How Not to Market Wine


Wine industry is mostly unsuccessful in branding and marketing communications. 

Do you know why?

Because some wineries and wine trade companies are acting so self-centered that they almost forget to communicate with their clients. They are in a vicious circle, repeating the words:  “My terroir, my wine, my family history, my wine awards and of course my complicated appellation system that you have to learn… ”

It’s all about me, me and me. 

Unfortunately, we are living in a very noisy world. There are millions of stories out there, trying to catch attention. Most of them are heard as “bla, bla, bla”. The way to stand out is very simple. (Not easy! But simple) It only works when you connect with your customer at an emotional level and include them in your communication.

What does this mean?

Let’s forget about the wine world and just enter Apple’s website. Here is what you see: “iPhone X, Say hello to the future”. This is a powerful and a memorable tagline, whether you like it or not. But the reason I chose this example is, to emphasize how it speaks with the customer in less than a minute.

Now, have a look at twenty winery websites randomly. How many of them speak to you or catch your attention one way or another? Maybe four or if you are lucky five. Let me guess, the majority of the tagline on the landing page is something similar to “Family Owned, Estate Grown Winery since 1883”, right?

Sameness sucks says Gary Hamel. I fully agree. 

Many wine ads are the same in various magazines or other online/offline platforms. Wine marketers place either a bottle of wine or a photo of a vineyard on these nice shiny papers or pages. There is possibly also a sentence mentioning how unique the terroir is. Once you look at the big picture and see so many similar ads shouting out their uniqueness, you kind of start seeing the irony. When this happens, it feels like its unfair to the wine itself, because those wines are different than one another, but their creators do not know how to communicate that.

I believe that most marketing people in wine business also haven’t heard of call for action. I’ve recently come across a video, produced by a regional wine organization (not going to give a name) that created a cartoon animation to explain the history of the region. I’d have done it differently, but it is still lovely. And yet, I can’t stop asking myself, “so what?” A regular wine consumer is probably going to remember 5% of the information maybe even less. They could have at least share a link where you have a list of events in different countries in the end of the video? Call for action is crucial on websites, ads, and social media channels.  Branding and marketing communication is measurable with sales and increased level of awareness, and it can only be successful if you keep in mind that, you have a customer to speak to and you want them to do something! (buy your wine, visit your winery, write an article about you, speak about you or whatever you need from that activity)

I am not even going to mention some online sales shops, especially for supermarket retail chains. When did it become normal to only have a website full of wine bottles, initial prices and promotional prices in bold and red? Well, offering cheaper price is definitely a selling point for them. But is it enough? If it is, what do the marketing people do the whole day at office, eating chocolate chips? Just because it’s a supermarket retail chain, is their marketing destined to be boring? 

I don’t think so. 

Especially the supermarkets in UK have discovered the importance of content and concept creation and are mostly very successful at it. Regardless of the size or the budget of a winery or wine trade company, having a powerful brand and being able to communicate it with an inspiring story has become more important than ever with a mixture of product and customer oriented marketing strategy. 

It is also time to stop pressuring customers to learn more about wine. Offering education programs is great for those who are interested. But if one does not know the differences of sub regions and vintages of Burgundy, is it impossible for him/her to enjoy the wine? What if they just love Pinot Noir without knowing how to describe it and they do not have enough time because their hobby’s are ice skating or Bitcoin?  I do adore the curious millennial who are reading more and travelling more to learn more about wine! It’s amazing and keeps the wine world excited. But this does not mean that the wine world should not simplify things for the rest of the consumer group?

It’s obviously not all bad. There are creative people out there with genius ideas. I always loved the campaigns of Lindeman’s for example. Nowadays,  you open their website and you see a beautiful couple with a question “What Makes Dan Smile?” It’s a part of their campaign:

In over 100 countries, the world smiles with Lindeman’s.

It’s very human, very real and directly connects you with the brand. There is a series of videos telling ordinary people’s stories. Another example is Chateau de Pommard. “Fall in Love with Life” is their tagline. It’s simple but very impressive cause it is inclusive!

But please don’t get me wrong. Successful marketing is not only about website, campaigns with big budgets, social media, events etc. These are only some tools. There are wineries that became known because one amazing personality (owner or brand ambassador) represented them around the world with great talent and developed network, which is fascinating! It’s just a mindset here I am trying to emphasize.  Being a wine professional myself, with experience in both sales and marketing, I still try to understand what I do right or wrong.  Sometimes the whole system seems so normal we do not realize what’s wrong…

PS: Meanwhile, if you have any branding/marketing project in mind, feel free to drop a line to

Seyma BasComment