Crafting a Fine Mouthful
The rise of immersive and carefully curated food and drink experiences is challenging the sustainability of the Australian wine industry. There is genuine innovation across the sector but the emergence of lively craft beverages, a disorienting range of choice options, and the ascent of the experiential dimension is choking new initiatives. Keeping ahead of the game and relentless differentiation is the new normal.
In recent years wine has had to make room on its pedestal for craft beer and distilled spirits, especially with passionate younger consumers who are seeking diversity and new taste adventures. Wine is holding its own with the baby boomers but is struggling with the highly engaged millennials who are pushing back the status quo in their quest for new (and healthy) lifestyle experiences.
The dichotomy is sweet sophistication — the gentle caress of a long-stemmed glass with the wine’s bouquet tickling your nose, versus the relaxed and unpretentious vibe of a craft beer. Cellar doors and bottle stores versus reinvented brew bars, pubs, and bespoke distilleries. Bars and restaurants are also having to work harder to provide customers with unique drinking experiences as drink choice can be strongly influenced by venue and surroundings. It is a time of letting go of old habits and thinking of new ones.
In an industry where most wine products are not differentiated from a consumer point of view, except for regionality or grape variety, creating brand recognition is the way forward. A product that shouts, ‘buy me’.
Wine choice is often random, possibly a recommendation from a review or friend, or maybe something that resonates from an experience or memory of place, or perhaps it is the label or packaging that has caught the eye. The simple fact is that in a crowded marketplace a wine branding strategy is pivotal in influencing consumer behaviour. Consumer choice can be significantly swayed by the label on the wine. Name, imagery, heritage narrative, and appearance has a strong influence on people’s expectations of the wine and the category it occupies, and ultimately on repeat purchase. What is on the bottle can be just as important as what’s inside.
A label creates perception thereby positioning the wine into a category, from premium with its elegant and deluxe design, to artisan with its green credentials and strong regional and estate imagery.
There is no need for pessimism in terms of innovation. Packaging alternatives are under review. In a market that has been often resistant to change it has seen out cardboard casks and corks. Younger wine drinkers have been most open to embracing wine in different packaging, including cans and half bottles.
Wine, food and music festivals and events are growing in popularity. Wine tourism is going from strength to strength as visitors taste and consume wine while experiencing the broader attributes of a wine-growing region.
The future is about being genuinely innovative by taking risks and trying new things — owning the space. Consumers are seeking new ways to experience everything, and they are looking to brands to fulfil that expectation. To succeed in the same manner that craft breweries have done there is a need to embrace an ethos of innovation, authenticity, style, and collaboration. Craft beer producers have been very successful in mobilising their consumers around a set of shared principles and getting them to advocate on their behalf — not only to drink and promote the merits of craft beer, but also to demand it at restaurants, bars, and liquor stores. Smart brands with a strong brand proposition are helping consumers experience more by differentiating offerings with a greater brand immersion. The secret is crafting a brand that pushes the boundaries, then marketing the hell out of it!
Opportunities require action. The fundamentals are:
- Keeping abreast of emerging consumer behaviours and motivations.
- Creating a consistent wine branding strategy that influences consumer behaviour.
- Designing wine labels that are mini billboards to support brand credence and provenance.
- Crafting a memorable brand story that engages hearts and minds.
- Exploiting a well-designed website and content-rich social channels as platforms of reach and influence.
- Building striking communications and marketing collateral to showcase products to the hospitality and tourism industry, consumers and the wine industry generally.
- Developing an inbound and domestic visitation strategy, aligned to crafted premiumisation, provenance, tourism, and regional development, to become a destination of choice.