Archive for December, 2008

Trends: 2009 Will Be Year Of Comfort Food, Cocktails, Organic/Fresh Labels and Mediterranean Dishes


A new report from Chicago-based market research firm Mintel predicts that the recession will be profitable for those companies catering to an increased interest in comfort foods, classic cocktails, organic/fresh food labels and Mediterranean dishes.  So which wines pair well with braised pork, olives or hummus?

Tasting room staffers:  You may want to work these trends into your suggestions to visitors when describing recommended food and wine pairings while pouring or accompanying visitors to the wine racks for purchases.

Winery marketing and web teams:  E&J Gallo has a food and wine pairing guide and Turning Leaf has a food and wine pairing wheel.

If your winery hosts food and wine pairing events, a similar interactive tool could be incorporated into your web content to bring visitors/customers back to your site.  You can also include a link to any of your favorite recipes and plug your in-house chef at the same time.  Add your winery’s own personal touch to these and other tools and keep your strategies consistent with your established winery brand.

This is a good time to think ahead, respond to trends and lifestyle changes and proactively seek to cater to the every day interests of your visitors and customers.  If you haven’t tuned into the Food Network, browsed through Food & Wine or Better Homes and Gardens, or clicked through Smitten Kitchen blog in awhile, check them out in the name of research.   Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!!


Karma, Rich and I wish you and your family a truly joyous holiday season, leading into a prosperous new year.  Thank you all for your support this past year.  It has been an amazing year because of you!!  Now go and grab a glass of your favorite wine (Finger Lakes of course!) and toast with us  🙂

Winery Marketing: Wine PR & Marketing Books I Love

There are a couple of books that I have found invaluable this year and I thought I would share them with you.  If you’re in a planning phase and looking for some guidance and fresh ideas for your winery public relations and marketing plan, you may want to add these two books to your list.

“Wine Marketing & Sales:  Success Strategies for a Saturated Market” by Paul Wagner, Janeen Olsen and Liz Thach

This book has become my “bible” and I refer to it all of the time when developing strategies for clients. I think you will find it very helpful.

Chapters include:

  • Basic Wine Marketing Principles
  • Research and Demographics of Wine Consumers
  • Wine Branding
  • Wine Advertising and Promotion
  • Graphic design in the Wine Industry
  • Wine Packaging and Labels
  • Wine Public Relations
  • Wine Budgeting and Pricing
  • Three Avenues to Wine Sales
  • Wine Sales and Distribution Management
  • Direct Wine Sales-Wine Clubs and E-Commerce
  • Establishing a Tasting Room
  • Strategies for Wine Exporting and Importing
  • Winery Repositioning and Turnarounds
  • The Big Picture and Evolving Topics

“Spinning The Bottle” by Harvey Posert and Paul Franson

This is a book filled with case histories and stories from Wine PR experts Harvey Posert,  whose bio includes many years as head of PR for Robert Mondavi Wineries, and Paul Franson, freelance writer who has worked in corporate and agency public relations for years.

Posert and Franson collected stories of 50 experts who were successful in their PR campaigns and some of the experts have included their contact information, which I think is a great bonus.  Some of the case histories include:  “Building a Name for Lodi Woodbridge” by Executive Director of Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission Mark Chandler, “Some Tips on Wine Public Relations” by Paul Franson, and “Delicato Family Vineyards” by Cheryl Indelicato, Delicato’s Public Relations Manager.

I’ll be sure to share any others that I come to discover.

Winery Marketing: It May Be Time to Create a Plan B

After reading an email update about New York Governor Paterson’s proposed 2009-2010 budget plan that would eliminate the budget of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, I sat back and thought about what that would mean for my friends here in the Finger Lakes wine industry. It certainly would make promoting the region more challenging with a smaller pool of capital to work with. So during this time when funding from NYW&GF is uncertain and cannot be counted on, it may be time to create a plan B for 2009.

A good place to start is with an assessment of your current marketing position. Which strategies have been most successful for you to date? Are there low-cost ways to continue to spread the word about your winery and the region? Who are your core customers and where do they spend time consuming information and doing research? Do you have a charismatic, inviting spokesperson who can actively promote your winery brand? What have you tried that hasn’t worked?

Next, dig in and do some research, look to your current best customers and ask them what keeps them coming back to you. Explore your options for actively pursuing new customers/visitors with a marketing-savvy friend, colleague or consultant. And certainly don’t forget to take special care of your current customers and keep up communication with them. Social media platforms provide a low-cost way to actively engage with your customers and prospective new customers. Explore social media platforms such as Open Wine Consortium, Facebook and Twitter and seriously consider introducing them into your marketing mix if you haven’t already.  There’s a group on Open Wine Consortium for wineries to interact with each other and the discussions in the general forum of the OWC contain valuable insights from the thought-leaders in our industry that may help you.

Plan for the worst-case scenario in regards to funding from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. That way, you’ll have a bare-bones plan in place that can be put into motion without losing a beat. There is strength in collaborating with others in the industry both here and in other wine regions. In my experience, those in the wine industry are passionate, friendly and helpful and you may discover a new idea that may be the one that makes a difference in your bottom line.  Don’t be afraid to contact me or comment here if you would like to continue the discussion.

Winery Marketing: Getting to Know You Via Social Media

The back of my business card

The back of my business card

Looking back on 2008, one of the best decisions I’ve made in regards to starting Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing, was to jump in and engage in social media. Initially skeptical, it didn’t take long for me to realize just how powerful some of the platforms can be for establishing a brand presence. Although informal and personal in nature, there are a few key things to keep in mind before engaging.

Contribute to the discussion by providing resources or links to relevant articles

Think of your target audience and what their needs are. The key here is to contribute and add value to the conversation, don’t simply tout your business or blog. You will establish yourself as a thought-leader in your industry and establish trust and credibility. A book I read earlier this year and highly recommend that ingrained this approach in me is Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid.” Although written as a small business marketing system, some of the basic tenets of the book ring true in many situations. Michael recommends that you focus on giving first and building relationships long before you have a proposition.

Be mindful of keeping a balance between personal and business posts

The strength of social media platforms is in the human factor. Yes, we’ll want to hear about your latest business ventures and offerings, but we won’t care until we get to know you. Be yourself, talk about what’s on your mind, post pictures and videos that show your outside interests. In doing so, you’ll attract social media friends and possibly business from like-minded people who connect with you. And as Adam Urbanski teaches in his social media seminars for entrepreneurs, the key to success is to build relationships, educate and entertain. He also recommends that you create your own personality or flavor and connect. People engage with people that they know, like and trust. The way to establish yourself on networks like Twitter and Facebook is to share some of yourself and keep the business-oriented posts to a small ratio of your overall updates. This may seem counterproductive, but in my experience, it isn’t. I’ve seen well-intentioned people turn their followers off by only showing their business faces.  If you’re uncomfortable with this approach, search for some of the people in your industry or a related industry that you admire and respect.  Take a look at their social media interactions.  Use your best judgment and carefully consider what you post because with each update, you’re establishing a brand identity.

Don’t forget to have fun

Social media is a fun way to engage with your friends, prospects and colleagues.  For those of us who work from a home office, it creates a virtual community to tap into for ideas and feedback and is a great way to keep on top of the latest news in your industry and showcase your abilities.

Report: American Association of Wine Economists-“Modeling Perceptions Of Locally Produced Wine Among Restauranteurs In New York City”

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

I was just alerted to this paper by Twitter friend Tish of The abstract summary of the paper written by Trent Preszler and Todd M. Schmit for American Association of Wine Economists reads,

“Poor perceived product quality, an inadequate sales force, and intense competition from wines produced elsewhere are common reasons cited for why New York wines have not achieved broad acceptance in the New York City (NYC) market. NYC restaurant owners, sommeliers, and chefs were surveyed regarding their perceptions and purchasing decisions of wines grown and bottled in New York State. Factor analysis was applied to examine the structure of interrelationships among key indicators of product perception, and an ordinal logistic regression model was used to identify the characteristics of restaurants that show a strong propensity to adopt local wines. The results indicate that a NYC restaurant’s type of cuisine does not affect its propensity to adopt local wine, nor does a restaurant’s desire to offer a large, geographically diverse wine list. The perceived collective reputation for a wine region’s excellence in one particular grape varietal was found to be the most significant factor in the probability of adoption of local wines in NYC. An important implication of these results is that being local is not enough, and New York winery stakeholders could establish a more prominent presence in NYC by emphasizing their collective reputation for particular grape varietals.”

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Wines produced in New York (NY) have traditionally been shut out of the upscale New York City (NYC) market. Nearly 75 percent of gross revenue at small independent NY wineries is earned directly from consumers in the winery tasting room
  • Market impediments for premium NY wines could be underscored by the long-standing association of NY with high-volume jug wines made using native and French-hybrid grapes.
  • Price is another factor, with lingering doubts by consumers that local wines can justify the same prices as imports.
  • Sommeliers experience wine differently, using intrinsic cues such as flavor, aroma, and color to guide buying decisions, and are driven by different economic motivations.
  • The most important factor influencing wine purchase decisions from this sample of upscale NYC restaurants was the wine’s “Quality for Price Point.”
  • Factors of relatively less importance included “Personal Relationships” that related to personal relationships with wholesalers/distributors or the winery/winemaker , as well as wholesaler/distributor wine recommendations.
  • The absence of strong NY wine sales in NYC is not necessarily due to a predominantly negative image of the product quality, nor to high prices. Instead, low sales in NYC can likely be attributed to the lack of any specific image at all. The regional brand identity of NY wine is not strongly defined because it is not explicitly communicated, and therefore is not universally understood by those who set trends in the culinary industry. A coalescence of marketing goals and principles among NY winery stakeholders could make a difference in this regard.

But wait, with all of the acclaim that Finger Lakes wine, especially Riesling, has garnered this past year, will we see an increase in the adoption of local wines in New York City in the coming years?   A strong, focused effort to communicate a world-class wine message is being made by Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. (Disclosure:  both are clients of Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing)  Although I have mentioned the locavore trend as one that may help to gain a foothold in the trendy, upscale NYC market, this paper states that “it is simply not enough to base a marketing platform on being local unless it is accompanied by strong associations with excellence and focused production priorities.”

Communicating with sommeliers requires a separate, focused strategy.  This article in Sommelier Journal was a nice one to begin educating them about the region.  Perhaps some follow up with NYC sommeliers is in order, and may be on the agenda already.

It seems clear that the wheels are in motion with communication strategies being executed to elevate the image of the Finger Lakes wine industry and Finger Lakes Wine Country.  As my friend, Michael Wangbickler at Cave Man Wines Blog recently stated while we were speaking about communications strategies, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Winery Marketing: People Connect with People, not Wine Bottles

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Crew at Harvest

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Crew at Harvest

One of my current projects involves creating content for a local wine association’s new website. I found
this post by Ben Chinn, Director of Web Design and Development at Inertia Beverage Group. Ben refers to winery websites as “virtual tasting rooms” in that they are another extension of your winery, its people and your winery’s story.

“What are you saying on your website? Can you imagine an employee in your tasting room talking like the text reads on your site? You have an opportunity to connect directly with customers on your website – don’t lose sight of the human being on the other side of the screen.”

It’s been my experience that today, customers are seeking personal connections and want to establish relationships with people, not bottles or vines or views. Although gorgeous shots of your winery’s views, vines and bottles are important to include, remember to feature your winery family and customers on your website. What makes them special? Why would a new visitor to your site want to come in and meet your staff, sample your wines and come back for more?

As Ben says in the post, “You need to create a memory of your winery that stands out among the other tasting room visits that day. On the web the competition is even more severe. You are competing with millions of other web sites and all of them are only a click away. How have you distinguished yourself and made sure the memory of your web site stays with each customer?”

Take a good look at your current web site content. When was the last time you updated it to tell your story and capture the interest of wine lovers with many, many choices of winery websites out there? If your content and events are stale, you may find yourself clicked away from in an instant.