Part of the appeal of wines has always been the connection people want to make to its origin. Wine regions are picturesque settings, often in exotic locations that conjure up an idyllic image – Tuscany, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Mosel, La Rioja, Napa – to name a few. Entire vacations are planned around these destinations, with the prospect of staying at a quaint inn, touring dozens of wineries to sample their wines and the local delicacies, watching sunsets over the vines and soaking in the local history.
What happens when your brand doesn’t have history? When you don’t even have a region, much less a vineyard. That isn’t so unusual if you’re a huge brand, sourced from everywhere and sold purely on price. No one expects a story; they expect drinkable wine at a bargain.
But what if you started a new label without all the built-in romance, or the built-in volume distribution channels, but you wanted to stand out from the crowd anyway and find a point of connection?
I was sitting in on a ground floor meeting of just such a brand the other day. The founder is new to the wine industry, she has her inaugural vintage, and is filled with passion for a really unique concept. She knows where she wants to go, but not yet how to get there. There was a lot of brainstorming at that meeting and a good deal of talk about ‘branding’ and telling the ‘story’. The founder looked up uneasily at one point and said, “But we don’t have a story.” I emphatically disagree. I believe there is a story behind every wine brand that can allow it to stand apart, despite a lack of history and regional significance. Perhaps it’s a nascent story that evolves over time, but if there is passion and dedication behind the venture, it can be as compelling as any other.
Stories are really about people after all. Who they were and how the area came to be developed, what influenced the architecture, which grapes they selected for the climate and soils, winemaking choices, generations of families and their struggles and triumphs. Geography is important to the ambiance, of course, but without the individual lives and collective history of the area’s people, it could be any place.
Holy Expletive came into being because its founder was walking through the wine aisles of Costco one day and the idea came to her out of the blue. Okay, as a beginning it’s a little lackluster. But she didn’t let it rest there. She actually did something about it. Without any experience in the industry, in a very short time she found the right people to make the wine, create graphics and logo, secure the licenses, obtain label approval and build a whole social media marketing campaign. That’s just the start of her story. Some of those who were sitting at the table have already contributed to this enterprise and will continue to move the vision forward and become part of the narrative through their actions and their innovative marketing ideas.
But the founder has taken it further and developed a concept around the idea of a label on which anyone could write their own story, and even provided the tools (little black markers on every bottle.) Now we’re getting somewhere and there’s no telling where it will lead, but holy cow, I bet it will make for a good story!