Red Cape Marketing

By Christopher Zoukis

Many people are wine aficionados. They are passionate about wine, and some of their purchases are made as investments. A fine bottle of wine can go for $600 or more. These investment-wines require proper storage, which includes temperature and humidity control, along with security.  Image courtesy alleywatch.com

Jim LaBonte, who owns Tropical Storage in Miramar, Florida, saw a unique opportunity. He expanded his self-storage business, adding separate wines storage facilities, with 24-hour keypad access. A computer-monitored refrigeration system keeps the temperature at 55 degrees. Humidity is maintained at 5 to 70 percent.  “It’s important for our customers to feel their investment is well cared for,” says LaBonte. So LaBonte has back-up air conditioning units and a security system, which give customers assurance.

Marketing wine storage to aficionados is vital to its success. It is not merely a case of “build it and they will come.” LaBonte used the following marketing techniques:

~A custom website that made aficionados aware of the facility’s unique offerings.

~He joined a local wine tasting club, which gave further exposure to the wine storage, and added to his reputation as a wine expert.

~He made regular visits to retailers, country clubs, and fine restaurants, making them aware of the wine storage.

~He advertised in upscale local publications.

The result? The addition of the wine storage unit turned out the be the best investment LaBonte ever made. Many of his affluent wine storage customers rent regular storage units as well.

Food & Drink Europe (FDE) recently reported another interesting example of marketing that targeted affluent aficionados. The Edrington Group, makers of Scotch whiskies such as The Famous Grouse, decided to launch a new offering. It is called Macallan Elegancia. David Robertson, who is the global marketing manager for The Macallan, stated that Elegancia specifically targeted the Duty Free/Travel Retail market. The company wanted to offer “something special to The Macallan aficionados.”

Macallan targeted the Duty Free/Travel Retail market after market research indicated that travel retail outlets were an important and influential window in reaching out to affluent customers. For this reason, Elegancia may only be purchased by customers who are traveling. It is not available anywhere else. By offering Elegancia only to travelers, Macallan added exclusivity to the label. This marketing technique made Elegancia even more desirable to aficionados.

Innovation and creativity are necessary ingredients in marketing to aficionados. Many times, exclusivity is the key. Robert Mondavi Winery demonstrated this in June of 2008. Mondavi, along with the Napa Valley Wine Auction Association, offered a special event to affluent aficionados. It was called “Joie de Vivre” and paired the finest wines with the finest foods. For $10,000 a seat, aficionados were able to participate in a pre-fixed menu composed of five courses. The front page of the menu was handpainted and offered a first course prepared by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a second course by Chef Julian Serrano, a third course by Chef Gary Danko, a fourth course by Chef Alice Waters, and a fifth course by Chef Charlie Trotter. The hors d’oeuvres were by Chef Jeff Mosher, and the dessert by Pastry Chef Debbie Yee. The various courses were accompanied by seventeen exclusive wines: 2006 Staglin Chardonnay, 2005 Quintessa, 2005 Continuum, 2005 Duckhorn Merlot, 2004 Opus One, and 2000 Shramsberg J. Schram Brut, to name just a few.

“Joie de Vivre” sold out within hours of being offered. A select group of wine aficionados from the world over attended.

Marketing to affluent aficionados cannot be based on guesswork. According to Ideeli, a marketing research company, the most important thing to remember when marketing to aficionados is let the customer’s passion drive him to the luxury product. It is like putting a red cape in front of a bull. The bull zeros in on the target. The same is true of aficionados. Learn what their area of passion is, then dangle a luxury product that can satisfy that passion.