Marketing in the “New Normal”

While we’re still experiencing a market shakeup, now is the time to “re-imagine” and plan ahead for marketing to a consumer that has had an abrupt psychological mind shift.  In comparison to the travel industry, wine is actually looking good, especially for brands who already had e-commerce strategies in place.

Let’s recap:

  • On-premise sales have been wiped out; off-premise has spiked; online sales are skyrocketing. We have seen a massive shift in all three channels where wine is sold.  The on-premise sector has been almost completely wiped out causing a scramble for marketers in order to move more wine over to retailers, and into DTC.  According to Nielsen, online sales for wine up over 440% through April 4 and off-premise alcohol sales are up 25%.
  • Luxury and super premium brands that have been traditionally built in restaurants have had to make a huge pivot and are leaning heavily on DTC business
  • Domestic airlines operating at 5% capacity, there is no inbound international travel, wineries and destinations are closed. The only way winery DTC business can survive is through online or wine club sales.

So how should we think about reopening?

  • Online sales to remain strong: The consumer has been trained to buy even more online, and while some consumers may not have thought of buying wine online before, they are now. This channel shift could be permanent.  We may not see a bounce back to retail to previous levels as these first-time customers realize the convenience of getting wine delivered.
  • Drive markets: While some people will get on planes, the drive market will have pent up demand.  Travelers will be more at ease with destinations that they can drive to.  For wineries that attract international visitors, your strategy will need to go domestic for the time being.
  • Connection: People are craving connection to others. They want to see their friends and family again.  There will be some pent-up demand as people want to get out of their houses and see family and friends.  Ideally they’ll do this in an outdoor setting where everyone can relax.
  • Country over city: Destinations that offer the outdoors, nature and countryside will be very appealing. Selling calm, serenity, nature access, outdoor dining, outdoor tastings, clean/minimalist hotel rooms will be important.  Think about what images you showcase on your social media, advertising and websites.
  • Small gatherings: People will be seeking opportunities to reconnect with loved ones in small gatherings vs large groups.  Events & weddings will see a very slow recovery if at all this year.   Websites should show images of intimate groups or couples, however I’d suggest you remove images of large gatherings and weddings for the time being.
  • People want space. Restaurants and wineries may need to rethink table spacing, and remove the bar tasting opportunities as people are sensitive to being close to others.  Limiting numbers at wineries, and restaurants will be important.  Going to appointment-only or reservation only will enable these spots to manage crowds.
  • Trading down: Due to tight financial times we will likely see consumers trading down to lower pricepoint wines, and not splurging on that trip this year.
  • Channel split continues: On premise will sadly not return to the channel size it once was due to less restaurants in general. As restaurants close permanently we will continue to see the channel split.  Restaurants will not want to hold large cellars of wine with reduced turnover.  There will be less opportunity for fine and collectable wines to hold spots on the wine list and brands with high pull-through will dominate.
  • Reduced travel landscape: Business travel will remain almost non-existent and we will have a reduced pool of leisure airline travelers due to tighter finances.
  • Elevated experiences: People want to treat themselves and enjoy small indulgences. They may splurge for something intimate and memorable.
  • Attention to cleanliness. People have never been so focused on this and while you say your hotel / winery is clean, they’ll want you to prove it.  Make sure website images are clean / minimalist and take out the clutter.  There is no need to talk about what disinfectant you use, but think about what images you are using to communicate the tasting experience or hotel room.
  • Outdoor experiences: This is a biggie.  Being able to dine al fresco will be a huge drawcard to restaurants and the same goes for wineries that can offer tastings outside.
  • Communicate safety: While we don’t want to be reminded of COVID-19 constantly after this is over, images and copy you use needs to communicate some key points; less people, easy drive from the nearby cities, how you have open spaces, countryside, a natural environment, and perhaps al fresco dining opportunities. Website images should show outdoor spaces for tastings, meals and nature.


Wine Business, Massive Channel Shifting Continues, April 15, 2020