A Brand Strategy To Make Your Product Stand Out
I’ve been in marketing for many years, but there was a specific time in my career that has truly shaped the way I look at branding and positioning.Before I moved to Australia (via a few other counties) and joined the Outsource to Us team, I worked in the wine industry in the UK for 8 years, 6 of which was spent in new product development and brand development. Though I was working on about 300 new and evolving wine brands every year, there was one particular project that stuck with me and gave me my marketing a-ha moment!
In the late 90’s and even into the early naughties, Australian wines in the UK had a reputation for being cheap and cheerful. Supermarkets seeing the volumes of inexpensive and consistent wines coming out of the new world, bought huge quantities from massive wine conglomerates who flooded the market with cheaply made generic Aussie wines to be bottled and sold by the supermarkets for sometimes as little as $2 per bottle. As a result, the average British wine drinker became conditioned into buying simply what was on promotion, making Australian wine synonymous with cheap wine. In fact, there is an entire generation of people that swear that they hate Chardonnay because of their experiences at that time.
Those of us (non-wine experts) who had the chance to taste Australian wines made at the surviving smaller wineries had our eyes opened to a world of rich old vine Grenache, jammy single parcel shiraz, powerful, complex cabernet sauvignon, elegant Rieslings, incredibly crisp Chardonnays and more! We found out how good Australian wines were (although of course, the Aussies knew all along).
Our mission was now clear. We had to change consumer’s perception of Australian wines and convince them that it was worth spending a bit more to get a quality wine made with skill and passion.
Now, the company I worked for prided itself in seeking out small parcels of wine from around the world and if there was no existing packaging or brand we would work with the winery to create one. Our wine buyer would visit the winery, meet the winemaker, and taste the wines. But they would also talk to everyone involved in the winemaking process, their families, right down to the winery dog. Once back in the UK the product development department, including myself, would taste the wine and squeeze as much information and photos out of the buyer as possible.
It was whilst on one of these facts gathering missions that I had my a-ha moment. It was a delicious small parcel Barossa Shiraz from a small family-owned winery, it was in American Oak barrels, the vines were not of any great age. We needed to tell the story of this wine and create a brand which was unique but also honest.
While looking through the photos the buyer had taken of the vines, we noticed a cowboy hat hanging on the end of one of the trellises. It was very well-worn, bleached in the baking Barossa Australian sun and was covered in the dark red dirt common to that area. We found out it belonged to the vineyard’s leading hand, who helped plant the vines when he started at the winery as a junior hand, and whose life for the last 15 years had revolved around the vines that made our wine.
That old hat told the story so succinctly that we could not resist. We named the wine Red Hat Shiraz and told its story on the back label. Now, of course, it wasn’t that wine that single-handedly changed the perception of Australian wine in the UK (Although it may have converted a few) but it did change me a little.
Whenever I get involved in a branding, re-branding, or positioning project with clients, I spend a lot of time finding what is unique and truly genuine about them. I try and make an emotional connection, look at the details and find out makes them who they are and why they do what they do.
Customers want to connect with brands; they want to know brands’ stories. But brand stories have to be genuine.