Case Studies

CHALLENGE: A big Napa Valley winery which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year but projects a tired, bland, boring image. SOLUTION: Stage a multi-cultural “blessing of the grapes” event. Clergy from a rainbow of faiths from all over northern California came to Sterling Vineyards to participate in this event. The resulting coverage in the media tweaked the winery’s image.
CHALLENGE: A mass-market affordable wine brand needs some zip but doesn’t have an interesting facility to visit or a charismatic winemaker or much of an identity other than the stylized seagull on the label. SOLUTION:Commission the world’s largest wind-sock in the shape of a Monterey Vineyard bottle and stage kite festivals in telegenic spots (Marina Green in San Francisco and the shores of the lake in Chicago). Hand out free kites imprinted with that seagull image to children, insuring extremely television-friendly scenery.
CHALLENGE: Distinguish your winery from hundreds of worthy competitors at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. SOLUTION: Take advantage of Champagne Mumm’s ownership of a French couture house, and create an auction lot weaving together visits to Champagne Mumm in France and Mumm Napa Valley with the experience of acquiring a couture outfit in Paris. Don’t stop there: arrange for sexy models wearing Herve Leger’s tight ribbon dresses to walk through the crowds of Auction attendees the day before. The result was indeed that this lot in the 1994 Napa Valley Wine Auction attracted the most money (the then-record-setting amount of $50,000).
CHALLENGE: Tweak the stodgy image of an inexpensive supermarket wine brand as it launches new wines. Respect its long history in Bordeaux. SOLUTION: Research, research, research and discover that Thomas Jefferson met and corresponded with the founders of Barton & Guestier and may have bought wine from them. Research more and discover a history professor who specializes in ‘impersonating’ Thomas Jefferson. Find suitable venues across the country for events where Dr. Clay Jenkinson re-created Thomas Jefferson, essentially re-establishing Barton & Guestier’s credibility.
CHALLENGE: Make an extremely successful event more media-friendly. SOLUTION: The ‘Zin Zone,’ a press-only area within Zinfandel Advocates & Producers’ annual Tasting. The media are appreciative that ZAP understands their interest in a semi-academic and serious setting where they wouldn’t be harangued by any over-eager winemakers.
CHALLENGE: Environmental activists in the Napa Valley, very well organized and very media savvy, are drumming up public sentiment against hillside wineries and trying to enact extremely restrictive legislation. SOLUTION: Start an organization which can respond to the assertions and allegations and be seen as a ‘voice of reason’ and common sense in a stormy political dialogue. Members can identify themselves as members of Farmers For Napa Valley when they write letters to the local papers or are interviewed on the radio or when they stand up to speak at forums such as Board of Supervisors hearings. Farmers For Napa Valley became a ‘player’ also by inviting the public to visit hillside wineries on Earth Day—just announcing that this was organized made an impact, apart from the number of visitors on that day to those vineyards.
CHALLENGE: Amplify the already extremely successful and creative voice of a respected winery. Bonny Doon Vineyard staged very complex launch events in October, 2002, for the introduction of its Ca’ del Solo wines in screwcaps. These included all-black meals, obituaries for “Mr. Cork” (or M. Thierry Bouchon), a eulogy delivered by Jancis Robinson, and much more. SOLUTION: Add a simple new website,, so that all of the myriad details of this program could be found in one place. Having a site like this, where Bonny Doon’s name is not apparent, subtly de-commercializes this historic step in the American wine business, positioning Bonny Doon as an industry leader.
CHALLENGE: Find a publicity approach which would not at all impinge on the integrity and almost-anti-marketing approach the integrity of a small Napa Valley estate winery. SOLUTION:  Fish where the fishermen aren’t, as the adage goes. It used to be considered out of the question to promote wine and cars. It took two years, but pitching the steep mountain vineyards of Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery to Range Rover resulted in a brochure being photographed on its steep slopes at the top of Spring Mountain.
CHALLENGE: Generate a buzz and renewed interest and, along the way, find a personality for a mass market brand popular primarily for its bright flower labels. SOLUTION: Lots of research, resulting in discovering an Englishwoman who had just published Cooking With Flowers. Find garden spots (literally) around the country where author Jenny Leggatt and winemaker John Merritt could get people interested and excited in Bandiera’s wines.
CHALLENGE: Find a meaningful and elegant hook for the introduction of Champagne Mumm’s new prestige cuvee. SOLUTION: Look right into the tiger’s mouth, so to speak, and challenge the trade’s thinking about how a superbly crafted product can be launched. In this case, the introduction benefited the organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), an edgy and unusual partnership of glamour and grit.
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