by Chris Denny, founder, The Engine is Red

Expert Editorial

If you’ve ever struggled to help your creative stand out, to craft a unique and authentic brand voice, only to realize it could be true of a dozen other wine brands – it’s possible you’re focused on the wrong person.

It’s natural for us as marketers and creatives to draw inspiration from the world around us, to find commonality with ourselves and our audiences. But when it comes to wine, this can be a dangerous path to follow.

Because, we drink wine weird. There is no way around it, we as Californian wine drinkers, especially in the Sonoma / Napa region, are outliers in how we experience and appreciate (or don’t) wine. This unique aspect of who we are, built on the incredible and unique climate and terroir that enables us to bring some of the world’s best vintages to life, can deter even the best laid marketing plans.

Our winemaking counterparts have decades of success focusing first on a sense of place. Deeply understanding and diving into the microclimates, nightly fog patterns, and diverse soils. Grafting the perfect clones, precisely laying out rows, and tending these gorgeous vineyards year-round. For them, the secrets of this place drive the best wines.

When it comes to marketing, we must resist the urge to let perceptions about ourselves drive how we interact with guests. The more we focus on us, on here, we lose.

Spend time with them

The easiest way to put your customer first is to know them. Not via a sales report or demographic study, but by building a relationship with them. Depending on your winery this could be as easy as working the tasting room, going on the road with your wholesale team, or joining winemaker dinners. Social media and events are opening new doors too.

When you get the opportunity to connect with your audience, avoid the temptation to talk about you, and ask questions instead. What are they cooking these days? What are they reading or binging on Netflix? What are their favorite ways to relax or cut loose?

The more you know them, the more you can find those connections that break through the noise of terroir and cooperages. Spoiler: most Americans couldn’t care less about either. In a 2015 Survey of American Wine Consumer Preferences, just 4% of respondents rated themselves as wine connoisseurs or experts.

Find something to fall in love with

It’s tempting to look down at sugar-laced proclivities or to scoff at pronunciation skills. But no matter your price point or market, every audience deserves understanding, and there is always something to fall in love with. Push yourself not to just know them, but to understand and love who they are.

Finding these connections will drive your brand’s authenticity and bring relevancy to your message.

Become their greatest cheerleader

The magic comes when you bring your audience into your creative process. Amongst your internal team, during yearly planning meetings with leadership, and in creative meetings with your agency, advocate for your audience. Speak on their behalf, celebrate them.

As you connect your brand’s strengths to their world, you won’t only resonate, but you will start to stand out. Your true brand voice isn’t just rooted in the vineyards that build your winery, but in the hearts of your audience.

As marketers, this is our greatest strength. To authentically and humbly connect the two. And the first step in doing this exceptionally well, is to admit we are the weirdest wine drinkers in America, and that’s ok.

Chris DennyExpert Editorial
by Chris Denny, founder, The Engine is Red

Chris Denny is the Founder of The Engine is Red, a Santa Rosa, CA based modern advertising agency that works with Rombauer Vineyards, Fetzer Vineyards and the Russian River Valley association.