How to position a wine brand

by Eve Resnick on November 28, 2010

in General

David Anthony Hance found 3 keys to success for a wine brand: the wine type or style, the personality or the place.  By wine type, he means a zinfandel or a Pinot Noir “burgundian style”, for example. Personality implies the brand is based on a person, such as Coach Ditka or Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon. Place is linked to the location that can help brand a wine: who didn’t hear of the famous Napa Valley Cab?

A brand is usually richer than those basic three components while those three keys can crisscross each other. The Bonny Doon brand is nurtured by the personality of its founder, Randall Grahm, by its wine styles (Rhone Valley) and by its location in the US.  What is interesting with Bonny Doon is that, since it does not bear the name of its founder, it will be able to survive it if an equally charismatic leader or a good business man runs the winery. In the case of Coach Ditka, it might not be the same if the marketing is heavily based on his personality and the person looses popularity. The brand might have a shorter life cycle.

As for the location, is it really strategic? New World consumers have the culture of the varietal when Old World consumers go by the location, even the “terroir”. As a wine consumer, I love to know if my Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy or from Santa Barbara, California. My expectations will be different for the style, the personality of the winemaker and, of course, of the location. New World consumers have also a good “location” culture: they know a Syrah from the Rhone Valley won’t taste the same as a Shiraz of Australia or even from Bonny Doone. Location is important in the branding od a wine.

Are the three criteria analyzed by David Anthony Hance the only three keys to position a wine brand? We could add the proper definition of its target. Tapena will appeal to the Hispanic consumers or the lovers of Spanish wine and food culture because of its astute combination of Tapa and Pena (the fork) with a Tempranillo grape, branding the product “Spanish”. Fat Bastard with its provocative name (and marketing campaigns) will target people who appreciate a “fun” wine with the French seal of quality.  The Barefoot wine brand applies to every kind of consumers, from the first time drinker to the hard core drinker with a large range of wines: old vines and mass market wines.

A wine brand can be positioned through various channels and strategies. The key components of a good positioning are very hard to define and are the first steps towards a successful launch. Good luck to all the new brands available each year on our shelves!


1 Bobby Cintolo November 29, 2010 at 3:38 am

NIce article. The Story behind the wine & winery, the Emotional Connection, and the Simplicity of how the brand is perceived should also be considered crucial components.

2 Randall Grahm November 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I am certain that I have been too clever by half in the positioning of the Bonny Doon brand; this is of course presuming that there was anything like a conscious effort to do so. Perhaps it has been my own egomania that has led to such a complete identification of the brand and its owner, and I think that I am now paying the price. Yes, there are few people on the planet who do not know that Bonny Doon is produced by Randall Grahm. The wine and the winemaker do not suffer from a lack of publicity. But, to repeat, I believe that this has come at a certain cost. I am not certain that many critics take the wines as seriously as they might – it is seen as a certain extension of my (putative) mercurial interests, and therefore must be evaluated with a degree of skepticism, a guarded “Let’s just wait and see” approach. Granted, we are still producing vins d’effort, composed wines, reflective of a winemaker’s aesthetic, but in Bonny Doon 2.0, I will truly strive to make the wine(s) the real centerpiece of attention, not their maker. This may be a slightly more difficult point to convey, but ultimately will result in a more sustainable brand.

3 Evelyne Resnick November 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Hi Randall,
Thank you for taking the time to comment of my post. I’m afraid you’re a little hard on yourself :). Bonny Doone is a brand respected for its quality, even among Europeans who are usually critical of American wines. Even if your charismatic personality slightly shaded the brand, the brand can stand on its own feet only by its inner qualities. I look forward to Bonny Doone 2.0 when next in the US.

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