What do you want to be famous for?

The most important thing any wine company owner can do is to get absolute clarity around their positioning and brand. What do I mean by these terms? Positioning is how you are placed in the market so that your wines are not substitutable by any other brand. Basically, there is no one like you in the market doing what you’re doing. And brand is reputation. It’s what precedes you in the mind of others. In fact, it’s what they say about you when you’re not in the room. In a business where so much can be out of your control, both of these are controllable. And if you don’t control positioning and brand, the market will for you. 

So back to the headline. What do you want to be famous for? The answer to this question lies at the heart of positioning and brand. It’s the one thing people think of when your wine is mentioned. And notice it is singular. If I throw a tennis ball at you, you will likely catch it. But if I throw a dozen, you’ll likely drop them all. It must be the one thing you’re famous for.

When I think about fame, my mind automatically goes to music and famous rock bands. Bands that were famous for their fuck you attitude. Bands that wrote amazing and vital music. Bands that crushed it on stage. Bands that were dangerous. No band was ever famous for being good value for money or vertically integrated. Yes, vineyard ownership is an important part of the story for many wine businesses, but it’s not the whole story unless you own a very famous vineyard. Radiohead aren’t famous because they own their instruments. It’s what they do with those instruments that’s made them famous. 

How do you spot a famous brand? A famous brand is one that has the trade lining up for. A famous brand is one that people want to buy into, not just buy. A famous brand stands for something their customer cares about. A famous brand turns customers into fans. 

Which brings me to the next most important thing for a wine business owner—understanding your customer. And I mean really understanding your customer. Your customer is not an Engaged Explorer or Kitchen Casual or any other group made up by marketers. Your customer is a real person and it’s your job to find out who she is, why she’s buying your wine, and where she’s buying it. Understand this and you’ll be clear on how to behave, how to talk, how to dress and which channel to focus on. And get really clear on what you offer the customer. You never hear a famous brand like Nike bang on about how many stitches are in each shoe. Or what material their soles are made from. All they care about is delivering benefits and value to their customer.

Whereas you could be forgiven that the wine industry only cares for itself as it talks endlessly about vineyards, grapes and winemaking. Of course these are important, but none more than how you make the customer feel when she buys your wine. 

Matt Remphrey

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