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Wine Australia Taps Benson

Benson is excited to announce a U.S. media outreach campaign for new client, Wine Australia.

The wine PR campaign includes communications and media pitching around key messaging for Australian wines, including the creativity and diversity of the Australian scene, elevating the awareness of premium Australian wine in the U.S., and promoting Australian Wine CONNECT.

Australian Wine CONNECT is a dynamic, always-on, virtual platform bringing the global wine community together to build new connections with hundreds of Australian wineries for powerful commercial outcomes. CONNECT is free-to-use for all wine trade wishing to extend their knowledge of, and business reach with Australia. The platform offers business-to-business matching services for retailers, importers, and the on-trade across the globe.

More on Wine Australia
Wine Australia supports a competitive wine sector by investing in research, development, and adoption (RD&A), growing domestic and international markets, and protecting the reputation of Australian wine.
Wine Australia is an Australian Commonwealth Government statutory authority, established under the Wine Australia Act 2013, and funded by grape growers and winemakers through levies and user-pays charges and the Australian Government, which provides matching funding for RD&A investments.
https://www.wineaustralia.com/

Benson Included in Meininger’s “Power List”

Last month we were proud to be included in “The Top PR Companies for Alcohol Beverage Brands” by Beverage Trade Network for “stellar work that has attracted the right clients…” (We agree!)

This month, we received a similar accolade from Europe’s Meininger’s Wine Business International, making their top 10 “Power List” of U.S. wine and spirits agencies. As author Roger Voss pointed out, “Nowadays, there is no business without good marketing.”

Of course, we would be expected to agree. But we interpret Roger’s quotation as a challenge to continue innovating how we communicate — with clarity, style and integrity – what is truly fascinating about the people and products we represent.

Ok, back to work!

Barton & Guestier

Benson Adds Barton & Guestier, Veuve du Vernay to Roster

Benson is proud to add two new brands to its client roster to begin the new year: Barton & Guestier, and Veuve du Vernay. The campaign includes consumer and trade press coverage and digital marketing support services.

Barton & Guestier: Reviewed by Thomas Jefferson!

Founded in Bordeaux in 1725 by the Irishman Thomas Barton, Barton & Guestier is the oldest wine house in Bordeaux. The brand  has developed a premium brand strategy based on AOC and varietal wines from Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhône Valley, Languedoc, Provence and Gascony.

With almost three centuries of experience, B&G combines the authenticity of the appellations with the consistency of quality and the typicity of each vintage.

This month, Barton & Guestier releases the newest vintage of their Côtes de Provence rosé wine, Tourmaline, to the U.S. market. Made by Véronique Florentin, newly appointed head of winemaking of Provençal wines for Barton & Guestier, the 2020 Tourmaline is a true-to-type Provence wine showcasing the authenticity of the appellation and its world-renowned style.

Fun fact: Barton & Guestier was the first wine brand imported to the U.S. and was recommended by President Jefferson.

Veuve du Vernay

Veuve du Vernay

Veuve du Vernay: Vive la Vie!

Veuve du Vernay is the leading French sparkling wine brand in the U.S., channeling classic Parisian lifestyle and joie de vivre.

Veuve du Vernay captures both the traditional and the modern. Whether serving the elegant Brut or the flirty Ice Rosé, these wines elevate all occasions.

Fun fact: Veuve du Vernay was founded by Robert Charmat, son of the scientist who patented the Charmat Method of producing sparkling wines. Robert named his wines for a widow in Vernay who helped his father during his early winemaking days. (Veuve in French means widow.)

Today, Veuve du Vernay is produced by Patriarche and made by winemaker Maryline Gianna. Founded in 1780 in Beaune, the heart of Burgundy, Patriarche is a leading wine producer in France with two areas of focus: Burgundy appellation wines and fine sparkling wines.

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. 

Baileyana Portfolio Joins Benson

Benson’s PR engagement with WX Brands, a top 20 U.S. wine company, has expanded to include the 100,000+ case portfolio of wines from the Niven family, widely considered as the pioneers of the Edna Valley AVA. In January, WX Brands announced the purchase of the portfolio, including True Myth, Tangent, Baileyana, and Zocker.

These additional wineries join Benson’s national PR campaign for current client, WX Brands: Bread & Butter Wines, the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards portfolio (Double Lariat, Reata, Silver Spur, Whiplash and Light Horse), Chronic Cellars, Our Daily Wines, Jelly Jar, and Reckless Love Wines.

From the Acquisition Press Release

“The Niven family has farmed in Edna Valley for more than 40 years. Their understanding and love of the region is reflected in the wines they produce,” said WX Brands President and CEO Peter Byck. “With their quality, regional focus, and price segments, this collection of consumer and trade favorites fits perfectly into our existing portfolio of nationally distributed wines. WX Brands is proud to carry on the Niven legacy.”

The Niven family developed a diverse portfolio of wine that focused on exploring the endless potential of Edna Valley and the Central Coast and in the process established the region as a credible and highly-sought-after source for cool-climate grape varieties.

  • Baileyana was founded more than 30 years ago to reflect the best of cool climate varietals. Refined, rich, and balanced, Baileyana wines exhibit the best of Edna Valley’s unique climates. (Price range: $25-50)
  • True Myth takes advantage of the rich and fertile soils of California’s Central Coast. The wines embrace the best of San Luis Obispo County – Chardonnay from the cool ocean influenced Edna Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from the rugged terrain of Paso Robles. (Price range: $18-55)
  • Tangent wines explore cool climate, alternative white wines from Edna Valley, the coolest AVA in California. The focus is on fresh, easy-drinking white wines that are extremely food friendly. (Price range: $17-32)
  • Zocker means ‘gambler’ in German. The Niven family took a gamble that Edna Valley could produce Grüner Veltliner and the result is a food-friendly wine worthy of a gamble. (Price: $20)

Wine Digital Marketing Post-Covid

Will wine consumers continue to buy online?

Why wine e-commerce, shipping, takeout and delivery are here to stay.

Four suggestions for winery digital marketing.

 

Wine consumers are making a massive shift toward digital purchases.

In summary:

  • First time e-commerce buyers are driving growth in this channel,
  • Consumer purchases of loyalty programs indicates a longer-term channel shift, and
  • The in-home dining experience is being re-set, with wine on the menu.

An old marketing adage is that consumer attitudes are easier to change than behavior. But COVID-19 is giving a jolt to both — we are witnessing a transitional phase, a quick shift toward wine e-commerce channels that is unlikely to evaporate once COVID-related situational factors lessen.

Here’s why.

First-time E-commerce Shoppers are Driving Digital Sales Channel Growth

During Wine.com’s May 1 webinar for the trade, Mike Osborn reported that wine.com attracted 7 times the number of new customers in April 2020 versus April 2019.  April revenue growth was 3.5 times the previous year, and larger than December 2019.

Revenue growth was driven primarily by new customers; existing customers were not buying more bottles, or more frequently. This finding is consistent with reports of Drizly’s recent results for delivery.

New E-commerce Consumers Will Continue Using Digital Sales Channels

Again, citing Wine.com, the number of new subscribers to their flat rate shipping program, StewardShip, grew 14 times in April versus previous year, and far ahead of December. It is doubtful that StewardShip members – like Amazon Prime customers – are only interested in a 1-time purchase.

Nielsen’s Danny Brager recently pointed out survey data illustrating that frequent on-premise drinkers are more likely to have used DTC channels during the pandemic than the average alcohol consumer.

Consumers now have a taste of the convenience of e-commerce, and of the options available to them for delivery and shipping. (Many industry watchers erroneously assume all consumers know that they have these options.)

If you can have those heavy, cumbersome bottles of wine, beer and spirits shipped or delivered directly to your home – from your favorite retailer, grocer, winery or distiller – why purchase them the old fashioned way?

But we’re not suggesting wine merchants are going away. If anything, many retailers are doubling down, investing in systems better adapted to meet surging consumer demand in March and April. That tech isn’t going to evaporate; retailers will continue to benefit from their more robust infrastructure and, remember, many of them (you) have very robust consumer email lists and social followers.

This point was made by Bourcard Nesin’s recent piece in wine-searcher.com; the Rabobank analyst cited the longer-term benefits of systems investments by retailers:

“Many executives believe there will be a sustained shift to e-commerce as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and so they are investing more into the channel. While we do not disagree with that premise, we feel that the scale of those gains will depend on the industry doubling down on their investment…we have no doubt that they (investments) will have a long-lasting impact.”

Separately, we heard Drizly’s CEO say in early May they probably need to triple the number of their retailer partners to meet demand.

Re-setting the In-home Dining Experience

There’s no place like home: safe and secure.

In the post-COVID phases of “re-opening,” safety and health concerns will support in-home dining. And wine digital marketing and sales can work even harder because consumers generally perceive wine as a beverage choice that enhances food and the dining experience.  Their attitude toward the product category fits the trend (or requirement, depending on your location).

Headwinds

Of course, no one really knows how macroeconomic factors and COVID-related factors—the easing of social distancing rules or the speed of virus testing and vaccine development—will affect the short-term. But it’s easy to identify a few key obstacles to streamlined wine digital sales and marketing success:

  • Consumer resistance to shipping costs
  • Technical impediments like poorly managed e-commerce portals
  • Lack of digital marketing spend and, therefore, brand awareness and loyalty
  • Laws that ban or set obstacles to interstate and intrastate commerce (full disclosure: Benson Marketing Group runs the campaign, Free the Grapes).
How Can Wineries Adapt?

Beyond the wine category, the pandemic is spurring rapid testing and breakneck innovation around the globe, even as companies horde cash. Sysco built a new distribution and billing system to serve grocery stores in a week. The Economist covered this topic last week, citing that in a small crisis power moves to the center, while in a big crisis, “it moves to the periphery.” Innovation relies on boldly testing new ideas, on partnerships and cooperation, not on a ‘command and control’ management structure.

Winery CEOs and digital marketers can adapt to these behavioral shifts in a number of ways:

  1. Push out decision-making authority to your sales and marketing teams;
  2. Build a higher percentage of shipping costs into wine pricing to counteract resistance to shipping costs;
  3. More aggressive digital advertising to build awareness in local markets and convert awareness to local retail, as well as DTC, sales;
  4. Developing consumer-friendly purchasing options, including more flexible subscription services.

Yes, this may sound self-serving coming from a wine marketing agency, but consider the facts of a very competitive marketplace:

  • 130,000 wine SKUs are sold in the U.S. each year
  • Roughly 30% of wine sold in the U.S. is imported
  • 9,950 wineries in the U.S. compete for less than 10% of the market by volume.
Fortune Favors the Bold

Fortunately, being bold doesn’t cost much. We are testing digital campaigns for less than $1,000. Our clients are conducting virtual wine events and seminars for the first time — they may not be totally polished, but consumers don’t expect winemakers to have the chops of a TV anchor.

It’s just the start of a longer-term requirement to connect digitally with your consumers and trading partners. You can’t wait for them to come to you.

Take that staff time and budget and re-allocate it to meet the marketplace.


SOURCES AND RELATED POSTS
Wine-searcher.com: “Will Covid-19 Change Online Wine Forever?” By Bourcard Nesin.

The Economist: “Crucible of Creative Destruction.” April 25, 2020.

Bensonmarketing.com. “11 Ways to Adapt Your Winery Social Media During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Benonmarketing.com: “The Big Pivot: How Wine Marketers are Adapting to Coronavirus.”

The Big Pivot: How Wine Marketers are Adapting to Coronavirus. Some Wine DTC, PR and Social Media Tactics to Consider.

As we write this on March 19, it has been a remarkably hectic 7 days or so helping clients adapt to the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.

In summary, it’s been a “big pivot” for the supplier tier.

While we don’t pretend to have all the answers, we wanted to share a selection of marketing ideas our team, our clients and others are executing (we hope to get to a spirits post soon). And, while this may sound overly optimistic today, what steps can we take to emerge stronger marketers, post-pandemic?

Social Media Community Management, Digital

  • Reviewing Editorial Calendars Daily: While ensuring our tone is appropriate and empathetic, we are adjusting our content and CTAs on a much shorter cycle, in most cases, daily.
  • Reassessing Ad Strategy: Reviewing all social ads for appropriateness and relevance and, in some cases, simply stopping them.
  • Developing Content that Provides a Break from the News: For example, short video clips of harvest or bud break can provide some relief. Pre-recorded video or live, video tells a compelling story.
  • Identifying “Safe” Content Themes: We put them into four buckets: lead with gratitude, show the human side, make the virtual connection, and share moments of joy.
  • ID Facebook Ads that Work: To borrow from marketer Andrea Vahl, ads that work include those that offer positive messages, messages of the community, and distractions for homebound people with time on their hands.
  • Teasing Hashtag Holidays: We’d promote and support #WorldMalbecDay (April 17) anyway, but since it provides a delicious diversion, why not couple it with a DTC offer, livecast, etc.?

DTC Offers

There’s a lot of creativity out there, not surprisingly, as this sales channel will need to play a larger role for many companies. Here is a sampling:

  • Virtual Tastings: Of course, many winemakers are doing online tastings (or video) focusing on newly released wines and wine club shipments.
  • Shipping Discounts, Delivery Options: Many winery offers are in the range of reduced cost shipping (1 cent to $10) on 6 bottles or more, or orders exceeding a range of $75 or $100. There are many variants, but we’ve seen several in that range. Vinography blogger Alder Yarrow provides a large roundup here. Jancis Robinson has listed 500+ retailers around the globe offering home delivery here. We’re sure there are many more such listings.
  • Win-Win Partnerships: Offer gift cards to a food delivery service as part of your wine club shipment to “surprise and delight” your members, and support local restaurants.

Some of these ideas are also suggested in Rob McMillan’s good post, “SVB on Wine,” here.

Wine PR

  • Put Your CEO Glasses On: While tactics have pivoted, we need to ensure PR tactics achieve overall business goals. Review tactics through that lens.
  • Check-in with Writers: While blanket story pitches are verboten at any time, it is a good time to check in with writers — using short emails! — asking how we can help.
  • Virtual Press Interviews: No surprise here – we are rescheduling media trips to New York and other markets, turning them into web calls.
  • Regional Press Trips: Rescheduling spring press trips to the fall — both inside the US and to our international clients —with “go, no-go” decision deadlines of May 1 or June 1.
  • Sampling: Revisiting our calendars and release schedules to accommodate reviewers.
  • Philanthropy: As during other economic shocks, we will certainly see creative opportunities for wineries and others to support fundraising actions for our friends on-premise.
  • Sharing Info: For you PR pros, here’s some advice from Cision on communicating during a crisis.

Working with Agencies During a Crisis

While it is not business as usual, most agencies like ours are designed to be  purposefully agile, with a technology infrastructure intentionally mobile. For wineries, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Nothing is “Out of Scope:” A crisis demands a broader, more integrated set of agency services, so we’re providing DTC work when we might only be hired for PR, and vice versa. Suggestion: pull your agency into your decision-making process early.
  • Keep Calm and Market On! At Benson, we’ve worked with clients impacted by fires, earthquakes, a Great Recession, 9/11, etc. Suggestion: Now is not the time to draw back from communicating with your consumers and trading partners, as was nicely expressed by WineGlass Marketing here.
  • Agility is King: Email is great but can be distracting and can slow decision-making. We always lean into phone/web calls for more rapid info-sharing and decision-making during dynamic times. And we give our teams the freedom to turn off Slack, Teams, email and other tech so they can focus on priorities

Let’s take care of each other, and ourselves, as we live through this dynamic time.

Questions? We’re here to help. Contact Jeremy at benson@bensonmarketing.com, 707.738.6520, or you can chat from our website.

Related Post: 11 Ways to Adapt Your Winery Social Media During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Marie Christina Batich

Batich Joins Benson NYC

Building out Benson’s ability to connect clients to New York press, the agency has added Marie Christina Batich to its team. Prior to Benson, Marie Christina worked for importers such as Kobrand and Remy Cointreau, and agencies including Sopexa and Bullfrog & Baum. Her brand experience includes top tier Champagne Houses, Ketel One Vodka (and the launch of Ketel One Botanical), Gérard Bertrand Winery, as well as a bevy of French & Italian wine trade councils including Cognac, Loire Valley, Burgundy and Brachetto d’Acqui.

Benson France Retained by BIVC

Benson’s French office has been retained for a domestic PR campaign for the the BIVC, the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins du Centre-Loire. The program is designed to reinforce awareness of the Centre-Loire’s white wines – the birthplace of Sauvingon Blanc – as well as to encourage discovery of the “new” appellations and the region’s red and rosé wines.

Founded in 1994, the BIVC brings together 8 AOC and 2 IGP: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Coteaux du Giennois, Châteaumeillant, Côtes de Charity, Coteaux de Tannay.

Freemark Abbey and Benson Team Up

Freemark Abbey Winery and Benson are teaming up on a marketing communications campaign to drive awareness, visitors center traffic and sales for this iconic Napa Valley winery. The winery is lauded for crafting classically structured Cabernet Sauvignon from pedigreed vineyard sites, and is widely known for its  Bosché and Sycamore single-vineyard Cabernets from Rutherford.

Freemark Abbey’s estate underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation that was completed in 2016. The redesign captures the winery’s historical significance while providing a welcoming, immersive and thoroughly modern consumer experience.

Freemark Abbey Winery is part of Jackson Family Wines, a family owned portfolio of wineries and vineyards spanning significant wine-growing regions across California, Oregon, France, Italy, Australia, Chile and South Africa. In each region, vineyard ownership remains key to exceptional quality and environmental stewardship for future generations. Founded in 1982 by wine pioneer Jess Jackson, the wine company is led by Chairman Barbara Banke and the Jackson family.  www.jacksonfamilywines.com.