Peter Lehmann and some great brand lessons


Several weeks ago I was saddened to hear of the passing of wine making legend Peter Lehmann at the age of 82. He was rightly known as The Baron of Barossa for his devotion to the people and wines of the Barossa Valley. I had the pleasure of sharing time with Peter, when he was in his mid 70’s, as part of a brand definition project we were undertaking for the Peter Lehmann Wine (PLW) brand. To hear Peter’s journey over a red wine, while he expertly cooked me a steak for lunch, was one of my more memorable brand immersion experiences. He was passionate, insightful and immensely engaging.

The brand was literally born out of an unconditional commitment to the Barossa Valley by Peter Lehmann when he created the brand as a vehicle for supporting the livelihoods of the independent wine growers. Loyalty, winemaking finesse and entrepreneurial spirit were the answers to the problems of a grape glut back in late 70’s/early 80’s – and the very same characteristics carried the brand through every major challenge it has faced since then, creating a brand worthy of its immense international standing today.

Brands are about storytelling. However, for many brands the storyline needs to be made-up or fabricated. This is not the case with the PLW brand. It embodies one of the richest and most authentic brand stories imaginable. It is a story that has been born out of an obsession with the Barossa. It is an obsession that oozes with emotion. People connect with authenticity and emotion the world over, and for those  who know Peter Lehmann there is no questioning the authenticity.

In 2002, the winery was sold to the Swiss-based Hess Group for $US103 million, as part of an acceptable solution to an unwelcome take-over bid of the then publicly listed Peter Lehmann Wines. Opting to be part of the family owned Hess Group was far more acceptable to the independent and family minded spirit of Peter Lehmann.

And what I discovered when working on the PLW brand was that the Hess Group have a well developed framework that it applies to its brands. It seeks to develop each brand around how they can answer the following 10 themes. Some themes are standard fare, while others are refreshingly different. I suggest that you have a go at applying each of the following themes to your own brand/s.

1. Have a mission that differentiates you from others – what is it?
2. Be authentic and credible in everything you do – how are you doing it?
3. Use your history, live and communicate it – how are you doing it?
4. Use a charismatic role model if you have one – who is it?
5. Polarise and cultivate, if possible, a bogeyman – who or what belief are you challenging?
6. Build a world around your product, therefore positioning it in a context – how do you frame your brand?
7. Initiate brand folklore, events and rituals – how is this playing out?
8. Build a community around your brand and look after it – how are you defining and feeding your community?
9. Use the creativity of your customers, as they are the fans of your brand – how do they celebrate the brand?
10. Ensure that your employees believe in your brand – how are you engaging them and celebrating the journey?

And here’s to you Peter Lehmann.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

Image sourced from Naomi Jellicoe (The Advertiser).

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