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Telling your story: Letting consumers know why your brand is unique

By Dr. Kathy Kelley and Dr. Bonnie Canziani*

Every winery has a story to tell about its history and about its wines. A winery’s story often comprises the main advertising message that consumers receive. Critical visitor expectations are being formed as your potential customers read marketing materials about your winery or listen to your staff in the tasting room embellish on “the story,” using it as a performance script during visitor encounters. Indeed, your tasting room hosts are often the main onsite story tellers and serve a vital role as direct ambassadors of the brand and the company—sharing important information with all visitors to the winery.

In this post, we discuss why wineries should have a well-crafted story, examples of national brands that have been recognized as having compelling stories, and steps you can take to develop your story.

Why is a story important?

Researchers have investigated consumer response to storytelling to learn if businesses do benefit from such efforts.  The Origin/Hill Holliday research group conducted studies with 3,000 U.S. consumers, age 23 to 65 years, and investigated their response to winemaker stories. Two groups were shown product pages for four different bottles of California Chardonnay.  Group one was shown the pages with standard tasting notes, while group two was shown three of these product pages and a fourth page with the winemakers’ story instead of the tasting notes.  Based on responses, the researchers found that the second group “was 5% likelier to choose the bottle with the winemakers’ story – and willing to pay 6% more for it” (http://bit.ly/2umZCCE).

Brands that have successfully crafted their story

While both of the following examples are outside the wine industry, each is a successful business with owners who realize that their stories resonate with their clientele and that their narratives support important business strategies.

Being authentic and personable

Dannijo, a jewelry company created by two sisters, was built on the owners’ belief that a story needs to be “compelling to consumers, [such that] they want to build your products into their lives” (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG).  The sisters often model the jewelry in the ads and their social media posts include images of them outside the office and with their families, which helps make them relatable to their target customers.

In their stores, the sisters have installed a selfie booth for customers to take and share images of themselves having fun in the store (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG), and they host speakers who present “unexpected and yet brand-related subjects (e.g., fitness and health, philanthropy and sisterhood)” that are important to the owners and that can interest their primary customers (http://bit.ly/2tMN46Q).

These activities, their core products, and a café all encourage consumers to visit often and to extend the amount of time they spend at the retail outlet on each occasion.

Focusing on customers’ interests

Adidas, like several other brands, sells running shoes.  While their loyal customers will buy their shoes again and again, others are drawn to the business based on how they “feel” about the brand, how the brand helps professional and novice athletes succeed in the sports they love.

Adidas is also credited with being a “listening brand.”  Instead of talking purely about their shoes, the company learns what customers care about and then uses these concerns and passions as a basis for developing the “brand[’s] message through social conversations” (http://bit.ly/2tNdi9h).  Examples of Instagram posts based on follower interests include World Oceans Day, #RunForTheOceans (http://bit.ly/2tN4wbg); Earth Day; sustainable athletic clothing (http://bit.ly/2tMLS3c); and encouraging consumers to perform to the best of their abilities – both on and off the court.

So, what should you include in your story?

A brand’s story is more than words on a page designed to be a pitch for your winery.  Rather, your brand’s story includes “facts, feelings and interpretation” and is a way to differentiate yourself from competitors (http://bit.ly/2tNGkWf).  A successful story will help a business build a following, which in turn encourages these consumers to care about the brand and, hopefully, leads to customer loyalty.  Following are some tips for making your winery story genuine and engaging for your visitors.

  1. Storytelling is based on “interpretation”

Interpretation is a skill that connects your audience with information in ways that create emotional ties between the speaker and the listener. Basically, you take important facts about the wine (e.g., type of grapes or fruit used and production processes) and the winery (e.g., family history or facility information) and share these facts with your visitors in an informative and entertaining manner. A story is not just a dry recitation of facts and figures. Stories attract consumers looking for higher levels of personal recognition and warmth from service staff at your winery.

  1. Storytelling is part of your marketing strategy

Your goals need to be clear when forming and telling the winery story. Typical goals include connecting your guests emotionally to the brand, influencing guests to try something new (e.g., join the wine club or attend a future wine event), and motivating your visitors to buy your wine and share their experiences with others via positive word of mouth. One sign that your guests are engaged is if they ask for more details about the wines, the winery, or the winemaker/owners. A good story will lead to conversation and customer action.

  1. Your stories must seem genuine to your listeners

Storytelling in the winery setting needs to incorporate truthful information about your ingredients, your production techniques, and your business background. Stories create personal ties between the winery and its visitors and people want to be able to trust that the information you are providing is accurate and relevant. The more believable stories will be shared with others via word of mouth after the visit.

Example: Honor Brewing Company & Winery

It seems only natural for a winery to support a cause either with raising funds during an event to donating a portion of the proceeds/price per bottle to a charity.  Sometimes, though, the connection between the cause and the wine brand is not as clear as it could be and why the cause was selected (e.g., to help fund medical research for a disease that an employee has suffered from, to support local community efforts).  Honor Brewing Company, Inc. and Honor Winery owners either served in the military or who had close family members who did.  From the name to the labels (e.g., pictures of dog tags, combat boots) to their mission (“…supporting and celebrating those that have served or are serving…), the brand’s is exclusively “dedicated to the men and women who proudly serve our country” (http://bit.ly/2tO1J1K).

The owners also raise money and donate funds to charities that assist injured veterans and families of those who have fallen – and they are transparent in their efforts.  In 2014/2015 they raised over $200,000 for these charities.  They also encourage social media followers to post about family members in the military and partner with many veteran organizations.

  1. Stories are built on essential raw material

Winery stories need to cover the basics so that every visitor has a good understanding of the wines being served and sold, the fruit that goes into the wines, and other interesting details that make the winery business unique. Proof of quality is often incorporated into the winery story by emphasizing the various awards that your wines have won. The story can move from the past to the present as well as indicate new wines and strategies that are forthcoming in the future. It can also help the visitor identify the role of the winery in the greater community or wine industry in the state.

Example: Gimblett Gravels

When you think of the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District, terroir might be one of the words that come to mind.  This patch of land, 800 hectares, once “regarded as the poorest, least productive land in Hawke’s Bay…and no hope of growing a decent crop of anything” (http://bit.ly/2tNlKoN) can lay claim to producing grapes used to make award winning wines: domestically, 600 gold medals and 210 trophies and 105 gold medals and 35 trophies awarded in international competitions (http://bit.ly/2tNqGKD).

Screenshot 2017-07-17 14.45.00

Strict guidelines determine whether a wine can be marketed with the Gimblett Gravels designation.  These measures protect the brand’s image and ensure that growers and winemakers make no compromises and that only high-quality wine that reflects the terroir is bottled with the name and logo of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association.

  1. Most winery stories are also family stories

The concept of ‘family’ appears either overtly or as a subtext within many winery stories on their websites and during the exchanges between visitors and tasting room hosts. The idea of ‘family’ is represented in multiple ways:

  • remarks about preserving the family farm, land, or agricultural business heritage through the development of vineyards and winemaking operations (the ‘family-business’ message),
  • sharing a history of family generations in the wine-making business (the ‘family-tradition’ message), or
  • an advertising appeal aimed at generating closeness to the visitor based on the inclusive treatment of guests (the ‘join-the-family’ message).

Example: Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, CA was founded in 1883 and is recognized as the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery in the U.S.  Their story begins with C.H. Wente immigrating to the U.S., learning about winemaking, purchasing land in California, and then…Prohibition was implemented (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI).

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The family and the business survived hard economic times and war and contributed to the advancement of the California wine industry.  And, if this wasn’t impressive enough, the winery can boast that each winemaker has been a Wente including the current winemaker who is a member of the 5th generation (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI).  What a story they can tell!

The various family messages can overlap in a single winery story. Family images are also positively associated with consumer perceptions of winery trustworthiness.

 

 

In closing

The art of storytelling can be especially useful to wineries that are trying to develop a visible brand presence and uniqueness in the marketplace. Ultimately, winery hosts need to know how to craft and present a winery story that moves their customers to positive actions, e.g., buying wine and sharing winery experiences with others.

 

*Dr. Canziani is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Bryan School of Business and Economics, specializing in the management of customer service relationships and business profitability in various sectors including hospitality, tourism, and transportation. Since 2001, she has been involved in marketing and business research focused on the NC wine and grape industry, with more recent emphasis on wine tourism.

 

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Taking a Good Look at Wine Labels

By Dr. Kathy Kelley

If a customer has never tasted the wine inside the bottle before “the label design and execution, as well as the verbiage,” can make or break a sale (http://bit.ly/2sxnxPF).  It is even suggested that at the point of purchase it only takes about 1.5 seconds for a wine label “to make an impact” on the consumer’s decision to purchase the bottle (http://bit.ly/2sx2i0c).

You may have wine labels that are well recognized and that your customers may respond, but it is also valuable to be aware of what some research suggests could attract consumer attention and what some brands are doing to encourage wine drinkers to “engage” with their bottle and (hopefully) share their experience with others.

Label illustrations, color, and design layout

While the “attractiveness” of a label is subjective, research has been conducted to identify label characteristics that appeal to consumers based on brand image (e.g., fun and whimsical) purchase intent (e.g., consumed at a restaurant, to give as a gift), and similar.

Screenshot 2017-06-16 11.18.18

Two University of California, Berkeley, researchers conducted a study during which participants evaluated wine labels to measure California Cabernet Sauvignon purchase intent based on six label colors, five illustrations, and three design layouts (Boudreaux and Palmer, 2007).  The researchers developed and tested 90 fictitious labels with the same brand name, origin, vintage, and alcohol content.  Though the images are black and white and only a subset of the 90 labels is presented you can get a sense of what the labels looked like by accessing the paper here: http://bit.ly/2swFQUg.

Their results revealed that the illustration presented on the label had the strongest effect on “market success factors and on brand personality” and in general the images that received the highest purchase intent scores were: 1) grape motifs and 2) images of a chateaux or vineyards.  However, if the brand’s goal is to develop a label to convey “upper class and value,” results suggested that a coat-of-arms illustration would be the best option.

The researchers reported that of the colors they tested, burgundy, red-orange, and neutrals “were seen as successful, desirable, and expensive.”

Millennial preferences

While the UC Berkeley study did not segment the data based on generation to learn what Millennials might prefer compared to older generations, such data has been published.

A 2015 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey revealed that the label is important to Millennials, and wine drinkers in this generation are “4X more likely than Baby Boomers to often select a bottle of wine based on its label” (http://gallowinetrends.com/home/).  While the younger generation is “more likely to look for” labels with personality and originality, Baby Boomers look for information on labels that describe the region of origin and taste descriptors.

Elliot and Barth (2012) focused on understanding Canadian Millennials’ preferences for wine label design and personality. Participants, mostly 19 to 22-year-old undergraduates, were asked to list the most significant factor that influenced their wine purchasing decision.  Of the factors listed, 86% of the total mentions referred to an extrinsic [the package] factor (e.g., name of the wine, design layout, bottle) with 33.8% of all the mentions related to the “label,” followed by other “package elements,” color(s) (10% of the mentions), design (9.8%), the bottle (9.3%), and the image (9.1%).

Only 14% of the mentions pertained to intrinsic [the product] factors with the top three mentions being: the producer (6.1% of all mentions), type of wine (3.4%), and alcoholic degree (2.2%).  The researchers indicated that though the emphasis, at this point in their drinking career, is on extrinsic factors – it may be possible that “opinions and preferences” may shift to intrinsic factors as they age and their experience with drinking wine increases.

Participants were then asked to assign ratings to indicate how influential (1= not at all influential to 5 = extremely influential) six packaging characteristics were on their bottle selection.  The top three influential characteristics (rated between 3.83 to 4.00) were: label image or picture, design layout, and color.  Name of the wine, description of the wine, and shape of the bottle were less influential.  The authors point out that price was not tested, but if it was it probably would have “had a significant influence.”

Trying to learn what label factors appeal to certain generations is not restricted to just New World wine brands. Some wineries Bordeaux are designing labels that (hopefully) appeal to younger wine drinkers.

According to an article published in February 2017 (http://bit.ly/2sxYH10), the author interviewed two Bordeaux label designers about their approach to designing “non-traditional” labels.  One designer is quoted as saying, “The new generation of Bordeaux winemakers…[are] trying to break out from overwhelming history” by using “‘avant-garde’ design approaches.”  Another designer and the winemaker at Château Chasserat created a non-traditional wine called Père N 1775 (which includes the French word for father and the year the winery was created).  The associated logo has more of an Aztec feel/look than that of château or vineyard you would expect to see on a traditional bottle of Bordeaux.

Cultural influences

It is important to note that generation is not the only demographic that could impact response to wine labels, or any extrinsic or intrinsic characteristic.  Culture has been studied by a few researchers to learn how it may affect response to a wine brand, promotional approach, label/bottle characteristics, etc.

Lockshin and Cohen (2009) investigated what influenced consumers from 11 countries when purchasing wine.  Though examples of wine labels were not presented, participants were asked to indicate the relative importance of “an attractive front label,” in addition to 12 other factors (e.g., the origin of the wine, grape variety, promotional display in-store).

Participants were segmented into three groups based on their responses to survey questions.  While the smallest of the three groups, 16% of survey participants, one of the segments was based on making wine purchasing decisions based on displays, attractive front labels, and back labels.  A quarter of respondents from the UK were in this group, with slightly fewer Austrians (22.5%), Germans (20.9%), participants from the USA (16.4%), and Brazilians (15.4%) belonging.  Ten percent or fewer of participants from Australia, France, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand, and Taiwan were assigned to this group as larger percentages of these consumers made choices based on recommendations/previous experience or based on variety, origin, brand name, and awards.

“Cool” and interactive wine labels  

Last year, Pace Magazine published a list of seven wine bottles with labels that drinkers could play with, including one that revealed a “secret message” when a little bit of wine is poured on it and another that had a pull tab that served as a wishbone (http://bit.ly/2sx46qe).  Add to this the other online sources that create their own annual lists: Tasting Table (http://bit.ly/2tuwllM), Forbes (http://bit.ly/2tuzkuB), BuzzFeed (http://bzfd.it/2tuy3U2), and many others.

While the graphics, layout, and colors used on the label certainly attract purchasers, there are several brands that have added a Quick Response code (QR code; http://bit.ly/2std07Q) to their label.  The code, when scanned with a smartphone QR code reader, directs the consumer to a website with other pertinent information about the winery, the particular wine in the bottle, videos, social media sites, or anything that the winery decides.

One such brand is Brancott Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand.  The company developed the “Brancott Estate World’s Most Curious Bottle” app (http://bit.ly/2st5sC3) in 2012 so that wine drinkers could “interact” with bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc.  I have included some screenshots that I took while I was using the app, below.

Screenshot 2017-06-14 13.41.02

While I did have a bottle of the wine that I could use for this demonstration, if you do not have one you can use a picture of the bottle/QR code (from one of their magazine advertisements, for example) and certain app activities are available on app even if do not have a bottle/photo.

A Spanish wine brand, Bodegas Vihucas (Toledo, Spain) has created a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, and Graciano called 8 TICKETS (http://www.8tickets.es/el-vino/; retail price of 9.60 euros).  The label is a metro map that when removed from the bottle (held in place with two stickers), after which it becomes a “game board.” includes directions on how to play the game, and has a space for the drinker(s) to color, draw, and decorate with stickers.

While I don’t have a picture of the bottle/label/game board, as the wine is only available a few Spanish markets (http://8tickets.es/localiza-tu-tienda/), they do have a Facebook Page with reviews (https://www.facebook.com/8tickets/) and Instagram account with images of the bottles and groups of drinkers having fun with the label/game board (https://www.instagram.com/8tickets/).  I did contact the brand and was informed that 8 TICKETS will be available in the U.S. “soon.”

As you might expect, the 8 TICKETS concept and label was developed to appeal to the Millennial wine drinker.  Specifically, the aim of the 2016/2017 A’Design Award & Competition Packaging Design Category winner was to “bring wine to [Millennials] through a memorable and participative experience…show young people all the situations in which wine can be a regular consumption product rather than being reduced to [only being drunk on] special occasions” (http://bit.ly/2sYyvKL).

If you would like to learn about wine and alcoholic beverage product and packaging trends as soon as items launch, visit Trendhunter.com.  You can learn about the new Coors Light can that changes colors when exposed to UV light rays (currently available in the Canadian market, http://bit.ly/2sYxwdM), Croatian wine that is aged in the Adriatic Sea in glass and clay vessels for 2 years at a depth of 20 meters (http://bit.ly/2sYveeu), and drinkable glitter flakes with a “subtle raspberry flavor” that can be added to a glass of prosecco for an even more sparkling wine (http://bit.ly/2sYhv7r).

What is presented in this blog post is just a small portion of the studies and examples of wine labels/bottle characteristics that appeal to consumers.  At Penn State, we have conducted several studies that investigated consumer response to a number of different wine bottle components.  Among the data that we have published in this blog, one study, in particular, focused on what information and features a winery should consider including on the back label (http://bit.ly/2sxTre7).  As with other marketing information we post, it is crucial to understand who your customer is and ask them to respond to your label ideas before making any significant changes or investments.

References

Boudreaux, C.A., & Palmer, S.E. (2007). A charming little cabernet. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 19(3), 170-186. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/17511060710817212

Elliot, S., & Barth, J.E. (2012). Wine label design and personality preferences of millennials. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 21(3), 183-191. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/10610421211228801

Lockshin, L. & Cohen, E. (2009). Using product and retail choice attributes for cross-national segmentation. European Journal of Marketing, 45(7/8), 1236-1252.

 

 

Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors Pertaining to Sustainable Wine

Dr. Kathy Kelley and Jennifer Zelinskie

A quick search for “sustainable” on Winespectator.com and other consumer-oriented wine magazines and websites generates quite an extensive list of articles and news:  assessments about organic wine tastes compared to nonorganic wine; what biodynamic and sustainable means; and consumer awareness of sustainable grape and wine production issues.  At Penn State we have been focusing on whether wine consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region are aware of the “sustainable” wines concept and their thoughts and interests in these wines, packaging, and related.  This blog focuses on some of these issues and shares some of our survey participants’ “sustainable” attitudes and behaviors.

While organic viticulture may not be commercially viable for Mid-Atlantic producers, there are opportunities to market a vineyard/production’s devotion to sustainability or practices that are incorporated into the production for sustainable purposes.   Though you may not be considering organic grape or wine production, we still believe it is important that we present these data and trends so that you are as informed as possible.  

Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumers and Sustainable Wine

In a March 2016, we were able to conduct a second Internet survey with Mid-Atlantic wine consumers, all of whom drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year. Through this survey, we investigated issues related to sustainable grape and wine production and their purchasing behaviors regarding these wines.

According to 2015 Cone Communication Millennial Corporate Social Responsibility Study (http://bit.ly/2fjmVX0), 83% of U.S. survey participants responded that they would buy a “product with a social and/or environmental benefit.”  When segmented based on U.S. generation, 87% of millennials (age 18 to 34 years at the time of the survey) would buy the product.

Other data focused on reported behavior.  For example, “in the past 12 months” 56% of participants had bought a “product with a social and/or environmental benefit” and 37% “researched a company’s business practices or support of social and environmental issues.”  Again, when segmented by generation, 59% of millennials indicated that they had bought such a product and 40% researched a company.

For our research, we were interested in learning about our participants’ “sustainable” wine purchases, which could be considered a product that has a social and/or environmental benefit. When asked if they “specifically look for and buy wine that is marketed as being sustainable,” 27.1% of our participants responded “yes” to the question.  With continued interest in what appeals to wine drinkers based on demographic characteristics, we segmented data based on the generation our participants identified with (access the following URL to learn more about U.S. generations: http://bit.ly/2e7HFwX).

We found that other than “Baby Boomer” and “Greatest/Silent” generations, a quarter or more of participants in each generation responded that they did look for/buy sustainable wines (Figure 1).  While nearly a third of “Younger Millennials” and “Generation X” participants looked for/bought this wine (28.6 and 31.3%, respectively), a higher percentage, 39.7%, of Older Millennials responded that they sought out/purchased the wines.

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“Sustainable” encompasses many different grape and wine production philosophies, methods, and strategies. A 2011 Internet survey conducted by Penn State researchers sought to determine whether specific types of “sustainable wines” would encourage more survey participants to purchase them compared to a “standard wine that [was] not produced with sustainable, organic, biodynamic, or similar grapes or processed using these methods.” Data from 910 Philadelphia and New York metropolitan area wine consumers was segmented based on wine purchasing frequency (e.g. purchased wine at least once a week) (Table 2).

Of the seven sustainable wine options included in the study, more participants who purchased wine “at least once a week” responded that compared to the “standard” wine they would purchase wine:

  1. made with “sustainably farmed” or “naturally farmed grapes” (47.9%);
  2. marketed as being sustainable (38.3%);
  3. Certified Carbon Free (27.8%);
  4. made with “biodynamic grapes” (19.2%); and
  5. “biodynamic wine” or “Demeter Certified wine” (19%) than participants who purchased wine less frequently (http://bit.ly/2fgIUOD).

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In our March survey, we investigated consumer interest in select grape growing and wine production practices.

Over half of all participants were either “very interested” or “extremely interested” in all six practices presented. Pertaining to the individual practices, 35.5% of participants were “extremely interested” in “wildlife protection and/or native plant conservation practices,” which was a higher than the percentages for “very interested” to “not at all interested” (Table 2).

In the case of the other five practices, the percentages for “very interested,” and “moderately interested” in the case of “cover crops used in the vineyard to control weed,” were greater than the percentages for “extremely interested.” The percent of participants who were “not at all interested” was less than 6% for all grape growing and wine production practices.

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Sustainable Packaging Components

A survey conducted in 2015 by Tetra Pak and the Global Footprint Network found that 86% of survey respondents “said that if they knew that use of renewable packaging contributed to reduced carbon emissions and helped slow climate change, it would impact their choice of packaging” (http://bit.ly/2dPBuMZ).  In addition, 69% of the participants indicated that they look for food and/or beverages sold in renewable packaging.

If the wine you are producing is “sustainable,” then it would make sense that the packaging is as well.  In past blog posts we have focused on different container sizes, which could factor into a consumer’s definition of sustainability (e.g. http://bit.ly/2eJO4ik; http://bit.ly/1FzZ8dA).  With great attention focused on wine containers, closures, and packaging components that may be more environmentally friendly or appeal to younger wine consumers, we investigated our participants’ level of interest in some of these alternative wine packaging types and components.

Percentage of participants who were “very interested” in the wine packaging types/components ranged between 28.2% for “closure is made from renewable polymers derived from sugarcane” to 38.6% for “glass bottles used are up to 27% lighter than ‘regular’ wine bottles.” While percentage of participants who were “extremely interested” in these types/components ranged between 17.5% for the “renewable polymer” closure to 28.3% for “wine container is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.”

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A future blog post will focus on container and closure recycling and what might motivate a wine consumer to return bottles to a tasting room to both encourage them to “be green” and repeat sales.

Sustainable Winery Tour Opportunities for the Mid-Atlantic

You may be well aware of Sonoma County Winegrape Commission/Sonoma County Winegrowers commitment “to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable wine region…to be completed” by 2019 (http://bit.ly/1I0YlSy).  But, perhaps you are less informed about the existence of wine tour operators in the region that offer winery tour packages that cater to consumers specifically interested in visiting organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wineries. North of Los Angeles, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours in Santa Barbara also provides these wine consumers with an experience and incorporating details that fit the overall theme and purpose:

  • customers visit the wineries in “an all-electric, luxury Telsa Model X SUV powered by home solar system” (http://bit.ly/2ePODbl) and
  • lunch includes local and organically grown produce, grains, and poultry that “is naturally raised without growth hormones or antibiotics” (http://bit.ly/2fj10PT).

With the existence of sustainable and organic wineries located in the Mid-Atlantic region and efforts such as the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing organization, which lists over 15 certified vineyards and wineries, and couple in transition (http://bit.ly/2dLQ5O8), perhaps the time is right for industry members to focus more heavily on “sustainable” wine tours, and consider the type of transportation used and food that is served during theses experiences.  Perhaps more exclusive packages could be offered with green/sustainable/etc.:

  • lodging,
  • suggestions for local/sustainable/organic food markets, farmers’ markets, restaurants,
  • car rental facilities that rent hybrid vehicles,
  • other environmentally-friendly activities and events, and
  • options for ground transportation to bring them to the region as well as local transportation.

In addition to these components, the materials used to build the tasting room facility and/or other buildings may interest this segment of wine consumers.  As part of our initial investigation of this concept, we asked our survey participants’ awareness and interest in LEED certified buildings (a global green building certification program, http://www.gbci.org/certification) on the winery property or used in the wine making process.

Less than a third of our participants had heard of or were familiar with the concept of LEED buildings (Figure 3).  Of these participants, the presence of a LEED certified tasting room and/or other winery buildings 27.1% would be “somewhat influenced” and “very influential.”  Less than 17% of participants responded that these buildings would be “extremely influential” (16.4%), “slightly influential” (15.4%), or “not at all influential” (14%).

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In Conclusion 

With the number of options available for a business to become/increase their sustainable efforts, the question is not whether to become sustainable but what “environmentally-friendly” aspects make the most sense for the business.  As many of our readers know, we encourage businesses to survey customers before making changes, no matter how insignificant they may seem, to learn how current and potential buyers will react.  Whether it is a change to the packaging/closure/labels, grape production and wine making practices, new building construction, etc. consider how your customers will (and if they will) value these changes and enhancements.  If you currently incorporate sustainable practices, no matter how small, remember to inform consumers about what you are doing to improve their (wine drinking) world.

Additional Research & Jen Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.

 

The back wine label: What information and features appeal to consumers?

By: Kathy Kelley, Jeff Hyde, Professor of Agricultural Economics, and Johan Bruwer, Professor of Wine Business and Marketing, the University of South Australia

It’s common knowledge that many consumers purchase wine based on the label design, and that the design often influences consumer perception regarding wine quality and expected price. Though several research studies have focused on front label characteristics, fewer have investigated the importance and usage of the back label.  In one study, 57% of respondents reported that they read the back label during the decision process (Charters et al., 1999).   Among these participants, more women (61%) reported that they read the back label when shopping compared to men surveyed (51%).  In another study (Thomas and Pickering, 2003), participants rated the importance of both the front and back wine label in the purchasing decision using a 7-point scale (1: very little importance to 7: very great importance).  Though statistically significantly different, ratings for the front label and back label were 4.79 and 4.60, respectively.

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As the information on the back of a wine label can vary greatly from a description of where the grapes were grown to images and maps that supersede text, Penn State researchers and a faculty member from the University of South Australia wanted to learn if including the following information on the label would appeal to wine consumers:

  • Three options for food pairing information: 1) no food pairing information, 2) text-only description of food pairings, and 3) images of symbols of food pairings
  • How to contact and connect with the tasting room: 1) Quick Response [QR] code, 2) tear away strip, and 3) winery tasting room email and website address
  • Four winery background information options: 1) information about the winery only, 2) the wine maker and winery, 3) the winery and wine region, and 4) the wine region only

We selected these elements based on what we found to be present on wine bottles sold at tasting rooms and at the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirit Stores, some of which appeared more frequently on back wine labels than others.  For example, we investigated the appeal of a website and email address for a winery tasting room as consumers often contact businesses and access information about products via the Internet.  We then chose to include a Quick Response (QR) code to the back label as smartphone and tablet users who scan the two-dimensional code are directed to a wineries’ website or any other webpage associated with the code.  While invented in 1994, this technology is relatively new to the wine industry as reportedly being first used by a winery in 2010 (Franson, 2011), which corresponds to when we conducted the survey. Even today, the use of QR codes on back wine labels is still quite low.

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We also investigated the appeal of a “tear away strip” (perforated part of the wine label that contains the name of the winery, varietal, and other information) that consumers can easily remove from the label and use to remember the wine and refer to when making future wine purchases.

Design and statistical techniques used

Between July 12 and 17, 2011, 910 consumers who were age 21 and older, who drank and purchased wine at least a few times a year, and who lived in either metropolitan Philadelphia or New York City participated in a 15-minute Internet survey.  Among the survey questions, participants were asked to evaluate 16 mock labels, which contained one of the options from each of the categories of interest: food pairing, how to contact and connect with the tasting room, and winery background information.   We also added the following to the mock labels so that each would be as representative as possible of what would be on a commercially available bottle of wine: fictitious brand name and bottling address, 750 ML net content, declaration of sulfites and health warning statement (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 2008) and fictitious UPC code.

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If you calculated the number of mock labels that were possible, based on the number of different attributes we tested (3 different food pairing options x 3 how to contact and connect with the tasting room options x four winery background information options), you would come up with 36 combinations.  By using a statistical technique called “conjoint analysis” (used frequently in market research), however, the number of actual combinations that consumers needed to evaluate was reduced to 16, which was a much more feasible number to evaluate.

An example that might help you understand why we use this technique can be explained by the following example:  Consider an automobile manufacture that wants to introduce a new model to their SUV line.  With all numerous seat types and upholsteries, interior design styles, dashboard layouts, pricing, etc. that could be offered how do they select the winning combination and where do they begin?  Conjoint analysis can ultimately determine, based on scenarios that asked consumers to indicate how likely they would be to buy a vehicle with “x” seat type, “y” interior style, “z” dashboard layout, etc.  This technique can then identify which feature (e.g. seat type) was the most influential in their decision to “purchase the vehicle,” as well as what seat type (e.g. x, y, or z if three different seat options were investigated) consumers preferred the most.  In essence, we did the same with our wine labels.  We were able to learn if food pairing in general was more appealing then contacting and connecting with the tasting room and if either of these were more important to our participants than the addition of winery background information to the label.  Also, of the three pairing information options – which was the most appealing and which was the least.

It is important to note that even through participants evaluated less than half the total possible number of combinations – all food pairing, how to contact and connect with the tasting room, and winery background information options are represented and tested equally.

Our survey participants

Sixty-five percent of the 910 participants lived in the New York City metropolitan area and 35% lived in metropolitan Philadelphia.  Approximately one-third of participants resided in each of the three states that comprise the two metropolitan areas: New York (36.6%), New Jersey (35.2%), and Pennsylvania (28.2%).

Most common responses to demographic questions were female (71.9%), a member of a two-adult household (54.1%), resided with at least one other adult wine drinker (69.6%), lived in a household with no children (55.9%), were age 35 to 44 (36.8%) years, had a bachelor’s degree (37.7%), with a household income between $25,000 and $75,999 (46.4%).

After responding to questions about wine consumption and purchasing (which will be presented in future blogs), participants rated each label using a seven-point Likert scale (1= very unlikely; 7= very likely) as to their likelihood to purchase the bottle of wine based on the three factors, regardless of varietal, to serve to family and/or friends.  In total, we were able to collect completed responses for this part of the survey from 847 of the 910 participants.

So, what appealed most to our survey participants? 

When responses from all of the 847 participants were used in the analysis, the pairing information category was found to be more important than either contact and social media information and winery background information.  In fact, based on the scenario described above, 43.3% of the decision would be based on pairing information, 26.8% would be based how to contact and connect with the tasting room, and 29.6% of the decision would be based on background information.

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We also analyzed the data based on how frequently a consumer purchased wine and how often they consumed the beverage.  The only difference in order of importance of the three characteristics was found for the 64 participants who purchased wine at least once a week (7.6% of the 847 participants who completed the wine label evaluations).  For these more frequent wine purchasers, winery background information was slightly more important (38.7% of the purchasing decision) followed by how to contact and connect with a tasting room (31.1%) and pairing information (30.2%).

The outcome for those who responded that they drank wine more than once a week (28.6% of those who completed the wine label evaluations) also known as “super core wine drinkers,” was similar to the outcomes for the entire group of participants: 39.7% of the decision would be based on pairing information as a whole, 28.0% would be based how to contact and connect with the tasting room, and 31.8% of the decision would be based on background information.

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You may be wondering whether those who purchased wine at more frequent intervals also consumed wine at more frequent intervals.  In other words, are the two groups represented above comprised of the same participants?  A quarter, 24%, of participants both drank and purchased wine at least once a week while another 28% of participants purchased wine a few times a year – regardless of consumption frequency.  In the study that was conducted in 2013, which has been published in a past blog, we did ask consumers more detailed questions about buying single bottles and bulk/case purchases (http://bit.ly/1FzZ8dA).

The “winning” label combinations

As mentioned above, in all but one instance pairing information accounted for approximately 40% of the purchasing decision.  Therefore, as would be expected, participants did not rate labels that lacked pairing information favorably.  Analysis showed that either a written description of what the wine paired with or images/symbols of the food items were nearly equal in their positive appeal.  So, based on our study, it would prudent for wineries to consider including descriptions/symbols of food parings as their customers might value this information as our participants did.

Both the tear away strip and the QR code received negative ratings, while the email and website URL option received only “slight” positive ratings.  Wineries interested in using a QR code, tear away strip, email/URL, Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, or other methods of allowing consumers to contacting/connecting with the tasting room should survey their customers to learn what they would find useful.  Customers’ preferences might be based on generation, consumption frequency, and other factors.  Regardless, it is always preferable to ask your customers what they prefer than to just make a guess.  Also, there may be ways other than the back label to provide this information to those same customers.

Outcomes pertaining to winery background information indicated that two options were not favored among our participants: 1) when only information about the winery was provided and 2) when only information about the wine region was included on the label.

Instead, our participants found the other two options appealing: 1) information about the wine maker and the winery and 2) information about the winery and wine region (though ratings were similar – this option was slightly more appealing).

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What does this all mean?

            Certainly there are many components and combinations that we could have tested in our study, but since we were relying on consumers to evaluate more than one piece of information on the labels (and we included the government warning, winery address, and UPC to make the label as representative) we did not want to overwhelm our participants with even more label options.   There is a recognized limit as to how many conjoint analysis combinations consumers can likely evaluate before becoming fatigued.  We did not want this to become an issue in our study.

As stated previously, we tried to identify components that had been shown to be of value to consumers and either commonly used on back labels or could have potential to enhance a consumer’s interaction with the winery and tasting room.

Other factors can certainly have an impact on whether or not a consumer finds a back label appealing and useful: label paper thickness, gloss/no gloss, and color; fonts style, size, and color; as well as brand, varietal, and price (which we tried to remove from the equation), etc..  Still, most wineries spend time developing back labels, printing, and applying them to bottles.  Our research provides those who are evaluating their current labels or developing their very first label with a bit of insight – a starting point for crafting a back label that could include items our participants found appealing.  Marketing is a science and even if you do not have access to statistical tools like we do – you have access to the most important piece – consumers who will be purchasing your product.

We have much more data to share, from both this study and others.  As with the information that has been shared in past blogs, our hope is that we can provide at least one idea to help your winery and tasting room be successful.

References:

Charters, S., Lockshin, L. and Unwin, T. 1999. Consumer responses to wine bottle back labels. Journal of Wine Research, 10(3): 183-195.

Franson, P. 2011. Wineries connect with QR codes. Wine Business Monthly, 18(8): 42, 45-48.

Thomas, A. and Pickering, G. 2003. The importance of wine label information. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 15(2): 58-74.

United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 2008. What you should know about grape wine labels. U.S. Department of the Treasury, available at: http://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51901.pdf (accessed 24 August 2014).

 

 

 

Is Your Tasting Room Providing Customers With an Experience?

By: Dr. Kathy Kelley

One of my favorite marketing books is “The Experience Economy: Work is Theater & Every Business a Stage,” by Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you synopsis of the book: how to turn an ordinary shopping trip into an “experience” that engages customers and keeps them in the retail outlet longer, which often encourages them to purchase more and return more often.

Though it has been over 15 years since I first read the book, I remember the concepts and examples and have incorporated them into the course I teach at Penn State in the Plant Science Department, Horticultural Retail Business Management (HORT 455). I have also made it the focus of a Penn State Extension presentation tailored for winery tasting rooms (If you would like a PDF copy of the presentation send me an email at kmk17@psu.edu).

In the book, the authors describe how a business could implement what they call the four “Es,” which are essential for creating an experience. They are as follows, along with examples specific to wineries: Education (informal and formal wine courses/tours/displays, even what you share when pouring samples), Esthetic/Aesthetic (visual aspects and intangibles that provide a “feeling” that a consumer gets when visiting your tasting room), Escape (involving the customers, for example, including them in the wine making process), and Entertainment (events and activities, concerts, etc., and even the “flare” or presence you exhibit when pouring samples). Any type of retail business can incorporate these strategies into a marketing plan – and wineries can do so in many different ways.

While so much could be discussed, I thought I would share some pictures that illustrate a few “experience” components that demonstrate the concept.

When was the last time you considered what the landscape and planting beds on your property really looked like? If it is time to change them or add some enhancements, why not consider including grapevines (either those that you use for production or something more unique) in your landscape plantings? I took the picture below at the entrance to a winery tasting room in Chile. While the vineyards were visible from the entrance they were not located right next to the tasting room parking lot or building entrance. To help visits envision what they would see in the vineyard they planted “representative” ones in their landscape, which also added a decorative element and kept visitors from wandering into the production area. The vessel you also see in the image is a smaller version of what the enologist used to make his wines. Before customers even enter your tasting room, you should give them an idea of the experience and “story” waiting for them indoors – this winery was able to do just that.

July 2014_Kathy_image 1 grape vine in landscape

I could talk (and type) about displays forever. Certainly it is necessary to display wine bottles in rows on shelves along walls, as in the next image; however, bottles should also be interspersed among other items to encourage customers to purchase complementary products. But, there are other display strategies that you need to consider. Sometimes you may need or want to draw attention to “other” items (whether they are new introductions or a good that is often missed due to package style/size/etc.) and one way to
do so is by placing items on or next to a unique object. If you have “artifacts,” odds and ends, or old equipment – add them to your displays. They add another layer of interest and can change the display’s height so that not all goods are at the same level or on the same surface, which helps customers realize that there is more than one thing to look at. Also, notice that the table and bench used in the image differ in height, color, and material. This strategy also adds interest and depth and makes the space feel more like a boutique – perfect for a tasting room.

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Next you’ll see an image of a tasting room in South Africa. The owners made sure that there was visual interest throughout the tasting room and other areas where a customer might (permissibly) wander. Not only were the floors, walls, and tasting bar visually appealing, but the ceiling wasn’t neglected – after all, as a customer takes a sip of wine they most likely will be leaning their head back and seeing a glimpse of what is above them. So, don’t ignore this space or any other detail that a customer might see (including restrooms). Also, notice that the light fixture hanging over the tasting bars were made with grapevines – another nice touch and it helped direct customers to where they could get their samples.

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When consumers come to a tasting room they often expect to be educated about some production or wine making component, and perhaps you or your tasting room staff have talked to them about terroir and how it may impact your wines. I think that this display, below, does a few things: it provides a visual that goes with your oral description of what terrior is, offers and educational opportunity for times when you are too busy to give an in-depth explanation of the concept, can be considered a “work of art” and serve in the place of something else that could decorate the walls, and helps tell your winery’s story and what differentiates your business from other wineries.

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The following winery tasting room provided visitors with a look inside the tank room, which also served as a location for club member dinners (with a little imagination, your tank or barrel room can be turned into a wine cave for special events and dinners). Though not much was going on during the season that we visited, Denise Gardner and I thought that it could still serve to educate and entertain visitors. It wouldn’t take much more than creating a few signs, which could then be placed at eye level on either side of the glass, to list key points that describe what takes place in the space. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate explanation – just the highlights.

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Better yet, incorporate a bit of technology. Consider taking video of the processes performed in this area (and elsewhere in the winery and vineyard) and play them on a continuous loop for viewers to watch. Also, consider how you might even involve your smartphone or tablet users (especially if you already offer free Wi-Fi) in the experience. Denise and I are both “heavy” smartphone users and I bet that many of your clientele are, too. With the camera features on our phones, we can take pictures of QR (Quick Response) codes and the link that corresponds to the two-dimensional image (that the winery tasting room owner/staff creates) could take us to a website with information about the tanks, or whatever the winery wants to highlight. For more information on QR codes, here is a blog post written by Sarah Cornelisse, Penn State Senior Extension Associate: bit.ly/1rouBFB

Have your wine labels evolved overtime? Or, did you produce certain labels to support causes, have limited edition labels, or created ones to celebrate something that happened at the winery (10 year
anniversary, etc.)? If so, put them on display. Several wineries that I visited in New Zealand did so to show how their labels changed overtime, sometimes with just slight differences between vintages, but still something for tasting room visitors to look at and keep them on that premises longer. Your job is to tell your story, so why not use your labels to do so?

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July 2014_Kathy_image 6 wine bottle label evolution 2

Speaking of keeping your visitors in the tasting room for as long as possible, have you ever observed customers who are trying to sample (and enjoy) your wines with friends/relatives in tow – who do not drink wine? Depending on the tag-alongs, it could be a very unfulfilling experience for everyone. Most likely you have visited a type of retailer where you have been the companion who was not interested in what was being sold. Hopefully you had a place to wait while others shopped for what they needed, without them feeling guilty for leaving you behind.

If you don’t have a comfortable seating area away from the tasting bar, but still in view (for all visitors to use – tasters and non-tasters), create one. The space should be inviting, comfortable, and stocked with items for guests to look at and keep them occupied. While certain spaces allow for a television others might not, either based on size or that it would detract from the tasting room atmosphere. An option is to have several (current) magazines available for visitors to read. Subject matter should appeal to your clientele as well as complement “wine,” for example travel and leisure, cooking and entertaining, and similar subscriptions.

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July 2014_Kathy_image 7 magazines

The last image I have to share (for now) is from a brewery (the proprietor’s father owned a winery) that hosted many events featuring food and beer/wine pairings. A new grill sparkles and shines and can add aesthetic value; however, some grills do not “age” well and soon loose their luster. This brewery decided to add some whimsy to their grill with a wine barrel. The finished product fit well with their image and a weathered barred barrel adds a bit of romance while a rusted grill promotes other feelings.

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