Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Advent of the Billboard Bottle

A while back I commented on differences among wineries with a focus on 'Virtual Wineries'  and within 'Virtual'  I differentiated between two types: 'Virtual' and 'Absentee'.   A third related innovation may have surfaced... you be the judge.

World-wide a winery and the wine it produces are identified on the label. This is a VQA requirement and is the case for the mainstream Canadian wine industry. I'd say the majority of wineries whether in BC, Niagara, PEC or NB are striving for world attention. Most have gained and continue to gain traction each season and, from my recent participation, there is visibly more cooperation among wineries and regions in and outside Canada, case in point i4c2012.

What of a wine produced by a winery but labelled to advertise a business or personality unrelated to the producing winery? or for that matter, a business or personality having no direct involvement in the wine making process other than a consumer? Does marketing of this product contribute in some way to promoting the Canadian wine industry or does it instead detract?

The customary outlets for marketing a product or service are largely innocuous or at least traditional. We put up with each since it's easier to ignore than stop them. The weekly glossies delivered with the morning newspaper, the leaflets stuck in your mailbox, the unsolicited telephone calls or the countless commercials on cable TV. These traditionally advertise winter cruises, a ClubMed discount, 60" TVs with HD & surround sound, re-roofing your home or cleaning air ducts. But what does a business with a specialized service do? ...for example the Bay Street broker wanting to reach a client base interested in investment opportunities? One approach could be via a wine bottle label. Find a winery having a goal of reaching more consumers and combine that effort with a business interested in marketing a name and it's a win-win combination, isn't it? The principle doesn't even have to split a grape.

Hollywood celebrities, hockey players, golfers and actors have used the labelling approach. What's so different? Perhaps the level of investment. Changing the name on an existing winery seems to me to be a quick entry into the wine industry, however, the investment is a
sizeable commitment to the business.  The celebrity carries the winery... but sometimes for only a short while. Unless retiring from the limelight the celebrity often can't divert their personal focus for indefinite periods. The attraction of a winery fizzles and both the winery and brand are contracted out or sold to a consortium.

However, what if the extent of the investment is pared back to that of a labelling change? A few square inches of label multiplied several thousand times for several types of wines becomes a significant increase to the winery's production. The sponsor sees advertising equivalent to a chain of billboards, first in Ontario then, with cross border movement, Canada-wide. Not a virtual winery but potentially a win for the bottler and a win for the sponsor. It gives a new meaning to the phrase 'Go for Gold'.  What does the consumer get out of this arrangement? The principle and the winery could be motivated to bring an 'appealing' wine to market at a value price point. However, my altruistic values say there should be a reason for a name on a wine label other than 'you've got the money and you want to make more'.

I call this 'Billboard Bottling'. 

Next... how about sectioning wine labels into spaces for ads - similar to what is on every Facebook, LinkedIn or eBay panel? Or, advertise a TV series, eg. Real Wives of Van Shiraz - peppery and at 16% alc., You Think You Can Dance White, Coronation Street Rosé, Shades of Grey Cabernet. I'm sure that some winery, somewhere will corrupt the business that far someday.

Watch for a Billboard Bottle coming soon to an Outlet near you.

My thoughts,



During the recent Niagara trip I stopped at Vineland Estate to sample the Unoaked Chardonnay (#307751, $14.95) and the Cabernet Merlot (#307774, $14.95). The white is a blend of 90% chard, 5% Chard Musqué and 5% Sauvignon Blanc and has a sugar level of 12.1 g/L at 12.0% alc.   The red is 68% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon with a sugar level of 6.9g/L at 13.0% alc. Both are VQA Niagara Peninsula. My impression is that both fit the market competing with entry level imports and Canadian lifestyle blends.

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