Posts

Benson Named a Top Marketing Agency

Beverage Trade Network’s blog post this month titled “Top PR Companies for Alcohol Beverage Brands,” included Benson along with our peers.

While multi-year client engagements are perhaps the best indicator of client satisfaction – we are proud that our average is 4+ years — it’s also affirming to receive this third party endorsement.

More importantly, their call for wine and spirits brand to increase marketing spending is timely.

The post stated: “The wine and drinks industry has an overabundance of brands in the market and there is an acute need for brands to differentiate themselves with PR and marketing.” It went on to say, “In times of COVID when traveling has become tight, budgets even tighter, and flashy events cannot be held, digital marketing is a great way for your brand to reach a target market. With most human eyes glued to screens small and large, it has become more important than ever to create an active digital marketing strategy. We take a closer look and bring you the most important PR companies in America for your beverage brands.”

The post also said about Benson, “stellar work that has attracted the right clients…”  We agree! Our goal has never been about being the largest, but about being the best.

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.

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/

Riboli Estates Group PR Launch Image

Riboli Family Wines Creates New Division

Los Angeles, CA – August 25, 2020 – Riboli Family Wines, a family-owned company founded in 1917, announces the launch of Riboli Estates Group, a new division dedicated to its portfolio of ultra-premium and luxury wine brands sourced from the Riboli family’s estate vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa Valley. The Riboli Estates Group will focus on growing the family’s portfolio of wine labels including San Simeon, Maddalena, Opaque, Riboli Family Vineyard, Windstream, and a forthcoming new brand, Highlands 41.  

The Riboli Family, while experiencing amazing success with Stella Rosa, the #1 selling 750ml wine brand and one of the fastest-growing wine brands in the U.S.*, has always had an eye to the future and the next big endeavor for the company.  In 1986, the family purchased their first piece of land in Rutherford, Napa Valley, then continued to purchase land in Monterey and more recently invested in acquiring and planting new vineyards in the highly desired Paso Robles region. Today, the family owns over 1,000 planted vineyard acres in California – which are 100% sustainably grown in Paso Robles and Monterey – from these prestigious wine regions.  

In addition, the family completed construction on a state-of-the-art, sustainably certified, energy efficient winery and event center in Paso Robles several years ago.  The Riboli Family Winemaking & Event Center, was designed with the very latest sustainable winemaking technology that shows the family’s commitment, not only to creating fine wines, but to preserving natural resources. Of note, the winemaking facility is entirely powered by solar panels and recycles 100% of all water used.   

“From ground to glass, maintaining control of our estate-based wines is essential to the sustainability of our family business,” says Anthony Riboli, fourth-generation vintner. “Our tremendous viticultural and production investments behind these wines play a critical role with the development of this new division. We are committed to growing these exceptional wines for the California wine industry and future generations of the Riboli family.”  

While dubbing the new division with trade partners over the last several months as “Project X,” the Riboli Family made significant enhancements to their infrastructure and invested in a dedicated marketing and sales teams. Consumers and distributor partners alike can now explore all the award-winning wines within this portfolio under the name, Riboli Estates Group. 

“We understand our wine consumer not only through our 100+ years in the industry, but also through our tasting room and a team keeping a pulse on industry trends and staying competitive in the ultra-premium and luxury wine business,” says Paul Hecht, National Sales Manager. “These remarkable wines now have a setting to shine and allow us to remain forward thinking, with a strategic approach to our distributor partners and consumers alike; all with the intent of setting up everyone involved in this new division for success.” 

The Riboli Estates Group consists of: 

  • Estate Grown Wine 
  • Certified Sustainable Winery & Vineyards  
  • Family Owned since 1917  

To download Riboli Estates Group photo visit our Dropbox 

About Riboli Family Wines 

Riboli Family Wines, a family-owned company since 1917, celebrates over a century crafting award-winning wines from both California’s most prestigious wine-growing regions of Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley, in addition to Stella Rosa®, the #1 selling 750ml imported Italian wine brand. With a natural affinity for creativity and innovation, the 3rd and 4th generations of the Riboli Family continue to lead the industry and push the boundaries of winemaking and the wine drinking experience. For more information, please visit www.riboliwines.com. 

Press Contacts  

 Marie Christina Batich, Benson Marketing Group  batich@bensonmarketing.com, 917.633.6002 Ext 15 

 Natasha Hayes, Riboli Family Wines, natasha.hayes@riboliwines.com 415.608.8050  

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. 

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.”

Winery Social Media Marketing

11 Ways to Adapt Your Winery Social Media During the Coronavirus Pandemic

How do you adapt winery social media marketing to changes in consumer buyer behavior and social media usage?

The social media content agency, Convince and Convert, held an excellent webinar this week titled, “11 Things You Must Adjust in Your Social Media During these Crazy Days.”

We’ve paraphrased their key points and suggested some ways to apply them for wineries. The summary includes practical tips and common sense reminders for winery social media marketing managers, whether they are in-house or third party partners.

Here are their 11 adaptations:

  1. Update Your Social Platform Bios: Specify ways your operations have changed. Change your Twitter bio, and create an Instagram Story highlight focused on virus-related info or promotions.
    • Implications for Wineries: Put a link to special offers in the Instagram link in bio.
  2. Increase Time for Community Management: Right now, many consumers are more emotionally sensitive and tense, so make sure you are checking and responding to post comments frequently. And ensure that internal protocols are established for responding to both positive and negative comments.
    • Implications for Wineries: Devote more internal or third-party support to community management, as we are at Benson.
  3. Only Post with a Purpose: This is always good advice, of course, but posts should reflect a deep understanding of your audience, have a specific communications objective, and be geared to create a desired behavior or outcome.
    • Wineries: Reduce your editorial calendar planning window. At Benson, our content development time frame for some clients has reduced from 2 weeks to 2-3 days. Now is not the right time to post something just to check off a task or hit a metric.
  4. Humanize your Posts: Focus on people, on individuals, not “the company.” Example: the Getty Museum asked fans to recreate famous artworks at home from everyday materials. It’s a simple idea that puts the focus on art fans.
    • Wineries: Feature staff, club members, etc.  For Hahn, Benson did an Instagram story of their employees enjoying wine in their homes, #HahnatHome. That struck a positive chord.
  5. Double Down on Influencers: Convince and Connect reported that clicks on Instagram posts with #ad in early March spiked 76%, meaning that influencer content was getting a lot of engagement.
    • Wineries: Check out our 2019 blog post on working with influencers.
  1. Make Sure Visuals Follow Current Social Norms: Ensure your post photos and virtual seminars are following government guidelines for social distancing, etc. Many companies (outside wine) are replacing their images of groups of people with individuals.
    • Wineries: Double check those images in future editorial calendars and ads.
  2. Test New Formats and Publishing Times: New content consumption patterns have likely changed with COVID-19-related disruptions to consumers’ normal schedules: work from home, no gym time, no commuting, etc.
    • Wineries: Test assumptions of formatting and timing–try posting on weekends, late at night, and try text only posts, or carousels, or other formats you don’t normally use. Watch the frequency of other winery virtual tastings, which tend to cluster around 4:00-5:00pm PT.
  3. Paid Social Media: Don’t Stop. Overall, Convince and Convert reports a drop in social media ad costs last month, but also a drop in CTR (click through rates). Their recommendation: reassess your return on ad spend (ROAS).
    • Wineries: Test new creative, messaging and formats for your ads, measure ROAS in a narrower time-frame to understand the dynamics.
  4. Maintain Your Consumer Relationships. People may want to buy, but cannot right now. That doesn’t mean you should stop posting — play the long game.
    • Wineries: Be the “wish board” for the wine industry or region. Show those dreamy vineyard photos that transport your consumers and inspire a future visit to your winery.
  5. Re-purpose Your Successful Content: Simple enough. Recycle what has worked in the past, and expand it across your channels, including emails, website content, etc.
    • Wineries: Understand what resonates with your followers, and double down on it.
  6. Focus on Helping, not Selling:  What can you do to help? Sage advice at any time.
    • Wineries: Consumers want to engage with wineries via virtual tastings, chef demos, and even “normal” posts that allow them to escape the day’s news. (For CA wineries, the ABC has relaxed some enforcement restrictions on donations for COVID-related beneficiaries.

If you’ve got 60 minutes, we also recommend you view Convince and Convert’s webinar.

Convince and Convert works with  a wide range of industries, from health care to education. and during the session they were careful, as they should be, to point out that some results are based on their own client base and may not apply to other industries, like ours. But even their common sense recommendations make for good reminders.

Thanks for reading.

Related Blog Post: The Big Pivot: How Wine Marketers are Adapting to Coronavirus.

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Want to Schedule a meeting with Jeremy Benson?:

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.

Tara Randall

Tara Randall Joins Benson

Tara Randall, formerly digital marketing director at Scheid Vineyards, has joined Benson’s Napa Valley office.

Tara will work with the Benson team in Napa and New York on strategy and execution for the agency’s social media and digital marketing campaigns for winery and spirits clients. The agency provides full-scope social media services as well as digital advertising promoting both DTC and 3-tier retail sales. Prior to joining Benson, Tara ran digital marketing for the brands produced by Scheid Vineyards in California’s Central Coast. She focused on content creation, advertising, web management and SEO. Prior to that she ran her own SEO consultancy.

Rethinking Marketing Budgeting, Part 2

In last month’s blog post we floated the idea that wineries should consider total sales and marketing budgets together, rather than separately, to adapt to changes in the retail marketplace.

That is, to consider above-the-line sales expenses and below-the-line marketing costs as one total budget.

Since then, this idea has struck a chord with wholesaler and winery thought leaders we’ve met. There is a sense of anxiety about the wine marketplace. At Benson, we believe the industry is at an economic inflection point that will reward dramatic action and efficiency, and punish complacency.

Sales & Marketing Headwinds

We all know that wine sales are soft, with some notable exceptions.

The middle tier faces headwinds including the effects of private/custom labels on brand sales, the growing influence of the larger wine and spirits retail chains, the effects of home delivery on in-store activation results, and chronic under spending by wineries on creating consumer demand.

On the other hand, wineries are seeing a crowded three-tier marketplace dominated by large wholesalers and retailers, a DTC sales channel constrained by winery visitation, and only the occasional anecdote of how these two channels can support each other. (The DTC Wine Symposium 2020 has an interesting Workshop scheduled on this topic.)

How can clever marketing help address these market conditions?

Moving Toward Integrated Sales and Marketing

We’re not suggesting spending more money; just spending smarter. Here are some suggestions that could apply to wineries selling in the three-tier market.

  • Push thematic marketing campaigns to the local level: Take a marketing campaign’s central theme and don’t just create a hashtag campaign or a tasting room promotion, but extend that theme into a sales plan with POS, incentives, instore tastings, etc. Schedule in-market winemaker dinners, press meetings, and geo-targeted advertising in support of that theme. In short, create a 360-degree campaign in key markets, at specific times. (While that may sound obvious, very few wine companies execute at this level.)
  • Create Better Digital Assets: Wholesalers and retailers need winery trade sites to provide easy access – be careful of clunky share drive platforms, and password-protected trade sites.
  • Know how your ABL budget is spent. Sales incentives, depletion allowances and other above the line costs are often opaque, high decentralized, and may not actually support marketing activations or brand image goals.  And, are the wholesaler allocations actually being spent?

Synthesis

We will be the first to admit that promoting integrated marketing is self-serving! It’s in our mission and it’s how we staff account teams. But we also know it works. And who would oppose budget efficiency when faced with a sluggish market, extreme competition, and built-in obstacles to the two main sales channels?

So, what are we doing about it? In addition to our normal planning activity, we are paying more attention to a few areas:

  • Brainstorming Out of Scope: Creating campaign themes and sharing our experiences with extending themes into sales campaigns with POS, incentives, in-store tastings, contests, PR, etc. That is, thinking more broadly, and often way beyond the scope of current client agreements. At times like this, we need to invest even more time in our clients’ success.
  • Repurposing Digital Assets: Reviewing how investments can be efficiently repurposed and recycled.
  • Supporting the Middle Tier: Asking wine importers and wholesalers how our agency can better serve their needs.

We recommend you keep these ideas in mind as you plan for 2020-21. Thanks for reading.