Leveraging widely recognized but under-utilized events can help initiatives
that might otherwise get lost in a broad marketing blitz get a foothold.
By Kathleen Willcox
It’s no secret that people love an excuse to open a bottle of the good stuff: New Year’s Eve, anniversaries, birthdays. And if they know that bottle gives back to causes close to their heart? They’re about 70% more likely to whip out their wallet, according to multiple studies.
Many producers and retailers approach their end-of-year marketing plans like William the Conqueror approaching the Battle of Hastings, with a blitz of e-commerce campaigns and event activations — as if their entire bottom line depended on it. Which, in some ways, it does. New Year’s Eve is the biggest day of the year for alcohol stores, with an increase of 159% on December 31, according to marketing firm Womply. December overall, with its range of religious and secular holidays, is the biggest month of the year for alcohol sales, according to data from the Census Bureau.
But what about second-string holidays, such as Halloween? Sales aren’t up as dramatically, but they do rise. A survey of 15,000 California adults for BevMo revealed that 44% of respondents plan to spend $100 plus on alcohol for Halloween, and on Memorial Day in 2019, Americans spent close to $3 billion on alcohol in retail stores alone for the big day, Nielsen reports.
To boost bottom lines, year-round, producers should be reaching out to their base — and beyond — with occasional, strategically planned offers and promotions. We reached out to producers to find out what types of activations and outreach work for them. Read on for a cheat sheet on year-round sales initiatives.
Throw epic annual holiday parties
Certain holidays call for parties. At Napa’s Bouchaine Vineyards, Halloween transforms the winery into an adults-only dance party.
“We definitely get a lot of our younger wine club members out for this, but it’s all ages,” says Bouchaine’s president and winemaker Chris Kajani. “DJ Sal Castaneta — yes, the KTVU weatherman — spins, and the night includes a costume contest, with everything fueled with fun wines and our favorite taco truck.”
Wine club members get a discounted entry at $40, while everyone else pays $60. Typically, about 120 people attend, and Kajani says many people who aren’t signed up for the wine club when they arrive, leave as members. (Club membership currently hovers around 1,500.)
The Booo-chaine Halloween Dance Party is, Kajani explains, a kind of calling card for everything the winery does. Its critically acclaimed premium wines (generally priced between $29-$150) are made with dead-serious intention, but are intended to be consumed with joy and a sense of fun.
“Our wine club does everything from this dance party to blending seminars, falconry demos, Sensory Olympics and grape picking and stomping parties,” he says. “We also love chef-led pairing events. We take both our wine and our fun seriously at Bouchaine.”
The response speaks for itself, with consistent sell-out events that inevitably bring in a new batch of wine club recruits.
Align brand with under-the-radar annual events
Sometimes the opportunity to link an annual event or holiday with a brand is as clear as day.
Quintessential, a fine wine, marketing and sales company based in Napa, is always on the lookout for opportunities like this. This year on the Summer Solstice (June 21), Quintessential will launch its Tropical State of Mind Campaign for Tropical Moscato.
“Summer Solstice is an overlooked holiday, and we want to take advantage of that,” says Louise Jordan, director of communications at Quintessential. “By associating Tropical Moscato with long summer days — on the longest day of the year — we hope to remain top of mind throughout the summer by bringing a tropical feel to summery celebrations.”
The winery is connecting with 10 influencers to promote the campaign, Jordan explains.
“When selecting influencers to connect with Tropical, we utilize a multitude of factors,” Jordan says. “We evaluate their content so that it aligns with brand messaging, as well as general engagement on their feeds. For this campaign, we are targeting wine, cocktail and lifestyle influencers, both paid and organic.”
Paid influencers receive product and payment in exchange for promotions, whereas organic influencers work in exchange for a sample of the product — in this case, a bottle of Tropical Moscato along with a branded package with a pool floatie, cocktail shaker and cocktail recipes.
The social media campaign will also include a sweepstakes and giveaway program at the brand’s handle @tropicalmoscato, in tandem with a program for retail stores (Tropical summer displays) and email blasts advertising a giveaway that includes a Tropical floatie, cocktail set and recipe book.
Leveraging widely recognized but under-utilized holidays also helps initiatives that might otherwise get lost in a broad marketing blitz get a foothold.
Elevate the less-celebrated
There are a host of special days set aside to toast the people who shape and define our loves. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days that are (for good reason) relentlessly used as fodder for special sales.
But there are dozens of other special days that could serve as serious — or silly — sales fodder. (Why not offer a special around Hammock Day or National Marshmallow Toasting Day?)
“We are always coming up with creative ways to celebrate every holiday, and we find that having special limited-time product releases and family-friendly public events really work for our demographic,” says Wendy Camacho, chief of customer experience at Keel + Curley Winery in Plant City, Fla. “We release our limited-edition Watermelon Blush, Watermelon Cider and Watermelon Sour Ale in our tasting room on the Fourth of July weekend, and we get a huge response. We do similar seasonal releases all year long.”
Keel + Curley also offers tasting room specials for Teacher Appreciation Week and other weeks that celebrate essential, but less-appreciated workers, and have developed a cult following from those groups of workers as a result, Camacho says.
“We love announcing our limited-time products on Instagram and Facebook, and they get everyone excited to shop online at midnight, or visit our tasting room on launch day,” Camacho adds. “Since creating these limited-releases and building buzz around the midnight sales time, we’ve consistently sold out of every release within a month.”
Focus on unique releases around holidays with a heart
Targeting a very specific demographic and group in both a holiday and cause in one fell swoop is no easy task, but that is just what Crystal Head Vodka is doing. The ultra-premium vodka, created by actor Dan Akroyd and artist John Alexander, has always set itself apart, with its distinct skull vessel, and its production process which entails filtering the product through layers of Herkimer Diamonds.
Crystal Head has also committed itself to supporting the LGBTQ+ community year-round, through partnerships with organizations like Boston Globe Sip the Rainbow and the Human Rights Campaign. The team is stepping it up in June for Pride Month, with a Paint With Pride release, explains Marketing Manager Daniella Vizzari. The limited-edition presentation will feature a colorful, paint-splattered design against a white bottle.
“It will be released globally in select markets,” Vizzari says. “We are working with content creators and bloggers on giveaways throughout the month, and we’ll also be participating in Pride celebrations across the United States, including in Hollywood, Philadelphia and more.”
The Crystal Head team is using the Pride month release to underline its commitment to “diversity, equality, art and expression,” Vizzari explains. “Art is empowerment, inspiring social change and fostering community. The bottle is a piece of artwork and collectible, and we hope it empowers members of the LGTBQ+ community and supporters.”
Previous Pride month releases have sold out, with many preserving the bottle and displaying it on bar shelves, or mantles at home — with Pride.
Market around specific causes
Some wineries have found that aligning themselves with a variety of universally appealing causes can simultaneously highlight a range of deserving nonprofits, but also lift their own sales and find new fans and allies that they might otherwise never discover.
“Our annual charitable giving campaign, called Frank for a Cause, aims to support deserving charities across the nation,” says Napa’s Frank Family Vineyards founder Leslie Frank. “We often focus on causes that are important to the Frank Family team and to our club members, and we build our campaigns around current events to raise awareness and reach new audiences. From Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Arbor Day, our campaigns connect with consumers who hold these causes dear and let us build new relationships while supporting meaningful change.”
Since launching Frank for a Cause in 2018, the winery has raised more than $125,000 to support seven national nonprofits and numerous local organizations, including Feeding America and The Humane Society of the United States.
Last year’s K9 for Warriors campaign raised $25,000, and the campaign is being extended for 2023. For $85, recipients will get one bottle of 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a Frank Family bandanna and a matching Cabernet bottle dog toy; 20% of each package is donated to K9s for Warriors. A little back-of-the envelope map shows that 2022’s initiative sold around 1,470 bottles — a win for Frank Family and K9s for Warriors, which is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for military veterans.
“At Frank Family, we recognize the opportunity in pairing our wine releases and promotions with causes that have widespread need,” says Frank. “Through this approach, our customers are given the chance to support causes that resonate with them, while enjoying our wines at the same time.”
Can’t argue with the thinking behind that — or the results.
Kathleen Willcox writes about wine, food and culture from her home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She is keenly interested in sustainability issues, and the business of making ethical drinks and food. Her work appears regularly in Wine Searcher, Wine Enthusiast, Liquor.com and many other publications. Kathleen also co-authored a book called Hudson Valley Wine: A History of Taste & Terroir, which was published in 2017. Follow her wine explorations on Instagram at @kathleenwillcox