Re-Branding, not an easy task

by Eve Resnick on March 9, 2010

in General

I recently blogged on the re-branding of Château Laville Haut-Brion, the white wine of Château La Mission Haut-Brion, under the name of “Château La Mission Haut-Brion blanc” (white). In the same movement, Domaine Clarence Dillon, owner of both Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion,   re-branded the second wine of Haut-Brion, Bahans Haut-Brion, by the name “Clarence de Haut-Brion” and the second white wine of both estates, Les Plantiers, under the new label of “La Clarté de Haut-Brion”.

Those decisions make a lot of  sense for a marketer working on brands. Historically, Haut-Brion is the very first luxury wine brand in the world. Names change over the centuries. The re-branding of Laville in “Château La Mission Haut-Brion” blanc is justified by history: from 1928 to 1930, it was the name of the wine and several labels testify of the existence of this name. But this re-branding made a little fuss among wine lovers and drinkers. On the forum of wine-pages.com, a few connoisseurs commented on the decision, thinking some names were disappearing. Yes, of course, the names are disappearing, but not the wines. The wine in  the bottle is exactly the same, coming from the terroir of Haut-Brion.

What is the fuss about? While reading the various posts and answers on the forum, I had the strange feeling those great connoisseurs of the French best wines were already nostalgic of the old names.  It is very touching to feel this strong link between the brand and the consumer. But the main brand is Haut-Brion: behind those two syllables, there is a world of excellence, tradition and innovation. Haut-Brion was always the first one to go ahead of its time and it keeps doing the same in this second decade of the 21st Century.

Of course, it is always sad for a connoisseur to see an old and cherished name replaced by an other. But this change will make the brand stronger for the next generations: more logical, easier to remember, La Clarté and Le Clarence will help guiding the new consumers towards the greater wines.

A brand has to be able to cross the centuries. In order to do so, it needs to renew itself, to be innovative,  to adapt to new times and new trends and reach new consumers. It’s only by innovation linked to tradition that a luxury wine brand will stay alive and create a strong link with new generations of consumers. Long live to historical wine brands!

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March 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

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1 randulo March 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

One thing you neglected to mention is that similar disgruntled wine geeks who may already own the older labeled bottles they are grumbling about will perhaps see an increase in value of these… among other geeks.

I read the thread in the Wine Pages forum and I believe it to be a perfect example of the difference between the wine geeks (what are they, 1% of the buying public?) and the discerning consumer.

For the same reason that true Linux geeks hate Ubuntu and true PC geeks hate Apple, wine geeks hate when you make it easier to understand the nectar of the gods. There is no reason that wine should not be made accessible in its outer appearance, with user-friendly, memorable labels, understandable language and possibly even some idea of the acidity, “fruit-forwardness” and sweetness. Why would this be wrong, assuming the wine inside is identical?

“If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams) can’t be extrapolated to “if you make the wine, they will buy and drink it”. You need to build a brand around a good wine and make people aware of this brand. We could say “if you build a brand, they will follow it”.

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