Why Sell Wine Based on Aroma and Taste?

Selling commodities is difficult because people buy on emotion, or instinct if you will. Want and desire are powerful emotions that can stimulate the release of endorphins. It's why some people are shop-a-holics. It feels good to buy. But it's not that easy to get emotionally worked up about borax, chlorine, and salt. As an economic good, a commodity has no real differentiation, so small price differences in competing products can make huge differences in total sales.

Think about how you won't buy gasoline at one gas station because it's four cents cheaper around the corner. That's a commodity. Ever buy a piece of art that way? Of course not because art's value is in the eye of the beholder, is easily differentiated, and consequently will have wide price ranges. When art is sold, it's sold on the artist's reputation or the emotion the piece evokes for someone. Marketers work overtime to take commodity-like goods and then pretend they aren't commodities by creating and building an emotional appeal around the brand.

Take the above deodorant commercial. Did you hear mention of the product characteristics as a differentiator? Nowhere does this commercial say Old Spice is made with orange, lemon, clary sage, heliotrope, pimento berry and musk, even though those were the original Old Spice ingredients. The creative team instead focused on delivering an emotional image; something with a human connection that ties back to the product.
In this case in a humorous way, they are talking about sex-appeal and are really targeting women who are by far the larger purchasers of family groceries still. The subliminal note is if you get Old Spice for your husband, he will look like this ........ or maybe the message is he will ride a horse? I don't know but I am wearing Old Spice and on a horse right now. Look at me....

Anyway ..... can't you just envision someone describing wine with "subtle notes of clary sage layered with heliotrope and pimento berry?" You can find thousands of examples of that kind of marketing in wine. But if professional marketers push emotional connections and ignore or make secondary the product characteristics, why should we market luxury goods that way? I think the answer to that question is most wineries don't really think about brand building. They think about selling wine and are locked into a habit that predated varietal marketing; a time when consumers couldn't already tell you what chardonnay tasted like.

Why do wine producers still insist on talking about who their family is, or how the warm sunny days, cool nights, special soils, with subtle notes of <fill in the blank with any obscure aroma> makes their wine special? Is that approach creating an emotional lift? Are you feeling any endorphins flowing? Is that building your brand? I've seen no research to suggest that kind of marketing even tips a purchase decision. More likely it's going to be color, appellation, scarcity (ego) or a feeling and/or familiarity for the brand.

How outdated is that kind of marketing? When I hear someone taking the "notes-and-hints-of..." approach, I have a distinct emotional response. I think of Thurston Howell III, jaw protruding wearing an ascot and a club emblazoned jacket. <......you have to say this in your best East Coast boarding school accent...> "Oh Lovey! Isn't it the cocktail hour? Will we be dressing tonight? ..... No? Oh .... then just bring me a glass of anything, as long as it has a note of ollieberry." (Editor's note: How many consumers can even describe the characteristics of ollieberries?)

Does it make sense to sell anything these days if the potential emotional response is equivalent to the consumers view of Wall Street vs. Main Street? It's an emotional connection for sure, but is it the connection you want to set for your brand? Stuffiness does not sell wine, although exclusivity and mystery can help a brand if properly approached.

Your brand has to be focused on delivering an emotional image to your consumer. If you can't easily describe the emotional connection you are trying to present your consumer, if your marketing isn't aligned behind that concept, if you struggle with coming up with any emotional connection your brand creates, it's a good time to stop and re-think what you are doing. Your brand has to be more than the wine itself.

What do you think? Can wine be sold on the product characteristics? How are you creating an emotional connection to your production with the consumer? Please log in below and offer your insights into this topic and share your thoughts with the community.