Heritage vs young & funky

by | Nov 7, 2017 | Opinion

The challenge for anyone representing, marketing and promoting a wine brand lies in the fact that we’re committed to a category unrivalled in terms of internal competitiveness and diversity of offering. At the last count South Africa sported more than 7 000 local wines and wine brands. I don’t even want to hazard a guess at the international number. Yet here we are, a global village of wine producers all jockeying to get our wines in the eye and glass of the consumer who is as spoilt for choice as a male lion during the wildebeest migration on the Serengeti.

In this situation there’s no silver bullet we as marketers and brand owners can use as a collective strategy to capture the imagination of consumers. There’s no conclusive wrong way of marketing, nor is there one marketing methodology that’s guaranteed to be right and absolute. Wine varies in price, style and origin, just as our consumers vary in social status, age and demographics.

It’s therefore impossible to opine on the relevance of any particular marketing strategy. For that I have too much respect for my colleagues representing, propagating and living their own wines and nurturing their own brands. They do this with the same commitment, focus and will to succeed as I do mine. We may be competitors, but we’re all in this world of wine together and it’s the only world we know and the only one that counts.

At De Wetshof we can only market our wines by being true to who and what we are. This identity has evolved through 70 years of farming on De Wetshof, where wine has been made by three generations of the De Wet family. This may be but a brief period compared with many Old World wineries, but in South African terms we count among the few pioneering wine farms that changed the local landscape with the introduction of estate production in the ’60s.

Like many of the older Cape farms and wine brands, De Wetshof believes in using the reputation of the past to guide us through the cluttered paths of a world awash with more wine labels and bottles than anyone could have predicted when the first grape juice was fermented 8 000 years ago. There is – and I believe always will be – a segment of the wine-consuming public whose imagination is captured by a proven track record of quality they can tap into with the same assurance and to the same level of enjoyment as others have done before them.

The very nature of the fine-wine culture lends itself to provenance, history and the kind of classic elegance that never seems to go out of style in the eyes of the consumer. This is proved by the desirability and success of countless other wine labels and hundreds of other products. And this is the path we were destined to take by our history and identity, not because we chose it.

Having said that, I salute the marketers who take on new, modern quests to capture consumers’ imagination with new grape varieties and avant garde packaging and names. Variety is the spice of life. An industry that embraces the trusted values of the past while at the same time pushing established boundaries is one of which we can all be justifiably proud.

– Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate

Tall Horse was launched in 2005 as one of the original so-called critter brands. These are defined as brands that feature an animal on their label. While most critter brands have disappeared off the shelves over the years, Tall Horse has grown into a meaningful brand, both locally and internationally. In fact our Tall Horse character, with its long neck and grape bunches as spots, has become an extremely important identifier for our brand. Our packaging speaks to the young at heart and our funky imagery and colours make it easy to stand out on shelf.

We’ve also made it easier for our consumers to remember wine varietal preferences by pairing colours with wines – thus eliminating the need for them to be wine experts. Our Tall Horse Shiraz, for example, is “the orange one” and our Cabernet Sauvignon “the purple one”. Everything we do is aimed at making wine more approachable.

To strengthen our alternative brand positioning we’ve included comedy as an operating platform for Tall Horse. Our new TV commercials feature the hilarious up-and-coming comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout, who gives us his take on wine tasting notes, with a twist of course. The nature of these commercials has enabled great organic viral spread on digital. With these initiatives, we wanted to encourage our consumers to sit back and have a glass of Tall Horse with a bit of a laugh.

Being the headline sponsor for the Johannesburg International Comedy Festival’s 2017 Trending Comics initiative is a great example of further expanding the brand’s positioning. Consumers’ engagement and brand experience at these events are ideal for getting closer and connecting with our audience while further strengthening our comedy association in a relaxed, sociable environment.

The recent Tall Horse brand refresh and evolution addressed the need to give it more sophistication without losing its recognisable, quirky and accessible personality. We started with the refinement of the Tall Horse brand icon, taking inspiration from the wirework sculptures and beadwork typical to Southern Africa, as this resonates strongly with a global audience. Our Tall Horse character is the face of Tall Horse, so focusing on it made sense. From there it evolved into a collective of refinements across all brand assets, resulting in the same distinctive brand, only smarter.

Our consumers connect with the light-heartedness of Tall Horse, preferring wines that mirror their personal image. Wine is sometimes perceived as being complex and intimidating, especially for new wine drinkers who are starting to experiment with various grape varietals. That’s why our strategy for Tall Horse is to demystify wine by making wine shopping a little less intimidating and wine consumption a more relaxed, colourful, easy-going and enjoyable experience. We aim to encourage our consumers to enjoy their Tall Horse the way they want to, without passing judgement. If they want to put some ice in their red wine, we say, “Go right ahead and do it – sometimes red wine needs some cooling down!” If they want to pair their Tall Horse Merlot with chicken, we say, “Why not? Chicken loves Merlot!”

– Theola Conyers, marketing manager for Tall Horse wines

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