If you’ve ever been on a tour of a vineyard or winery, you’ve seen some of the most top-quality marketing at work. Winemakers are as much in the consumables industry as the tourism industry, and there’s a good reason that travellers take the time to visit their favourite wineries.
This year, I headed to the beautiful Okanagan region in British Columbia, Canada (near Kelowna). It’s a place known for sprawling vineyards and charming wineries. During my visit to some of those wineries, I stopped to think about why wineries in the Okanagan are so successful in their marketing and sell bottle after bottle of wine directly from their locations, in addition to nationally and globally. There are plenty of notes that brands can take from wineries and apply to their digital marketing strategies to be more successful. Let’s look at a few.
Creating a Full Sensory Experience
A few of the Okanagan wineries I checked out during my visit included 50th Parallel, Grey Monk, and Ex Nihilo, but there are over 120 wineries in the region and even more vineyards. Almost all of the wineries are open for tours, tasting experiences, food and wine pairings, and public and private events.
Tourists get the chance to head directly to the wineries to get a full sensory experience. You can walk through the rows of grapes in the vineyards, look out over the picturesque mountains and lakes of the Okanagan, taste the wines in combination with chef-prepared appetizers and main dishes, and take a tour of the entire wine-making process.
The tour is probably the most important part of a winery’s marketing experience, and it’s what makes these wineries a favourite tourist destination in the Okanagan. Tours typically run every hour or half-hour and are led by someone who knows the wine-making process inside and out. There’s no smoke and mirrors during the process. They’ll take you from vineyard to barrel to bottling to the tasting room, breaking down every step in the process (which is lengthy and complex). By the time you’re done, you have a new appreciation for winemaking as an art and understand why it’s so special to find a wine you really love.
Telling the Story & Creating a History
From the moment you step into an Okanagan winery, you have a sense of the history that created it. Most wineries feature the owners and their families in photos, old pictures of the vineyards before they were planted, and little facts and figures about the winery’s history throughout the buildings. If there’s history behind the land, you’re guaranteed to hear about it. If there’s a special story about the original owner(s) and the reason they decided to start a winery, you’ll find out.
The storytelling also takes place at the product level. For each wine you sample, you’ll be told where the grapes were grown, how they were grown, the weather conditions for that year, and the unique process that the winemaker used to create a wine out of those specific grapes. For example, this Grey Monk Chardonnay Unwooded comes with this description:
“The Chardonnay grapes were picked in October from vineyards in both the north and south Okanagan. This Chardonnay was fermented entirely in stainless steel and without malolactic fermentation.”
The story (and history) of the winery is presented front-and-center virtually everywhere, from the winery itself, to the website and social media channels, to the bottles. This is branding at its best, blending the story of the people and processes that go into it, the problem-solving that goes into growing grapes (even when conditions aren’t ideal), and the emotion that’s felt by everyone involved in the process. As a result, people leave the winery with those same emotions.
By building their brands on presentation, experience, and emotions, wineries are building up long-lasting brand equity that will follow those customers to the liquor store every time they’re buying a bottle of wine.
Making Sales Without Selling
One thing you’ll notice about wineries in the Okanagan is that they never push sales. Yes, they provide free (or mostly free) tastings, but they aren’t pushy about making sales once you’ve enjoyed a few sips.
They also don’t offer discounts on wines or send you home with coupons. They’re simply giving you the full experience of their wines and letting you decide whether you’ll take that experience home in a bottle they can share with other people. After experiencing the winery for themselves, most people are eager to bring that experience back with them. And even for those who don’t, it’s more likely they’ll pick a bottle up when they recognize the label in the liquor store.
Brands can accomplish the same feats in the digital world. When a brand creates an unforgettable experience that sticks with people, they don’t have to push sales to get sales. They simply have to continue offering the most authentic value to people in the form of storytelling, problem-solving, and engaging emotions.