Brands – The Power of Love

When I was tasting (drinking) an old bottle of Pewsey Vale Riesling the other day I did start to wonder why some brands are held with more affection than others. For the lucky ones who are fans of Pewsey there’s often a great connection to the wine. Why should that be? Sure, it’s a great quality Riesling and consistently delivers fantastic value and enjoyment, but there are plenty of other wines which can claim a similar track record. So what has caused this engagement and is it something that other brands can seek out?

A quick google search for “most loved brands” is disappointing. There is plenty of content around most popular, most admired, most trusted and favourite but none of those equals most loved. It’s safe to translate most popular and favourite as largest, or highest volume. So, Tesco is the favourite UK supermarket, Amazon the most popular on line retailer. The most popular food brand is Heinz.

In terms of Trusted and Admired, there is a bit more of an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. Trusted implies a certain confidence that brands are behaving in the right way, won’t let you down, have good values. It has been interesting to see how Amazon has been (before the Coronavirus lockdowns) inviting customers to visit their warehouses to witness for themselves that staff are content and well treated. Equally, the discount retailers in the UK have advertised using their customers visiting suppliers to prove the quality and stewardship of their produce. McDonalds has done something similar.

The wine industry has its own survey of Most Admired Brands published each year in Drinks International. Even though this is an industry survey and doesn’t capture consumer sentiment, it does provide a view of what drives admiration in a brand. There is a great deal of value placed in good practice from the sustainability perspective, and you can also see that excellence in marketing and product quality are highly admired brand attributes.

But, as more brands in the wine industry fight over fewer spoils in a market with declining volume, one key aspiration for brand owners must be to connect at a higher level than these. To be held in affection by your consumers is perhaps the holy grail…it provides a long lasting relationship which might evolve but which endures for the long term.

Which brands are loved? My wife has a slightly irrational love of Fiat 500s as witnessed in the photo. What drives this? Some nostalgia of childhood memories for sure, a regard for the underdog perhaps, and certainly a love of Italian nonchalant excellence in design. I much prefer University Challenge to Mastermind…odd to admit that for sure. But do I have a deep seated yearning to have been grilled by Bamber Gascoigne in days gone by (my era)….I instantaneously pick my favourite team just by looking at the students, and without any affiliation to one university or the other.

Equally, I admire Apple as a brand, I use Amazon a lot, I drive an efficient german car, but I don’t feel any affection or LOVE for these brands.

In wine you would imagine we have a great advantage in being able to create an affectionate relationship with our consumers. We have a hugely enjoyable product to sell for a start. but there is such a wide choice of brands to chose from and such a fickle consumer that it has been hard to develop that ultimate connection at a mainstream level. It is possible though to point to examples where wineries have stimulated that engagement and it seems mainly to comes from personal experience, whether that is having met the winemaker, visited the region or winery, or simply been taken through a tasting of the wines by a knowledgeable and friendly salesperson.

As the world becomes increasingly digital it’s hard to envisage how relationships between product and consumer can grow stronger connections. But, when brands have done the hard work and attracted consumers in the first instance it is essential to build brand loyalty through engaging and personalising that connection. The number of people who would remember meeting and tasting with Peter Barry (Jim Barry Wines) or Chester Osborn (d’Arenberg) far outweighs those who wouldn’t! The wines have developed a greater distribution footprint because of the shoe leather these guys have worn out meeting their customers around the globe.

Of course using winery and cellar door visits is an obvious way to build long term engagement and affection. Belonging to something personal and special is the same – club membership which opens opportunities to something exclusive is great, as long as the vendor is not too obviously pushy…no one likes to be molested after all. Getting people to taste, enjoy and understand the story behind the wine and what makes it different is key. Providing interesting background information is great, but being authentic is yet more powerful.

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