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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.

August

  • 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.

Biltmore Wines Taps Benson

Biltmore, the estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, N.C. was the family home of George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s.  Originally 125,000 acres, the property’s estate sits on 8,000 acres and was a well-known gathering place for artists and scientists entertained in grand style.

George Vanderbilt introduced the pleasures of wine to Biltmore through his legendary hospitality, but it was his grandson, William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, who had the vision and determination to take Biltmore’s agricultural tradition and re-imagine it as vineyards and a winery. A winery seemed like a natural extension of Biltmore’s agricultural legacy as well as a viable means of diversifying Biltmore’s revenue-generating possibilities. Viticultural experiments began in the 1970s and, in 1983, Biltmore Estate Wine Company was launched.

Today, Biltmore produces a custom portfolio of wines. Its grapes are sourced from estate vineyards, and select grape growers in North Carolina and California. Crafted by winemaker Sharon Fenchak (pictured), Biltmore wines are sold throughout the property’s restaurants and tasting bars, in many states at retail and direct to consumer.

Benson is working with Biltmore Wines on a messaging and communications campaign to highlight the brand’s unique history and range of offerings.

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.