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The Dark Side of wine branding?

Oscar Foulkes June 19, 2008 Uncategorized No comments

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candice1In September 2007 we launched three new wines (effectively at entry-level) – Daisy Darling, Inkspot and The Dark Side. Each of these wines continues a strategy we started with the release in 2003 of The Cloof Cellar Blend and in 2006 with the launch of The Very Sexy Shiraz. In our view the bottling of a wine (whether varietal or blend) is justified on the basis of its uniqueness or special character. This being the case, the label should speak for the wine’s personality. Consequently, we’ve ended up with a situation where visually our wine’s labels are linked only by the presence of the Cloof logo; each wine has its own story.

In presenting the wines to trade customers we’ve been using an analogy from the movie industry. Many movies go straight to DVD because they’re not deemed interesting enough for the circuit. This is a cynical strategy aimed only at leveraging distribution strengths, rather than the film exploring interesting territory. This is the world of brand extensions – a group that Cloof very definitely does not want to be part of!

So, rather than a tiered hierarchy of wines we have what has become a family of brands under the Cloof umbrella (in the same way as Wii and Gameboy are distinct Nintendo products). Speaking of families, it was pointed out to us that it was the Darling family that Peter Pan took to Neverland. We like the “happy thoughts” part of this association!

We do not tolerate wines that intrinsically do not deliver a great drinking experience. However, the winery does not finish shaping the drinking experience when the wine has been bottled. In this context the wine’s complete ‘story’ – label, branding, reputation, history, price, distribution channel etc – all form part of the final experience. Yes, we’ve taken the packaging in a direction that traditionalists may call gimmicky, but it only works because the wines deliver on the promise that’s been made.

The Very Sexy Shiraz piques curiosity because of its presentation and name, but the amazing growth in the sales of this wine is the consequence of people loving the wine. The same goes for Daisy Darling, Inkspot and The Dark Side.

Taking this somewhat alternative view on labelling gives us additional scope for marketing activities.

We were invited to present The Very Sexy Shiraz at Cape Town’s first Sexpo. The opportunity to show our wines to 30 000 expected visitors was too tempting to turn down, so off we went. We also took along The Dark Side (a hedonistic wine with curves where others don’t have places), Inkspot and Daisy Darling.Tasters thankfully steered well clear of all the possible innuendos, although two ladies (who had perhaps already had a glass of something elsewhere) earnestly asked me what one would eat with Sexy Shiraz. I reckon it’s the first time I’ve delivered a punch line without opening my mouth; I just looked at them without changing my expression (cuisine, it seems, was not the only thing on their minds in that environment). It took some time for them to regain their composure.

We’d have to regard the exercise as a resounding success, thanks to Candice (see picture) who won the prize for the best-dressed exhibitor. Could this be the start of a trend in wardrobe and wine pairing?

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