2023 is Here

Hot Off The (Basket) Press

Our clients seem to be collecting accolades like squirrels collect acorns.

Congratulations to the viticulture, winemaking, sales, and exec teams who have contributed to their success! We’re proud to work with such successful partners and their brands.

A few examples:

  • Raeburn Winery: 4th consecutive Impact “Hot Prospect” award
  • Highlands 41: Wine Enthusiast’s #1 Value Wine of 2022
  • Redwood Empire Whiskey: Bottled-in-Bond #2 reviewed by virtually every whiskey reviewer
  • Xanadu Winery: Halliday Wine Companion’s Winemaker of the Year (Glenn Goodall); and multiple WA 95 pt scores
  • Hahn Family Wines: 2020 Smith & Hook Central Coast Cab “hedonistically satisfying,” according to Wine Enthusiast’s Matt Kettmann (92 pts)
  • Montes Wines: Its super icon, “Muse,” now distributed through La Place de Bordeaux
  • Campari Group: Espolon Tequila, Wild Turkey both on Impact Newsletter’s “Blue Chip” Brands 2022
  • Mount Langi Ghiran: A Shiraz in the same league as Penfolds and Henschke, according to Food & Wine magazine
  • Balletto Vineyards: 100% solar powered in 2022
  • Stella Rosa: the #1 imported wine, and Riboli Family Wines’ bright star, sold 7.2m cases in 2021.
We’ll Drink to That

Watch for these clients and brands to make big strides in 2023:

  • Biltmore Winery: 40th anniversary of bottling their first wines crafted from North Carolina grapes
  • Teliani Valley: Georgia’s leading winery is tapping younger consumers’ interest (see article)
  • KRIS Wines: Next year’s 30th vintage will see this Pinot Grigio specialist expand
  • San Simeon: Watch this Riboli Family Wines brand continue to rack up 90+ scores
  • Rathbone Wine Group: Distribution expansion will underscore Australia’s competitiveness in luxury price points, especially for RWG brands Yering Station, Xanadu, and Mount Langi Ghiran
Are Grit and Resiliency the Watch Words for 2023?

What can wine and spirits brand marketers learn from past downturns to prepare for potentially slower growth in 2023?

Our blog post from back in June 2022 tackles this topic, drawing on our experiences in the dot-com crash, Great Recession, COVID, etc., as well as key insights from industry leaders. The findings may surprise you.

Need Help with 2023 Plans?

We’ve updated our deck, “Marketing Communications Guidelines,” which provides recommendations on what PR and digital marketing functions are best in-sourced, outsourced or combined. And how much it all costs. Twenty-two years of advice in less than 20 slides. Just email us for a free copy.

Additional Sources/Resources:


[Editor’s Note: The information in this post was included in an email to our industry network 10/27/22 but received such a positive response we decided to turn it into a blog post. If you’re interested in receiving our periodic newsletters — and by “periodic” we really mean, “we don’t have time for more than 6 per year” — please sign up here. Thank you.]

Here’s How Wine, Spirits Marketing Can Manage a Recession

Successful wine and spirits brands have navigated their marketing and sales through recessions before. What can we learn from them?

This post offers suggestions, and a bit of history, for brand marketing, sales, and budgeting.

We start with a few reminders that may calm your nerves while inflation soars in mid-June 2022, and, just today, the Federal Reserve raised its rate by 75 basis points.


We are marketers, not economists, but after surviving in this business for several decades, we know a few things about the category:

  • Resiliency: Wine and spirits sales have been shown to be more resilient to economic pressures relative to other categories. A great cocktail or glass of wine is a low-cost treat.
  • Loyalty and Market Share are High Priorities: We operate in a low-growth category. Implication: maintaining availability, share of mind, brand loyalty, and relevancy in the marketplace are key to long-term success. Wine Intelligence wrote an interesting blog post on this.
  • Trading Down May Not Last Long: A study of the Great Recession’s impact on wine sales by price tier showed that trading down drove low-priced wine sales in 2009, but quickly “reversed during the economic recovery in 2010…while both mid- and high-priced wine sales increased substantially.” as reported by WineBusiness.com.

You might think a marketing agency like ours would recommend NOT cutting advertising and promotion spend. But our recommendations offer, and history suggests, a more nuanced approach.

  1. Channel Marketing Budgets to What’s Working: During the Great Recession, Delicato Vineyards focused marketing budgets on core brands, brand building, and customer loyalty…and grew by 30%. They used social media to “listen to how consumers are impacted,” according to Chris Indelicato, CEO, to better target messages. There’s an insightful article in Meininger’s Wine Business International that details their success.
  2. Promote Your Full Product Range: Don’t neglect to promote your lower-priced SKUs – you want your loyal fans to stay loyal, even if they’re trading down.
  3. Don’t Try to Compete with Cost Leaders: During the Great Recession, companies who changed strategies to compete with cost leaders lost. Those that doubled down on their differentiators won, according to a study summarized by Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/07/avoid-making-this-strategic-mistake-in-a-recession
  4. Mitigate Sales Channel Risk: Yes, DTC sales are higher margin. But don’t make a knee-jerk reaction by neglecting 3-tier sales. Use low-cost, digital advertising to build or maintain PODs and pull-through. Here’s a post we wrote on this topic.
  5. Focus on Moving Inventory, Not Just Cost Reduction: We all know managing inventories is key to financial stability. Some brands reacted to the Great Recession by slashing below the line costs. Other companies took a less draconian approach, deploying temporary price promotions to hit lower price points that drove consumer demand and pull-through. Bottom line: it’s more important to move inventory than attempt to maintain a high shelf price in the face of stiff headwinds.
  6. Think Like Warren Buffet: If other brands are scared and slashing marketing budgets, you know that every dollar you spend on PR, digital marketing, and social media will be, 1) seen in a less crowded, less noisy marketplace; 2) more effective at driving depletions and pull-through; and 3) likely less expensive to purchase than pre-recession as media companies lower prices.
  7. Partner with Vendors to Help Improve Cashflow: As a follow up to the previous recommendation, tap your partners’ expertise – ask them to present some optional budget levels. We’ve time-shifted activations, switched ad optimizations from awareness-building or Page Likes to retail-driving ads, and other actions that seek to maintain cashflow and market share in tough times.

So, what happens when companies effectively manage through a recession?

  • Maintain Cashflow: Temporary price promotions move inventory and can maintain working capital.
  • Grow Market Share: Delicato grew 30%, as mentioned above.
  • Deepen Brand Loyalty: Get your loyal consumers to purchase your whole product range, including the lower price tiers that may not get as much attention from marketing.
  • Build Brand Awareness: More efficient and effective marketing spend.
  • Stay Relevant: A more differentiated brand helps your 2nd and 3rd tier partners.

We end on a more personal note. Less than 2 years after Benson was founded, we had a client that represented 35% of our revenue abruptly cancel our contract one month after 9/11. We quickly doubled down on broadening our service offering to both new and existing clients. Within 6 months we replaced that 35% hit, exiting the experience a much stronger company that set up rapid growth in the ensuing years. (And we’ve never had a client represent such a large share of the business.)


Additional Articles:  Here are some sources and articles on this topic we found useful.



California Wine Shipments by Year: https://wineinstitute.org/our-industry/statistics/california-wine-shipments/


Post Script:

It may sound counterintuitive, but many successful companies started during recessions, and even depressions – to name one: E & J. Gallo (1933).

Mount Langi Ghiran, part of the Rathbone Wine Group

Where the Wild (Consumers) Are

Let’s talk about aligning marketing functions to meet your brand goals.

Agencies like ours tend to couch our language in terms of marketing functions such as PR, social media, digital advertising, and the like.

There are good reasons for this. People have specialized expertise. Organizational charts reflect that expertise. And budgets are often carved out by function.

Prospective clients often take the same function-first approach, e.g., We need an influencer program, or we need more press coverage when what their goals require is a combination of marketing functions.

This isn’t a criticism, but a result of the increasingly complex world of marketing communications, the tools available, and the means of measuring results.

But before we get there, first a little math (sorry).

The Calculus of Brand Awareness

If your goals include raising consumer awareness of your brand, you need to get the right message to the right audience with enough frequency to create interest and desire. To create memory. Simply put, message x frequency = impressions. And the more, and more effective, impressions lead to higher brand awareness.

Applying Theory to Reality

Think about how you, as a consumer, remember brands. It’s a recommendation from a friend. You read a blog post, news story, email, or social post. You watched a compelling video. That is, you probably received brand messages through multiple media sources in different formats.

Now, apply that to your brand. How do you communicate all that is wild and wonderful about your brand in this highly fragmented marketplace? It’s not an easy task.

But here’s a tip: strip away the language of marketing functions and focus on the math of brand awareness.

Focus on impressions — the number of times a consumer sees your brand message. Message x frequency = impressions. Impressions most likely lead to heightened awareness, as previously mentioned. But!

Not All Impressions are Created Equal

If you frame brand marketing in terms of impressions, you will start asking some interesting questions:

  • Which impressions are more or less “sticky” (creating a memory, a click, or are just fleeting?)
  • Why are my Facebook Reels generating so many more impressions than my Instagram Stories?
  • Does the benefit of reaching an influencer’s audience outweigh their fees and your staff’s time, which could instead be channeled into low-cost ads?
  • What impression platforms tend to drive higher page views/session?
  • How can impressions create different calls to action?

With this commonsense approach – how to drive the right impressions to the right audience at the right time through different media channels – we can address some of the key challenges in wine and spirits marketing.

Feeling Lost? Start with Location

Geo-targeted campaigns are increasingly effective for our clients, nearly regardless of budget.

Here are the key steps:

  • Choose Focus Markets: Identify 3-5 cities/markets that are most important to your brand.
  • Social Media Advertising: Concentrate brand awareness ads, and retail-driving ads, in your focus markets (more on this below) for a test phase, then a roll-out phase.
  • Public Relations: Concentrate earned media coverage in those focus markets.
  • Events/In-market Activations: Tastings, restaurant tie-ins, mixology events, and other promotions can be concentrated in your focus markets.

Retail-Driving Advertising

Retail-driving ads are simply Facebook/Instagram ads that include a discrete mention of 2-3 unaffiliated retail licensees where the brand is available, and target consumers interested in your category that reside a few miles from the mentioned licensees. Yes, this is legal in most states – and yes, you need to check first – as long you follow some basic rules. (Pro Tip: The TTB will review your ads for compliance, at no charge, if you email them at market.compliance@ttb.gov.)

Why do these retail-driving ads work? They tend to address several challenges at once:

  • Reach consumers already interested in your category (e.g., whiskey, red wine, etc.)
  • Reach consumers who may already shop at the retailers mentioned
  • Demonstrates support for retail partners by driving local traffic to their stores
  • Provides wholesalers with sales tools (media plans) that demonstrate brand support.

While certainly not “invented here,” we have had success with this integrated approach. Can we tell if ConsumerA saw a Facebook ad and purchased that brand at a retailer? No. But we have seen retailers add SKUs and local wholesale teams get excited about selling our client’s brands. The alternatives can be more costly and less targeted.

Everyone Wins

What do the most successful wine and spirits brands have in common? Everyone in the value chain benefits from them.

Wholesalers want an “easy selling” brand with a campaign that drives buzz. Retailers need store traffic and a differentiated offer, especially from the big box stores and grocery chains. Wine and spirits brands need awareness, ACV, depletions, and advocates. Finally, regulators need compliance; there is no “gray area.”

Combining geo-targeted PR, social media advertising, and other activations can help sales build distribution and pull-through. All the big players do this – with large budgets – but many smaller and medium-sized brands can benefit with this cost-effective, scalable approach.

PC: Mount Langi Ghiran, part of the Rathbone Wine Group portfolio.

Celebrating Women’s History Month, All Year

To cap off Women’s History Month 2022, Benson assembled leaders in the wine and spirits industry for a far-reaching conversation on March 24.

The press webinar included thought-leading panelists holding a variety of roles with wine and spirits brands, from California to South Africa, including vineyard management, winemaking, marketing, and distilling.

The webinar was part of our “BensonLive Presents,” a series of recorded discussions covering relevant topics, and available on our YouTube channel.

The March 2022 webinar was moderated by Benson’s Thea Schlendorf, and included an illustrious panel:

We are proud to work with each of these thought leaders and appreciate their time, insights, and recommendations!

But that’s not all!  For more inspiration, we’ve included backgrounds of other clients in our “Expert Sources” entry for March titled, “Celebrate Women’s History Month by Spotlighting these Women in Wine.”

Wine Business Top 50: Congratulations to the Innovators!

We are proud of the work we do for each client and, this month, we highlight four dynamic clients named to Wine Business’ “Top 50 Largest Wineries” for 2022.

Each of them has pursued a distinctive path to success. But what they have in common – in addition to keeping us busy! – is their focus on innovation:

  • WX Brands: A very successful portfolio of national brands includes fast-growing Bread & Butter, a multi-year IMPACT Hot Prospect awardee. B&B introduced line extensions — up rather than the more common practice of moving down the price scale — with new Napa Valley AVA wines and a Napa Valley tasting room to showcase them. Their “don’t overthink it” campaign is cutting through a lot of marketing noise. And that’s just one of their national brands. https://www.wxbrands.com/
  • Hahn Family Wines: To complement their high-end Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Santa Lucia Highlands, Hahn added a new Appellation Series from Arroyo Seco. After 40 years of winemaking, they continue to innovate — their Smith & Hook label of Central Coast and Paso reds and a new Sauvignon Blanc is gaining traction in the market. https://www.hahnwines.com/
  • Purple Brands: Raeburn Winery Chardonnay is a national phenomenon. It’s another win in owner Derek Benham’s history of successes. Within Purple’s spirits group, Redwood Empire Whiskey is defining “California whiskey,” launched two bottled-in-bond expressions last fall, and holds the largest inventory of ageing whiskeys in the state. https://purplebrands.com/
  • Riboli Family Wines: In just a few months, the Riboli family has deepened its senior leadership team, purchased Jada Vineyards & Winery and two vineyards in Paso Robles supplying their Paso Robles and Monterey-based brands. But we’re burying the lead: their Stellar Rosa brand is now #1 in retail value for wines priced above $10, according to IMPACT, with a No-Alc line introduced in January. https://riboliwines.com/
Best PR Practices 2021

7 PR Best Practices: Benson’s Holiday Edition!

How do you generate stellar press coverage during the holidays, the most competitive season for wine and spirits sales?

An analysis of our actions and results in OND led us to write this summary of PR best practices: holiday edition!

Like many marketing challenges, there is no one solution. A series of coordinated PR, social media, and digital actions helped raise brand awareness and sales. Here are 7 PR best practices that drove press coverage and sales for our clients:

1. Thanksgiving in June!  Pitching long lead magazines in early summer planted seeds for placements in Country Living and Coveteur, among others.  These were also helped along by a press webinar in May and repeated follow-up.

Holiday PR Best Practices

2. Don’t Forget TV. TV doesn’t provide us wine marketers with engagement like social media, but it provides great reach. And sales teams have a positive, visceral reaction to TV coverage. We retained a chef spokesperson promoting our theme, “Thanksgiving in 90 Minutes” last fall. The action resulted in a coverage on FOX national TV, as well as several regional TV morning shows, giving a huge boost to the brand’s reach and to an energized sales team.

3. Gift Early and Often. Several pitches addressed a wide range of gifting occasions, price points, and interests. Here’s an example from Forbes. Also, think outside the wine or spirits category and link your brand to other interests whose popularity correlates positively. For example, wine drinkers index high for skiing, travel, and tennis.

4. Content is King. Thematic webinars packed a lot of story ideas into 60-minute “BensonLive Presents” sessions this past year. We covered new product intros, varietal styles, bubbles, and more. We can directly link our webinars and pitching on one client to OND results in Town & Country, Forbes, Country Living, Philadelphia Inquirer, and several others. Here’s a link to PR best practices for press webinars.

5. Turn PR Results into Sales Tools. Coverage is half the battle; getting these placements packaged up for sales’ use in trade presentations is key to generating brand excitement. A simple, one-pager PDF with an email detailing the outlet, writer, headline, quotation, and importantly, its relevancy to the brand message drives home the point.

6. Turn Accolades into Digital Ads: Leave room in your Ed Cals to mention accolades and recommendations. Simple enough. But don’t shout out your scores. Use accolades as secondary or tertiary messages that reinforce your brand’s identity. Let your fans know critics also believe they made the right decision.


7. Get on Board: Trending Cocktails. The espresso martini craze provided an opportunity to ride this trend with St. George Spirits’ delicious NOLA Coffee Liqueur, resulting in coverage in The Manual, Forbes, The Spruce Eats, Delish, and more.





Bonus Item: Dry January.  Feature stories on no and low-alcohol recommendations are written in November and December for January publication. Don’t miss out! We landed placements for no-alcohol wines by Stella Rosa and Veuve du Vernay in outlets like Men’s Journal, SevenFifty Daily, Vanity Fair, and Well and Good.

Sources and Resources:

Balletto Vineyards

Preparing for H2: 4 Marketing Projects to Tackle Now

What can strategic marketers do in the next few months to plan for a successful second half of 2021?

In this post we make some assumptions based on economic data and recommend specific actions for preparing for a successful H2.

Let’s Start with Assumptions

It’s March 16, 2021. As we write this post, we can make some relatively safe assumptions drawing on current economic data and consumer behavior:

  • Massive Economic Stimulus: Stuck at home, America’s retail sales jumped 7.4% in January versus January 2020, even before the latest stimulus checks. America has $1.6 trillion in excess savings during the past year, according to The Economist¹. And unemployment is forecast to drop below 5% by year end. With relatively low inflation, low interest rates, high asset values and pent-up demand, there’ll be a lot of cash sloshing around the U.S. later this year. Who doesn’t want to go on vacation and visit a favorite restaurant?
  • Consumers Reward Convenience: We all know delivery and DTC is the new norm. Winery DTC shipments jumped 27% in 2020². Wine.com’s “StewardShip” program is booming. And investor money is following the trend: Uber is absorbing Drizly and Vivino got a large cash infusion Not to be left out, many states are considering beer and spirits DTC legislation.
  • Competition from Everywhere: Competition for consumer attention is coming from more places, with more brands, with more backing. Robust retailer DTC sales, new delivery channels, third party providers, new e-platforms, suppliers entering new categories, the e-premise, etc.

Approaching Uncertainty

Will COVID vaccinations go faster or slower? Will new COVID variants affect the return to “normal”? Will we enter a period like the “roaring 20s”?

While we can’t predict the future with much precision, it appears likely that consumers will have the willingness and means to spend more this fall.

Maybe more importantly, does anyone believe we will return to the “before times”? Can wineries rely on winery visits to drive all club memberships, or rely on 90-point scores and a $100 Facebook monthly budget to define their marketing mix?

Of course, we need to take our brands to consumers, not wait for them to find us.

We assembled a few practical actions to take now. The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, or to represent a long-term strategy. It’s meant to be a useful checklist for a solid but agile H2 plan.

  1. Refine Brand Identity: Lean into your values – there’s a market for that. Brand marketing is not about a SKU, a price, and a rating. Plan a 30-day brand identity blitz to document what’s important to your company. Great marketing is about narrowing your message, not comprehensiveness.
  2. Invest in 3-tier Digital: Advertising on Facebook, Google, and other platforms isn’t just for DTC sales. Build brand awareness and support your retailer partners with legal, geo-targeted Facebook/Instagram advertising (mention no less than 3 retailers in a social post to avoid tied-house issues). It’s not expensive –start testing what works at a minimal spend.
  3. Seek out Partnerships: Work with brands or well-vetted influencers in other product/service/interest categories that attract your target demographic: home entertaining, home decor, gardening, skiing, tennis. Test interests that correlate postively with your brand identity, and create bridges to new prospects.
  4. Think 360-degrees: Include your outside agencies and subcontractors in brainstorming so you can integrate and leverage their marketing ideas. Outcome? Better results for the same money.
Balletto Vineyards

Balletto Vineyards

Let’s Calendar That

April – May

  • Refine Your Brand Identity: Hold 2-3 brainstorming meetings with your team to do a quick-and-dirty SWOT analysis, identify key brand benefits and your unique selling proposition. A few standard exercises will better direct marketing and sales.
  • Research Partnerships: Identify and approach a few other brands or influencers for potential holiday partnerships, or for spring and summer 2022.
  • Set Your H2 PR Plan: Define what story angles are pitched to press, when, and how. Consider virtual tastings and events.
  • Engage your Partners: Include any agencies or subcontractors in your brainstorming.
  • Digital Advertising: Identify key holiday promotions and start developing landing pages and creative.
  • Influencer Marketing: Identify a diverse group of influencers and match them with key brand messages; schedule giveaways and IG takeovers through the end of the year.

June – July

  • Test Facebook Advertising: Setup a rapid-fire test of different creative, formats, audiences, etc. Owners and senior managers: dig into the numbers. You don’t have to be a social media expert to learn what’s working and not.
  • Retail Sales: Test some geo-targeted, digital ads to drive impressions and brand awareness in your key retail markets as a precursor to a larger Q4 spend.
  • Campaign Themes: Finalize one promotional theme per month for SOND, if you haven’t already. For example, build a campaign of social posts, ads and PR to support a new wine introduction in September.
  • Instagram: Schedule IG Lives with key team members (winemakers, viticulturalists) to share harvest season updates.


  • Finalize SOND Action Plans: Finalize metrics and goals, campaign responsibilities and accountability. Create an internal campaign theme to rally the whole team behind the effort.
  • Finalize Marketing Creative: Finalize digital, social media and PR creative assets such as copy, images, video, infographics, etc.
  • Finalize Digital Ad Spend: Plan to spend more during in November through December.
  • Influencer Marketing: Schedule holiday giveaways with key influencers and schedule practice sessions.
  • Instagram: Stay flexible with IG Live as harvest schedules shift.

Let's Calendar That

September – December

  • Execute starting in September. Don’t wait.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to adjust digital ads, PR story pitches and other actions if the actuals don’t match up well with goals.
  • Watch Ad Costs: Digital platforms will likely get pricey as we get into late October and early November as larger advertisers increase auction costs. Consider shifting ad objectives to not overpay.
  • UGC Content: Watch for key pieces of user generated content and share via IG Stories to connect to your audience.
  • PR Blitz: Anticipate an uptick in articles recommending what to buy for holidays and gifting, Ensure you are on the radar of press and can provide them with links to your e-commerce cart  for readers/consumers to use. Review online content and e-store functionality to remove any barriers or old information.

Sources and Resources:
1. The Economist, March 13-19, 2021, Leaders section.
2. SOVOS ShipCompliant/Wines Vines Analytics 2021 Direct Shipping Report.

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:

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.

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/