Here’s a distilled version of things I’ve learned to be true in marketing wines and spirits in the U.S.
1. Distribution: It’s not about placements it’s about RE-placements
- Distribution on-and off-premise is a good absolute number, but the ratio of total distribution to number of accounts that have reordered gives more insight into how the brand is really doing.
- Reorder rates: This is the key metric which tells you whether the product is moving at the point of consumer purchase. Tip: if you run a distribution-build program with anything less than 3 bottles per placement minimum, you might be doing yourself more harm than good…generating distribution that won’t move.
2. Don’t market to empty shelves
Before you start consumer promotions, make sure you’ve developed sufficient distribution such that consumers can actually buy what you are promoting.
Tips: 1)You must have a where-to-buy function on your Facebook page and website. That does double duty…it not only allows your consumers to actually buy the product you’re promoting, but it also is a powerful sales tool to let retailers know you’re helping to drive traffic to their store/bar/restaurant. 2) Always target and work with at least one aggressive e-commerce retailer in every market… It will allow you to sell your products to consumers in states where you don’t have a distributor on board.
3. Get it in, and then Get it OUT
Building distribution is one thing, but it has little value if you haven’t coupled that with consumer marketing and promotion to move the product through and generate reorders at retail. Tip: in today’s hyper-competitive environment you need to prove your case commercially by yourself before you can convince others that it will sell through for them.
4. Help the importer and distributor do their jobs:
- Tell the trade what you’re going to be doing via trade advertising, PR and newsletters
- Drive consumer demand via advertising, promotion, social media et al.
Tip: Add a trade component to all consumer promotions so that the on and off premise accounts you have distribution in recognize you’re the one sending them customers and helping grow their revenue and margins.
5. Target Audience:
You can’t be all things to all people. Determine your target audience and focus on it precisely, comprehensively, consistently and relentlessly. Rinse and repeat.
Tip: it’s just as important to determine who’s NOT your audience as well as who is.
6. Triage by “Must,” “Should,” and “Could.”
It’s easy to be seduced by great ideas, but it’s your job to recognize that great ideas are only great if they are on-strategy. We like to break things into three categories to really simplify decision-making:
- What Must we do?: Things that absolutely, positively have to be done; without them nothing else will work
- What Should we do?: Things that are on-strategy and will help the brand, but only to be funded after insuring that all the “Musts” are funded and fielded effectively.
- What Could we do? Usually these fall into the category of unsolicited offers for sponsorships, events etc. We recommend you consider these only after all the Musts and the most cost-effective “Shoulds” are taken care of.
Tip: Make sure your strategies mesh with target audience behavior. You must use different tools to reach Millennials vs. Boomers.
7. Have a POINT of Difference that MAKES a Difference
This is the simplest, but perhaps also the most difficult thing you have to do. Pare down your brand positioning to its absolute essence to determine not just what differentiates you from competitors, but how to express that difference in ways that are meaningful and motivational.
We often ask prospective clients to define their POD that MAD and commonly get the same answer: “We make really great (your category here).” In today’s world, making great wine, spirits or beer is necessary, but not sufficient. What is it that makes your brand a unique solution to a consumer and trade buyer’s problem? Think emotional benefits rather than trade benefits.
Tip: “Pairing” no longer is limited to food and wine/cocktails. The new paradigm is not about what it pairs with, it’s where, when and with whom you are pairing . What is the environment, virtual or real, and who is participating. With apps like VinePair, ViVino, Wine4.me, consumers are sharing their experience in real time. That goes beyond the food…way beyond.
8. This is a Marathon, not a 100-meter dash.
The U.S. may be the most important wine/beer/spirit market in the world, but it’s also the most difficult, competitive and complicated. Tip: Recognize and plan for it…and most importantly hire a guide you can trust.
9. Don’t pay for people to come to you, bring your wines to where they’re already gathered.
- The real world: bars/restaurants/retail stores/events and,
- The virtual world: wine destination websites (not yours), online events,online communities.
Tip: Think of “gathering” in terms of synchronicity. These days, not everybody has to be in the same place at the same time to share the same experience.
10. Push vs. Pull
Building both into your marketing plan is mandatory. Push has no value without consumer purchase, pull has no value without distribution.
Tip: Allocate resources to activate consumers to order/call for your brand in a way that involves the retailer so they recognize what you’re doing for their specific account.
11. Ready, Fire, Aim
It’s rare to get everything right the first time. So set specific, quantified objectives (the ready part); fire when ready, then refine aim based on performance against those measurable objectives.
Tip: An objective without a measurement is just a goal.
12. Curb your enthusiasm and really focus
This is really hard to do, but absolutely critical. Recognize it’s rare to get things right the first time…you can be ready and still be wrong. (Ciroc was originally positioned as “snap-frost vodka before P Diddy got involved.) So invest the time and resources on a limited geography to soft launch in a small number of markets (no more than 3). The U.S. is more balkanized than the Balkans…52 different markets.
Tip: Prove your concept commercially and scalably and only then look to expand.