Wine Marketing 101: A History of Best Practices

When it comes to wine and spirits, there are thousands of marketable intricacies and endless opportunities for creating a unique sales campaign. I’ve spent time in the past discussing where the future of wine marketing is heading and I firmly believe industry professionals will want to make sure their strategies are in line with predictions. That being said, I also believe that we can garner quite a bit of information from what has already worked.

The wine and spirits industry has been relatively successful at broadcasting their message to the masses regardless of current events or economic hang-ups. What methods did they use to push products that frequently changed places in the heart of Americans? How did they adapt and what were their sales methods? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular tactics used over the decades.

Product-Based Marketing

The “Product Era” was a beacon of light for the adult beverage industry during prohibition. The theory behind product-based sales was simple: make the product and they’ll buy it. Because alcohol sales were illegal, official and unofficial players sustained a doomed industry with moonshine, rum runners, and speakeasies. Boosting sales was as easy as finding a discrete place to inform potential customers that you had a supply. Now, nearly a century later, alcohol sales are legal so there’s no need to engage in illegal practices, but the concept behind product-based sales is still valuable. Make your product, then tell consumers you’ve got it.

Advertising-Based Marketing

When prohibition ended, the alcohol industry became subject to heavy regulations that expanded beyond product use and into product advertising. Inappropriate messaging and target markets were frequently surveyed and tightly controlled. The preferred medium moved from word-of-mouth to print and television ads and messaging shifted from availability to consumer benefits. Concepts like taste and caloric content made their first appearance, sparking brand rivalry and an introduction of new products to the market. Producers paid close attention to consumer trends and adjusted their sales strategy accordingly. Today, it is commonplace to sell a product based on how it benefits the customer. It is wise to track sales and advertising metrics and continuously incorporate your findings into your strategy.

Lifestyle-Based Marketing

The addition of social media to mainstream marketing had a profound and widespread impact on the wine and spirits industry. As consumers began to establish brand loyalty, it became necessary to sell with stories instead of facts. Modern messaging focuses on evoking emotions that cause the customer to identify (or want to identify) with a particular lifestyle or experience. Images are tantamount across this new medium and it is easier than ever to determine a niche group of people that are likely to respond kindly to the narrative you create. As the world continues to change, successful brands will focus on selling the right stories and eliciting conciliatory reactions. Craft tales that speak directly to the plights and successes of your target market to succeed in lifestyle-based marketing.

Marketing in the wine and spirits industry will continue to evolve with the consumer experience. New tactics will undoubtedly arise with new technology and industry executives should not be afraid to try something new as long as they keep a firm grasp on previous industry wins.