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KRIS Wines

KRIS Winery: Branding Update on Tap

KRIS Wines is now working with Benson to refine and expand its messaging, through the Brand Messaging Plan service.

KRIS already has a lot going for it. A top three, super premium Pinot Grigio, the wines are crafted in the Italian hillside town of Montagna, where the company operates with German precision and Italian flair. The company has generations of winemakers behind it, and is best known for its alluring and recognizable package. 

The label art is the work of Riccardo Schweizer, a friend of the winery and native of northern Italy who was a student of renowned cubists Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. The label art symbolizes the connection between nature and science in the production of delicious wine. Sun, hand, lips.

Expect to hear more from this storied label in the coming months.

Teliani Amber Blend

Georgia’s Leading Winery Taps Benson

Georgia’s top-producing winery, Teliani Valley, is focusing on expanding its current presence in the United States and making the market ‘a little more Georgian’.  

Having seen exponential growth of Georgian wine exports to the US within the past two years, Teliani is capitalizing on the momentum by tapping Benson Marketing Group to enhance its reach using digital advertising, public relations, and strategic messaging.    

Teliani Saperavi

Teliani Saperavi

“It was a natural next step for us to seek support from a US-based agency in both educating and converting potential new customers,” says Irakli Bokuchava commercial director at Teliani Valley. “Wine is at the heart of what it means to be Georgian, and we consider our wines to be ambassadors of this, so the best way to spread awareness is to expand our reach.”  

Established in 1997 in the Kakheti region, Teliani Valley is the leading Georgian winery with importation to the United States, as well as being one of the leading brands in the Georgian market and largest vineyard holders and managers in Georgia. The country’s rich culture of quality winemaking, hospitality and tradition is part of the company’s DNA. Their winemaking practices combine ancient principles with new ideas and innovative techniques to create award-winning wines.  

The United States is Teliani’s largest western market with a presence in 23 states. It has the longest tenure of any Georgian wine company on the American market.

Teliani Tsolikouri

Teliani Tsolikouri

According to data from the American Association of Wine Economists, US imports of wine from Georgia jumped nearly threefold in 2019, when measured in total dollar amounts. The category continues to increase in 2022, paving the way for Teliani to see success.

Teliani’s core products in the US are the Teliani Saperavi, Teliani Amber Blend, Glekhuri (traditional Georgian Winemaking Technique in Qvevri) and Teliani Tsolikouri. Georgian Wine House is its importer in Washington, D.C. 

 

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.

WHAT WE KNOW: WINE & SPIRITS IS A RESILIENT CPG CATEGORY

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.
WHAT’S THE SECRET SAUCE? AGILE, INTENTIONAL DECISION-MAKING

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.
THE SILVER LINING: EXIT THE RECESSION STRONGER

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.

https://www.hwy29creative.com/blog/is-your-winery-ready-for-the-next-recession

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29pour.html

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).

Purple Brands Expands Work with Benson

Purple Brands, the red hot wine and spirits company based in Sonoma County, has expanded its marketing campaign with Benson.

In July 2021, we were retained to promote Redwood Empire Whiskey, and the launch of its first bottled-in-bond expressions. Our team generated coverage in Robb Report, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Inside Hook, Whiskey Advocate, San Francisco Chronicle, and a handful of beverage trades. (Full disclosure: we can’t take all the credit – the people, juice and packaging are world-class!)

Raeburn Winery

This year, we continued working on Redwood Empire Whiskey and, in March, added PR responsibilities for Purple Brands’ wine portfolio — including Raeburn Winery, Scattered Peaks, and Avalon — as well as social media and geo-targeted digital ads for fast-growing Raeburn Winery.

Raeburn Winery includes a top-5 ultra-premium Chardonnay, a top 8 best-selling luxury Pinot Noir, and a Vivino-favorite Rosé. The winery has earned three consecutive Impact Newsletter “Hot Prospectawards and more than 30 90+ scores, 2018-2020. If that isn’t enough, each SKU is growing faster than its respective category average, and against well-established competitors. Look for exciting announcements this fall! 

Derek Benham

About Purple Brands

Founded by Derek Benham in 2001, Purple Brands is a brand-led business with winery operations in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County and Napa Valley; all are Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, an exclusive certification held by only 4 percent of California wineries. 

Purple Brands’ spirits portfolio was launched in 2015.  Redwood Empire Whiskey, inspired by Northern California’s giant redwoods, is defining what it means to be a California Whiskey. The fast-growing distillery has amassed the largest inventory of aging whiskey in the state, including a bourbon, rye, blended whiskey, and bottled-in-bond expressions.  https://purplebrands.com/

Redwood Empire Whiskey

Redwood Empire Whiskey

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.

Tumbler & Rocks: Benson’s First RTS Client

The RTS market is growing significantly faster than other beverage alcohol categories, according to many reports. It’s not surprising – ready-to-serve spirits provide convenience, portability, and increasing quality.

This is where Tumbler & Rocks comes in.

The craft brand is an offshoot of The Fort Distillery based in Alberta, Canada. Founded in 2018, the young company has seen very impressive consumer acceptance and sales growth. It is widely available in Western Canada. Now, the company is taking a thoughtful approach to the U.S. market and seeing steady growth in its initial markets.

And this is where Benson comes in.

We are launching a targeted digital campaign to support Tumbler & Rocks’ wholesale and retail partners, to amplify the effects of trade programming, and to encourage consumers to visit stores featuring Tumbler & Rocks. Trial to purchase to advocacy.

Depending on location, Tumbler & Rocks is available in 100ml, 120ml, and 750ml bottles. Cocktails include classics like the Margarita, Cosmo, Shaft, Old Fashioned, and more. Their motto: shake, pour, enjoy. Cheers!

Benson Expands PR, Digital Team

We are proud to add two professionals to our marketing team.

Kara Prior joined Benson in early 2022 to bolster the agency’s network of press contacts and strategic messaging. Kara’s experience spans consumer brands including Espolon Tequila, lulelemon, and Lime Scooters, among many others, and agency experience ranging from Sunshine Sachs to independent consulting. Based in Los Angeles, Kara has a B.A. in Political Science from University of Southern California.

Nicole Dickerson brings content marketing, social media, blogging, and digital marketing skills to Benson — a growing area for the agency. Nikki has been the copy writer behind a luxury wine and food tourism company, wine clubs, and her own blog, among other websites and channels. At Benson, Nikki focuses on copy writing and creative digital marketing campaigns for the agency’s clients. Nikki has a B.Sc. degree in marketing communications from San Diego State University.

Both positions are new for the agency.

 

Rathbone Family Partners with Benson

For many reasons, Americans tend to stereotype wines from Australia.

We hope to help change that by showcasing the quality and diversity of Aussie wines in our work with Wine Australia, as well as with our newest client, Australia’s Rathbone Wine Group.

The family-owned and managed company has tapped Benson to support distribution and sales growth in the U.S. for its three brands, exemplars of cool climate Pinot Noir (Yering Station), cool climate Shiraz (Mount Langi Ghiran), and Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (Xanadu).

Our campaign combines digital advertising, promotion, and media coverage that support on and off premise accounts.

Here’s a summary of each Rathbone Wine Group brand:

  • Yering Station. With vines first planted in 1838, Yering Station is proudly renowned as Victoria’s first vineyard. A  jewel of the Yarra Valley, Yering Station produces world-class cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Mount Langi Ghiran. Established in 1969, the winery is home to some of Australia’s most iconic cool climate Shiraz. Mount Langi Ghiran – translated as home of the yellow tailed black cockatoo – is set in a quintessentially Australian backdrop of the Grampians region of Victoria (pictured above).
  • XANADU. Tucked away in Australia’s southwest corner, Margaret River, Xanadu is one of the country’s most acclaimed wineries, a true reflection of its idyllic setting and poetic namesake.
Nadea Mina

Mina Joins Benson PR Team

To bolster our PR team and services, Nadea Mina joined Benson late last year in the role of Vice President.

Nadea brings a wide range of experience promoting wine and spirits — as well as CPG brands — to Benson’s PR and digital services.  

Most recently, Nadea was a V.P. at Rubenstein Communications where she handled a diverse roster of clients for national wellness, CPG, and hospitality brands. Her team managed clients included Eataly, Tate’s Bake Shop, The Russian Tea Room, and Crunch Franchise.

Prior to that she worked at Sunshine Sachs agency and Sopexa on global brands including The Family Coppola Wines, Great Women Spirits, Monkey 47, Loire Valley Wines, Aveniu Brands, Emilio Moro Wines, Rias Baixas Wines, Wines of France, and more.  

Based in New York, Nadea graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a B.S. in Journalism with Minors in Spanish and Ethnic Studies. 

Black Lives Matter

Like many of you, I am appalled by what we’ve seen lately. Systematic police brutality against Black Americans. The militarization of our police forces. Institutionalized racism and injustice against people of color that COVID has exposed in healthcare, education, etc.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. (I have vivid memories of the scary, painful days following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles, 1992).

Still, I am optimistic. I am optimistic that peaceful protests and an impending election could be catalysts for positive change. And I’m inspired by our team at Benson. It takes enormous resilience and mental fortitude to counsel clients during times like these.

As we search for our own voices on these issues, on what concrete steps we can take, I wanted to at least start by sharing some resources we and our industry partners should consider.

Of course, this list is not complete or exhaustive. But that’s not the point. The point is to start a process. At Benson we are working out plans for potential partnerships and resources aimed at supporting the causes we support.  

Community 
  • Support changes in policing in the cities you do business. Gather fellow business owners together and write letters to your Mayor, city council, and other decision makers.  
  • Partner and support Black-owned purveyors and businesses in your community. 
  • Highlight the businesses on your social media pages with links; feature in your content streams. 
  • Share links and information highlighting books, movies, articles that audience can read to learn about racism in US. 
Industry
  • Support organizations that extend wine education opportunities to people of color.  
  • Support Black somms, influencers, winemakers, distillers and associations. Feature these on your social channel, advertisements, in programs, wine dinners. 
  • Include diversity in photo shoots for your brand. 
  • Share links of national organizations to support.  
  • Host events that feature Black wine professionals in high-visibility roles. 
  • Share links and information highlighting books, movies, articles created by Black wine professionals.  
Company 

Organizations to Support  

George Floyd Memorial Fund: This memorial fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist Floyd’s family. Donate here. 

Minnesota Freedom Fund: Combats the harms of incarceration by paying bail for low-income individuals who cannot. The Minnesota Freedom Fund has raised $20m and is asking that future donations be routed to Black Visions Collective and Reclaim The Block. Donate here.  

Black Visions Collective: Aims to create the conditions for long term success and transformation for all Black people. They believe in a future where all Black people have autonomy and where safety is community-led. Donate here. 

Reclaim The Block: Organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety. Donate here. 

National Bail Out: Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. Donate here. 

Black Lives Matter: Movement and ongoing fight to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy. Donate here.  

Bail Project: National nonprofit organization that pays bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence.Their goal is to secure freedom for as many people as possible and fuel momentum for equal justice. Donate here. 

National Bail Fund Network: Made up of over sixty community bail and bond funds across the country. They regularly update their listing of community bail funds that are freeing people by paying bail/bond and are also fighting to abolish the money bail system and pretrial detention. Donate here.