Wine Marketing: Who is Zooming Who?

“Turn pimp, flatterer, quack, lawyer, parson, be chaplain to an atheist, or stallion to an old woman, anything but a poet; for a poet is worse, more servile, timorous and fawning than any I have named.” ~ William Congreve

I'm currently taking a wine marketing course at the local community college, here in my new town. I was asked in a recent assignment to critique an ad that was placed in one of those glossy print wine magazines. The professor was so delighted by my descriptions, I thought I'd give a whirl here, to see how it plays. While this is not the same ad, it's, however, an ad from the same producer and one created in a similar fashion to the ad we received in class. I know many folks in the wine world wax their poles over Penfolds, but frankly speaking, I just don't see the attraction. As you see, I'm no poet, but I will take poetic license with my hot-take on what I see and don't see in this rather predictable type of ad, numbers don't lie.

My impression of the Penfolds ad above is that it's succinct, clear, and easily understood. In my opinion, this ad says; one we understand who we are as a winery. Two, we have not just a history of making excellent wines, we have a lineage and three, the 'critics' rave about our wines.

Penfolds, in my opinion, is quite clear about its objectives; they understand their targeted audience perfectly, Let's be honest, their budget is rather unlimited, as they've been super successful at marketing themselves as a luxury brand. They, however, are not really all that different from the rest of the pack, their ads are very similar to others I've seen in the past, distinctions without a difference.

They do, however, hit the target with their overall marketing strategy, I'll paraphrase; "We are Penfolds, we're bigger, better and have been around a long time, you not just buying wine, you're participating in our lineage." I imagine this voiced breathlessly, by a pompous, self-congratulatory, voice-over guy from the UK.

Penfolds' is also on the mark with money well-spent to target their desired demographic. Who, you may ask, well, stuffy, old, fat, rich, golf-cart riding, Cuban cigar-smoking, gin-swirling, wanna-be wine enthusiasts who are clueless when it comes to 'real' wine. But feel good about themselves, showing off their sophisticated palate to like-minded, slack-jawed friends who will silently nod in agreement to their purchase of Penfolds Grange. This ad undoubtedly appeared in a glossy magazine like wine-speculator or vino-enthusiast. Magazines of which it's alleged, slap high ratings on producers who purchase ad space on a regular basis.

What Penfolds got wrong in this ad, or missed was the absence of any kind of tracking, while they gave out the website information, there was no possible way of tracking whether or not the ad had the type of impact they may have been looking to receive, with the money spent. No special offers, and no website promotion. A simple QR code embedded into the ads image would have allowed their tech savvy customers to access, where and how to purchase their coveted Grange, an RWT or a lesser Bin series wines with accurate immediacy.

Yes, let me save you some time in the comment section. One, no I've not tasted Grange, two if I did, I doubt I would be as 'wowed' as you think I should be. I don't gravitate to show-boat unicorn wines. Three, I've tasted many uber expensive, well regarded, high scoring wines from around the world. While they're impressive, they're no more impressive than dozens of wines, from producers you're not familiar with, with far less extravagant pedigrees and far smaller advertising/marketing budgets. As I have always maintained, you can pay more, but you don't always get more. Unless they're following the philosophy of the following quote from Mr. Will Smith [no not that Will Smith] 

“Too many people are buying things they can't afford, with money that they don't have... to impress people that they don't like!"


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