The Blog

The Insane World of (Some) Generic Wine Marketing

We recently lost a pitch for an Old World regional generic wine account. The budget was sizeable and there was huge scope for improvement – so, in short, we were excited about it and really wanted to win it. We put in three weeks’ work and eventually submitted a detailed, imaginative, realistic, ground-breaking campaign proposal for three years. I can guarantee it would have worked – increasing awareness, incentivising the trade, exciting the consumer and boosting sales. The result? We failed at the first hurdle – not something we are used to.

So, why am I telling you this? Because it epitomises a lot that is wrong with many – but admittedly not all - generic wine programmes. They see only through their own eyes, and not those of the UK trade and consumer.

Our proposal - together with others - was evaluated remotely by a committee. This committee no doubt had a very clear idea of how it wanted its region’s wines portrayed but judging from the materials we were given in the run up to the pitch this idea is very wide of the UK mark.

Sour grapes? Perhaps – admittedly I’m frustrated we didn’t get the gig - but let me explain further. I’ve subsequently discovered that the pitch was won by the incumbent agency, one with close links to the generic system. They will keep it for another three years until the generic body is again obliged to put it out for tender. Were we and the other agencies beaten fair and square, or was this a ‘shoe-in’?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being beaten by someone else’s brilliance but I do mind when they continue to churn out ‘advertisement features’ as ineffective as those that occasionally grace the pages of the UK trade magazines. Unimaginative, unexciting, un-engaging – even if I do say so myself.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results. They must be.

There’s been a fair amount of criticism recently of CIVB (the Bordeaux wine generic organisation) using Dom Joly to front up their latest promotional push – much of it coming from the growers who fund the project. It may not be brilliant, but I welcome it as a brave departure from the ‘same old, same old’ approach that has been failing the French wine industry for over a decade.

I know generic organisations are political by their very nature, but this fear of the different – in this case actually basing the campaign around the modern UK consumer rather than some remote, romantic view of their unique terroir and landscape – is really holding them back.

Of course, there are some national generic wine bodies that have been doing a great job – Chile being the most obvious example - but speaking for the whole drinks PR industry, I implore the other generic wine bodies (and, yes, especially the Old World) to;

  •  Put the consumer first and build the campaign around them. Make your wines relevant to them – don’t try to do it the other way round.
  •  Be brave. If something hasn’t been working, do it differently or do something else. Don’t be insane!
  •  Dare to be different. There are thousands of other perfectly good wines out there, so why should the consumer choose yours?
  •  Give detailed feedback to the agencies that didn’t make it. A simple ‘non’ just isn’t fair.

I never want to be so cynical as to submit pitches that deliver exactly what I know the customer will want, as opposed to what I know will work, but it did cross my mind after this experience.

I have a dream…. That one day all generic wine organisations and their members will trust the opinion of UK experts when it comes to marketing their wines to the UK. Imagine that!

Bah humbug...








Generic Wine Marketing

You can't win them all. You have just won Wines of Portugal.
Poor Judy Kendrick must be agreeing with you that generic wine marketing is insane.

Your post mentioned both

Your post mentioned both advertisement features for UK trade magazines, AND addressing the UK consumer, so it was hard to distinguish whether the generic campaign you pitched for as aimed at trade or consumer.

The Bordeaux campaign, "Good food would choose Bordeaux", was clearly aimed at consumers, who then had to ask for/find Bordeaux for themselves. A clever phrase, no? - but it relies on consumers knowing their claret from their beaujolais (as Blur would have it).

Trade campaigns get the trade to stock the stuff, but then someone has to push it to customers - and of course, we buy most of our wine in supermarkets, where there are no staff to push it...

We see that our modestly successful blog (hem, hem) does appeal to the UK consumer, because we pitch it at the right level of knowledge/lifestyle - and we make it witty! (We hope...)

But heaven knows what the trade makes of it...

Best of luck and thanks for a fascinating post,


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