CONTENT Drives Winery Recognition; Now More Than Ever

Let’s face it; brand building was easier 20 years ago. Small production wineries today are in an extremely competitive environment. There are close to 9,000 wineries and growing in the U.S. alone. International brands are flooding our markets with good quality and aggressively priced imports. Add to that the consolidation of U.S. distributors, and you have lots of boutique wineries seeking attention from far fewer distributors. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon to be 100% allocated to wholesalers. Today, this is not a realistic model. Here are some wine market facts to consider:

• 1995 – 2,600 Wineries and 3,000 Distributors*

• 2008 – The Great Recession starts. Distributors consolidate their books and themselves, and focus on larger, well-known brands.

• 2015 – 8,800 Wineries and 700 Distributors*

• Today – Distributors work hard selling major brands, and are not necessarily looking for small producers with premium-priced wines.

• Today – Large retailers have monopoly power. Retailers with private labels are proliferating and call the shots (Total Wine, Trader Joe’s).

• Today – There are fewer print publications with paid staff journalists and wine columns to discover and report your winery story and review your wines.

• Today – Wine journalism as a whole is moving from print to a digital medium. How will these outlets generate revenue? They will be looking to you for advertising and/or sponsorship dollars.

• Today – Online wine writers continue to proliferate. How many are credible and have impact?

• Today – Wine publications are starting to screen your wines in advance of permitting submissions due to sheer volume alone.

• Today – Wine publications may want you to pay for high scores with label placement and ads in their print and online editions.

• Today – It’s a pay-to-play world and getting consumer mindshare and media recognition can be difficult and expensive.

• Today – Wine consumers are overwhelmed with the sea of wine available to them.

• But – All is not lost! Please read on!

Today’s challenging marketplace requires small wineries to take control of your own destiny, and both DTC Marketing and Wine Media Outreach are the key. Distributors are (for the most part) not going to help you “build your brand” unless there is a quick ROI and minimal risk. It is essential for small producers to tell their own stories, and get their brands and wines into the market and recognized by consumers. I talk specifics on how to get coverage for your brand in this article: Winery PR in a Pay-to-Play World.

All of this brings me to the point of this article the critical importance of Content. There are three types of marketing content: owned, paid and earned content. Owned Content is what you’ve created and actually own—your website, social media platforms, winery blog and news, photos, videos, etc. Paid Content is exposure you purchase—advertising, label placement, etc. And finally, Earned Content is the most important if you want to expand your reach beyond the subscribers and followers you already have and are already marketing to. Earned Content or Earned Media are third party endorsements by wine writers or other media outlets, and media coverage for your brand that results in accolades like feature articles, media mentions, wine reviews and scores. This is also why brand building through media outreach is critical, as there are too many wineries for writers to discover unless you are being proactive. Can you still be a wine media darling just by making exceptionally good wine? Maybe, but don’t count on it. Put a media program in place to ensure your news and voice is heard. By the way, What is Your Voice?

This area of Earned Content or Earned Media is important because it contributes to the library of content your winery can use in its marketing efforts. Wine is still an esoteric luxury purchase for many consumers, and they rely on expert opinions to support their buying decisions. Links to articles, podcasts, and video interviews about your brand are great marketing content. Share your scores, medals and other achievements in your general interest and wine club newsletters, and on social media. These are the bragging rights that you’ve earned, and that makes a huge difference in today’s wine world. On the flip side, garnering media attention but not doing anything with it, such as mentioning and linking to it on your website, blog and social media pages, is a terrible waste of a precious resource.

Despite our new 21st Century challenges, these are actually sunny days for the premium wines category. Get your Marketing and PR game on now to make the most of them, and bank enough Earned Media content to help you weather the more difficult times to come.

*Source: SVB 2015 State of the Wine Industry

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Carl started by focusing on DTC Marketing for wineries 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 3 years ago (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.