t overlook community management. One of the most direct ways to build camaraderie with your fans is through social media engagement, this includes:

  • Respond to questions or comments received on your social pages
  • Find and engage with social posts where your wines or winery have been tagged
  • Recognize and build relationships with highly engaged fans
  • Support sommeliers that love your wines
  • Pay attention to adjacent topics your fans are interested in besides wine, and work that into your communications

Through well-executed community management, we’ve seen fan growth on social media pages of up to 10% month over month, without any advertising spend.

Winery DTC is maturing

The much-anticipated Wine Direct to Consumer Shipping Report compiled by Sovos and Wines & Vines was released in concert with General Manager Larry Cormier’s keynote speech this year. Larry pointed out that legal winery DTC states comprise 95% of the US population, and the remaining 5 illegal states will not add much to sales growth. So while the growth rates are still in the double digits, future rates are likely to slow.

But there’s still plenty of room for expansion

One could assume that as the DTC category matures and grows at somewhat less-torrid rates than year’s past, the average bottle price would drop. Not so; it rose 2.4% to nearly $40/bottle, which is about 4x the average bottle price sold through the retail channel. And there appears to be a lot of upside outside California, which comprises 12% of US population but a robust 30% of DTC winey sales by volume.

What form will competition take?

While many, if not most, wineries invest in creating experiences for guests, average visits per winery are dropping. Future revenue growth is likely to be less correlated with onsite visitor counts. What does this mean? Probably more flexible and personalized subscription benefits, better digital marketing, and possibly more “in-market” activations such as wine dinners and consumer events.  Certainly it will help to further professionalize the use of existing tactics (email, SEO, etc.), but we believe it will take broader marketing strategies to really move the needle for brands, such as a tighter integration of 3-tier and DTC marketing strategies.

Wine Marketing: Napa Valley Style

Under new leadership, Napa Valley’s legendary Clos Du Val winery began its current transformation in the vineyards four years ago, focusing on estate wines and production investments. The winery’s evolution continued this fall with the opening of a new visitor center, called the Hirondelle House, and a new set of guest experiences.

Hirondelle House is drop dead gorgeous. It welcomes guests into a chic setting adjacent to vineyards and winery production. The message is clear: Clos Du Val wants to connect guests emotionally to not only its wines, but also to its estate vineyards. The room is modern but cozy, providing conversational nooks, a variety of tasting options, and a seamless inside/outside design featuring a 60-foot sliding glass door and 3,000 square foot patio. You want to stay, wander around, and explore. Designed by Michael Guthrie & Co Architects, with interiors by Erin Martin Design, it’s the latest must-visit winery in the Napa Valley.

“Guest expectations have changed over the last decade, and wineries also need to evolve,” stated Clos Du Val President and CEO Steve Tamburelli, echoing a larger trend in retail away from a transactional point of view and toward an experience POV.  Over the past decade or so, onsite winery marketing in Napa Valley, and elsewhere, increasingly centers on creating an experience that connects guests emotionally with the winery and its wines, and the winery’s unique “sparkle” that makes it compelling.  Visitors are spending more time at each winery, which drives down the average wineries visited per day, but deepens the memories of each visit.

This trend is now prevalent with specialty retailers, too. For example, home furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware now has a restaurant in Napa Valley. For an interesting read on this trend, visit  https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/specialty-retailers-are-getting-into-the-restaurant-business/

Monty, Mooshagian, Garren Join Benson

To manage digital and PR projects in both Benson’s Napa and New York offices, the agency has hired three new professionals.  All three will contribute to US-based campaigns for wine brands, regions, and spirits companies. Cristen Monty joined the agency’s New York office this month. Her PR expertise was honed in New York agencies including Rubenstein PR and JMG PR. Erin Mooshagian joined the Napa office with a background in technical and freelance wine writing for a variety of outlets, as well as wine education at Domaine Carneros winery Finally, Amanda Garren also joins the Napa office; her background focuses on in-bound marketing campaigns for SaaS companies outside the wine and spirits industry.

Greg Metze, Master Distiller, Old Elk Distillery

Old Elk Distillery Taps Benson

Benson has begun promotional work with Old Elk Distillery, supporting the company’s distribution expansion and helping to drive consumer awareness. The company was founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur Curt Richardson. His desire to craft spirits that embody both innovation and legacy led him to create a distinctive house of brands out of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Today, legendary master distiller Greg Metze leads production:

  • Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 4x times the malted barley as traditional mash bills, and a slow-cut proofing process for smoothness.
  • Dry Town Gin: crisp citrus notes and Colorado sage jump out of the glass of this mixologist-friendly 92 proof spirit.
  • Nooku Bourbon Cream: The TTB had to create a new “category of one” for Nooku because it’s just bourbon and dairy cream, that’s it.

Watch this company because they are doing things right: investing for the long-haul, adding legendary distiller Greg Metze to the team, building their own distillery, quickly building a distribution platform, and opening The Reserve, a restaurant/bar in old town Fort Collins that doubles as a test bed for new spirits innovations.  And they grill a mean Elk burger.

For more information visit: www.oldelk.com

New Office for Benson FR

Appropriately, Benson France is one of the first companies to move into Lyon’s new gourmet landmark, l’Hôtel Dieu.
If you’ve been to Lyon in the past 4-5 years, you’ll recognize the rehabilitated, historic building along the Rhone. In 2019 the building will open the Cité de la Gastronomie, which will be dedicated to all things epicurean and healthy living. The landmark building is also home to a new 5-star hotel, a number of restaurants and shops, and modern office space for a wide range of companies dedicated to food, wine and technology. It’s the new hub of Lyon and an obvious move for us.  We hope to see you soon at l’Hôtel Dieu!

O.R.E. 118 Raw Vegan Gin

Introducing: 118 + 1st Raw Vegan Gin

Benson is pleased to start working with O.R.E. 118 Raw Vegan Gin, the first spirit of its kind in the U.S. and the only spirit to be allowed a Raw Vegan claim on its Certificate of Label Approval.

The gin was launched in time for National Gin Day on June 9. While there are other vegan gins – where no animal products or by-products are used in their distillation or filtration – O.R.E. 118 is the only raw gin available in the U.S. market. The gin is “raw” because throughout its entire fermentation and distillation process it is kept below 118 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature above which many enzymes break down and foods and beverages are no longer considered raw.

This genre-defining spirit is the creation of founder Robert Elder. While dining at a raw vegan restaurant in Manhattan he requested a gin martini. Dismayed to discover that martinis were not served because there were no spirits that were both raw and vegan, he undertook to change that and established his family-run company, 118 + 1st, to produce hand-crafted, raw spirits. The name of Elder’s inaugural product, O.R.E. 118 Gin, has a double meaning: O.R.E. stands for “Original Raw Essence,” and the letters are also his father’s initials.

“You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy O.R.E. 118 Gin,” Elder says. “With its juniper, ginger and pepper notes, our gin is ideal for purists and cocktail enthusiasts alike. Still, it fills a need in the market for raw and vegan spirits. If gin is one of your favorite spirits, as it is mine, then you will love the depth of flavor and smooth finish O.R.E. 118 Gin offers, whether you are a vegan or an omnivore.”

O.R.E. 118 Gin can be found at well-known restaurants across New York City, including Nobu, Batard and Aquavit, and is currently featured on the cocktail lists at Candle 79 and Tribeca Grill. It is available for purchase at Crush Wine & Spirits and Mister Wright Fine Wine & Spirits, and is distributed by Opici Family Distributing.

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.

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