Wine brands are the masters of storytelling – reclaim it!
Last weekend The Age newspaper ran an article by Ralph Kyte-Powell advocating that wineries are rediscovering the value of a great story and a name.
Kyte-Powell rightfully points out that wine conglomerates such as Treasury Wine Estates, who assemble a huge portfolio of great brands, often walk away from the evocative brand stories that were instrumental to building the brands in the first place. He suggests corporate thinking wanted easily marketable, standardised, trendy products to guarantee consistent returns.
There is no doubt that many wine brands actually lose their real reason for being when they are acquired by corporates. The artisan love and passion that defined the brand when it was owned by the winemaker is buried in a corporate structure of conformance.
However, I do not suspect that the reason why the evocative storytelling fades is because corporate marketers don’t get it; rather it is that the change in ownership has killed of a huge dimension of the authentic story. The blood sweat and tears of the founder, such a positive influence in the narrative is lost. An expanded plot needs to be added to the narrative. Not every brand manager seems capable of this.
One brand that did make the transition from family to corporate ownership is Peter Lehmann Wine, which was acquired by the Hess Group in 2003. There are a number of factors that has sustained the brand. The first being the fact that the Hess Group is itself family controlled. They knew the psyche of the Lehmann family and the Lehmann’s’ understood them. Related to this was the fact that Peter Lehmann had fought off a hostile takeover bid by British firm Allied Domecq. It was a David and Goliath struggle that was so aligned with fighter the Peter Lehmann had so often proven to be.
The second key factor in sustaining the brand was that Hess left Lehmann family members in charge of the brand. Hess did not strip out the very platform for storytelling that the brand was built on. In fact, when we had the privilege to be involved in defining the DNA of the Peter Lehmann Wine brand we exposed to the 10 rules of brand culture that the Hess group follows. Each rule defining.
However, three rules in particular are immensely influential when it comes to storytelling:
• Use a charismatic role model if you have one
• Initiate brand folklore, events and rituals
• Use your history, live it and communicate it
There is no doubt that if you actively applied the above three rules, you would be more inclined to find ways to keep alive and evolve the storytelling that had shaped the brand.
Brand Scientist & Founder