Why is wine brand marketing rubbish?

Why is wine brand marketing rubbish?

Wine brand marketing is rubbish. There’s no other way to describe the drivel offered often by the big producers to create their name wine ‘brands’. Their attempts at social media are equally poor. It almost feels like the consumer just gets in the way.

But why is this?

For a product considered as urbane and sophisticated, wine’s marketing, advertising and social media aren’t a patch on those of its rivals: beer, spirits and cider.

It’s a complex market 

Many would argue that the wine marketing is different from other drinks categories due to the peculiarities of the market. Small producers don’t have direct access to their customers. Many sell their wares through distributors and merchants meaning little contact with either the customer or the drinker.

If all the wine sold were from small vineyards that might have some truth to it. The reality is that supermarkets are responsible for the bulk of sales. Recent years have seen the growth of big wine groups such as Accolade Wines or CyT who produce, buy, distribute and market a huge range of brands globally. The importance of these brands shouldn’t be underestimated nor should their impact on consumer behaviour.

Research from Harpers shows that whilst Brits love wine we don’t like paying above the odds with most consumers surveyed refusing to pay more than £6 a bottle. So is price the sole driver? Or has a lack of decent marketing contributed to the state of the market?

Wine advertising is rubbish. No really

So how are brands trying to reach consumers? The big brands use a mixture of above-the-line ads including TV, press and on-pack. Digital and social are also increasingly part of the mix.

TV is only really an option for the biggest brands. This means social media and digital are potentially great channels for smaller, independent producers and retailers to reach consumers and drive engagement and brand loyalty.

Wine isn’t particularly social as a category despite some huge followings (a theme we’ll explore in a related post). The big brands use social as a broadcast channel with lots of ad-style images. If you took out the bottles you’d be hard-pressed to see any distinction between them. Below is a sample of images from four leading brands:

Image showing social media posts from some of the big wine brands

Whilst there are some notable exceptions such as Naked Wines or Laithwaites much of the sector’s forays into digital amplify their existing marketing. Few have grasped the potential of social media.

The sector is facing challenges

As a category the research is clear. The risk highlighted by the Guardian, that the UK may become a dumping ground for the cheapest wines is possibly an exaggeration. However, cheap supermarket purchases do dominate, and whilst there are some great wines to be found, the really high-quality, independent wines aren’t as easily available.

However, a failure to educate, excite and engage consumers is a problem for the whole sector. There are several threats. One is the 18 – 24 segment who are drinking less than other groups. Those that do drink may be entering the market via cider, craft beer and spirits, all of whom do a far better job with their marketing communications.

A related challenge is in trading up – beer lovers can move from lager into session ales and then into premium bottled ales or craft beer with ease. Yet if wine allows mass-produced, okayish wine to become the bulk of the market, the sector runs the risk of losing consumers. Those in search of quality may well trade up to other premium categories such as gin or whisky where there’s a resurgent interest in variety and styles as well as plenty of new entrants into the market.

Wine needs to raise its game…

Wine brand marketing needs to rethink its approach. Despite some examples of effective, creative marketing, much of the sector is stuck in the past. Little love is shown for the drinker, many consumers find the sector inaccessible and there’s huge competition in and out of the category.

The success of craft beer marketing shows that audiences want products that share many attributes with wine: the craft involved, provenance, ingredients and the sheer variety.

Wine marketing needs to adapt to the modern consumer if it is to ensure long-term growth.

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