In a recent post, Top Five New Winery Mistakes, I cited lack of branding as a common omission in the business planning process. Brands are often confused with labels, logos and vineyards in the wine industry. I’ve even heard someone refer to his business card as a brand.
If it isn't a name or a label, what is a brand? A typical marketing definition is as follows: a collection of images and/or ideas representing an economic producer. To me, a brand is a set of experiences with a winery -- experiences with the wines, people, and place. (So it’s a label, a logo and much, much more.) These experiences in turn create impressions, ideas, values, and even personality. Dennis Hahn, President of ID Branding, and a speaker at the 2009 Oregon Wine Symposium likens a brand to a much broader concept of “a culture”, which is spot on.
A good brand starts with the introduction, continues through the experience and should create a lasting and positive impression. Let’s leave the wine industry for a few moments to examine two brand experiences:
Virgin America - this newer airline company, a subsidiary of Virgin, offers streamlined pricing, new planes with in-seat entertainment, and the ability to order refreshments from the convenience of your seat at anytime during the flight. This is certainly a competitive position and a unique experience when compared with the usual airlines with multiple add-on charges, the hated drink cart, and cramped spaces.
Starbucks Coffee - A visit to Starbucks is characterized by a personal or at least a warm greeting, a clean and polished atmosphere, a wide array of choices and the ability to customize drinks, to name a few. Other establishments offering coffee of lesser quality in a less upscale and comfortable environment are challenged by the lines at Starbucks every morning. (Know that McDonald's recently started competing on coffee and espresso -- in direct response to the market opportunity it sees!)
A brand should lay the foundation for all of your winery communication -- i.e., your marketing and sales strategies, and even your operating plan. It should also consistently communicate a distinct identity and a proposition for the target consumer. Identity is composed of a defined look and clear messaging. The look portion includes logo, label, printed material, website design. The messaging is comprised of name, label copy, printed material and website copy, etc. Both brand look and messaging serve together to communicate a foundational brand platform. This brand platform should highlight the brand’s unique selling propositions that in turn create value for the targeted set of consumers.
Since a brand is about experience, it’s much broader than look and messaging and includes all contact with customers. Your signage, greeting in the tasting room, website performance, behavior of your representatives at wine events, and communication with customers are all elements of your winery’s brand experience.
A strong brand is consistent, efficient and effective. This creates value for the customer, and by extension creates sales opportunities for you, the brand owner. Building a strong brand boils down to building a relationship of trust. A consumer’s excellent experience with your brand and the trust that develops is what creates delighted and repeat customers.
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