Kev contributed some thoughts to a discussion in the latest edition of The Drinks Business. Here’s his
rant piece in full.
Despite what all the marketing blurb might tell you there really are very few global wine brands. If we’re honest there are very few wine products that would be described as a brand at all outside of the wine business.
Even the big commodity brands aren’t global brands. Lafite is a big brand but it’s not a global brand. It’s really famous in China and in the wine business and in the Gavroche but you try getting a bottle in Ormskirk or Kenya. On the other hand you can go pretty much anywhere and be less than an hour away from your very own bottle of Veuve.
Global wine brands are the ones that act like spirits brands. Veuve acts like Johnny Walker, it leverages luxury to the masses everywhere at an accessible price. Who cares that you can buy better fizz for less? The product is secondary if it matters at all and Veuve is a proper brand because people feel reassured when they buy the orange badge. Liquid Hermes.
Veuve invests in luxury secondary packaging, amazing travel displays; builds good brand and personality associations and, like Johnny Walker, it invests in design that you can recognize from fifty yards. Veuve owns a colour. I mean it LEGALLY owns a colour. You even try to do something similar with a fizz and you get a cease and desist before you’re anywhere near popping your cork. That’s grown up big brand stuff that only the top few corporations can even contemplate investing in because LVMH‘s intellectual property legal bill is higher than most brands’ entire turnover.
What’s been really interesting recently is watching Grants, Brown-Forman and Diageo disposing of their wine brands. If these hugely powerful and very rich global firms can’t or don’t want to make global wine brands stick, with their distribution networks, then there’s little hope for the rest of us.
Way too many people fail to realize that wine, non commodity wine that is, is really not very important to consumers. They have no loyalty and the market is so fragmented that they don’t need any. In fact it pays to NOT be loyal. ‘Oh, you’ve sold out of the bottle I had last week, never mind, I’ll try one of these other 500 pretty new labels instead. How about this one that’s on offer?’ Anyone who goes out of their way to buy a non commodity ‘brand’ is borderline psychotic and off their meds.
That’s not to say creating a global wine brand cannot be done. Technically, theoretically, of course it could be done. For my entire career when we try to narrow down their target market on the brief, clients have said ‘Coca-Cola is a global brand so my brand can be too, I want it to appeal to everyone.’ Sure it can be a global brand, just show me your billion dollar marketing budget and we’ll crack right on.
If you want my advice on building a global wine brand, I’d say forget about it. Pick some key territories, max them out and have enough cash in your back pocket to throw at retailers to stop the big firms forcing you off the shelves when you become a threat. Remember Virgin Cola? No, neither does anyone else, and that was Richard Branson.