Now, your first thought might be that I went out and got a tattoo. Four years in the Navy couldn't get me to do that so, no, no tattoo. Forget the idea of me on some dude ranch and I accidentally slipped and sat on a hot branding iron. Ouch! Not that either. So pray tell what do I mean?
It's a pretty simple phenomenon that occurs when some very smart people in a company's marketing department comes up with an idea, or even, more simply, a name for a product. That is then transformed into a household name. The longest lasting one I can recall is bathroom tissue. When we write down our shopping list or tell our shopping buddy to get some, we almost always say pick up some "Kleenex." Kleenex is a brand name not a product name. Yet we have become so associated with the name, we use that in most cases. Another more recent example is when we search for something on the internet. We just say "I'll Google that." Again, Google is a company name. There are many other search engines out there, but they have the lock. Not many people I know will say I'll Firefox that or AOL this. So branding can play an enormous role in a successful business.
Now let's talk about branding as it relates to the wine industry. Wineries spend fortunes on developing the names of their winery and their wines. Another fortune on their labels as well. Studies have show that labels can play a major role in how one picks their wine. As big an issue that companies strive for beyond Brand Recognition is Reputation.
This came up recently as I was talking to a couple of wine connoisseurs. They all brought up wines that they are absolutely sold on, year after year, no matter what. That's a harder concept for me as I have always been one who believes your only as good as your last wine, or something like that. Now great wineries usually make great wines year after year. But that's not always the case. And I know, as I always readily admit to, that I am a wine snob. So I tend to choose wines that represent quality over name recognition.
I have a theory as to why people choose certain wineries. More and more people have been taking trips to all the various wine areas of the USA and even the world. You drop into one of these wineries that cater to visitors, they treat you well (hopefully) and let you taste their wines (remember what I said in previous blogs, wines ALWAYS taste better when you drink it in a special place - and the winery is always that special place) and they are more than willing to sign you up for their wine club, assuring you'll continue to receive their wine each and every year. How nice of them to think of you.....there's a little sarcasm there. BUT, it is great marketing on their part. Heck, that's what most companies strive for, loyal customers who will buy their products, and I can't fault them for that.
Interestingly, as I've mentioned in a few past blogs, Direct To Consumer wine sales (as it's generally referred to), continues to increase year after year. It is also becoming much more of an influence and direct competition to the local wine shops. Each year you know you can get wines from those wineries you like best and even some of their select wines that never make it to the general public. Again, all great marketing ideas, and ones that help support customer loyalty.
Personally, I've rarely belonged to any wine club. The exception has been wineries that only self-distributes, or on an occasion when a wine I am looking for isn't available or has sold out locally. Being a part of the industry also gives me more insight into just how much wine is out there and the time and resources to let my wine snobbery come out and pick and choose which wines I want to buy. Again, not knocking wine clubs, just a personal preference.
Now it's not my intent to get people to move away from wine clubs or to stop buying that great wine that they love. No, in fact, the whole idea of branding is what I've been trying to do with myself. The "Hi, it's Don 4 Wine" has been my "brand" or moniker for some time. I realize that if you develop that loyalty, you transcend into something or someone else. Heck, maybe it can even develop into some sort of business venture that I can actually make money from. Of course, I do realize that for every success story there are many more that don't make it. As I sit here thinking about those, I find myself not being able to come up with one. That's probably why they failed.
Time will tell if my efforts succeed or fail, but for the foreseeable future, I guess "I'm Branded."