A new paradigm for wine marketing

Tuesday, 16 November, 2004
Mike Carter
Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations. New wineries springing up at the rate of one a week. If you feel confused, you’re not alone – with 850 South African brands and 4000 wines to choose from customers are drowning with choice, whilst at the same time crying out for attention. Mike Carter offers some fresh perspectives on good old cellar door sales.

Looking for a competitive advantage that will be difficult for competitors to copy? Welcome to Experience Marketing where the experience you provide for your customers will differentiate your company and your products from the competition.

Traditionally marketers have used segmentation, targeting, and positioning as the three core marketing capabilities. In today's crowded and confused marketplace this is no longer enough: businesses need to create more value for their customers by staging memorable experiences.

Welcome to Experience Marketing where the experience you provide for your customers will differentiate your company and your products from the competition. Experience Marketing is about creating authentic and extraordinary experiences for customers, and engaging with them in a personal, memorable way.

Wine is a product steeped in history and rich in experiences, and opportunities for Experience Marketing abound. Packaging is becoming more emotional. Start with the 'look and feel' of your packaging. A classic example is the award winning packaging designed for JC Le Roux's 'Scintilla' range of Sparkling Wines. Create compelling stories around your labels. Make visits to your cellar an enticing, multisensory consumer experience. Consider setting aside a 'Reserve Room' for themed tastings.

Where practical, encourage customers to meet the winemaker and interact with knowledgeable cellar door staff. Special events such as conferences and weddings can be extremely profitable. Other potential opportunities for Experience Marketing include hosting wine education seminars, cooking with wine classes, tours and private tastings aligned with cultural or 'created' events. And finally, make sure your signage and literature are up-to-date, attractive and readable.

Creating Experiences - Case Study - JC Le Roux      

For JC Le Roux the cellar door is an important part of the overall marketing mix. Situated in the picturesque Devon Valley, the initial impression is one of simple elegance. Opened in 1998, the modern styled cellar door attracts upwards of 25,000 guests annually.

Guests are offered a total experience that begins with a comprehensive introduction video followed by a guided cellar tour that allows visitors behind-the-scenes to see first hand the entire Méthode Cap Classique process, and continues with a tutored tasting where guests have the opportunity to taste the wines or enjoy a meal at the restaurant overlooking the Devon Valley.

The experience continues in the merchandising area and gift shop, which carry the full range of sparking wines and JC Le Roux branded wine accessories.
Carlsen & Ali-Knight¹ state that experiential excellence involves:

- Understanding and defining everyone who will experience the brand, including the retailer, your employees and the consumer.
- Ensuring that the experience you create is truly sensory: how does your brand feel, look, sound, taste and smell?
- Checking that is it entertaining, educational, escapist and aesthetically engaging: without these key elements you can't provide a complete experience.
- Being harsh: is your brand experience unique and will it create memory points for consumers?
- Asking yourself if the experience will have a positive impact on the value of your brand and why? Consumers will ultimately pay more for experiences.

For a wine business to be successful on the long-term, the customer experience is everything and can be a platform for marketers to effectively reach consumers and create a competitive advantage that is difficult to match.


¹Carlsen,J., Ali-Knight, J. (2003). An Exploration of the use of 'Extraordinary' Experiences in Wine Tourism.

Mike Carter can be contacted on 082 706 5599 or mike@veritasconsulting.co.za