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8. The Wine Marketing Plan – an Action Plan

All your insights from analyzing your customers, competitors and your company need to be put into an action plan.

However there’s little point writing a Wine Marketing Plan (also called a Brand Plan) unless you’ve

  • decided how your brand is compelling to a carefully chosen target market
  • looked at how you’re different from your competitors
  • looked at how you will achieve your company goals

Follow the process in the winery marketing category of this website and you should understand what your current situation (or brand position) is and what your ideal brand position should be. Your analysis of the Product, Price, People, Place and Promotion will suggest ways in which you can move to your ideal position through various marketing activities.

As you start to move in this direction you’ll be able to increase your price, margins and/or volume. When it comes down to it this is the measurable benefit to great brand management. An additional benefit is the increased capital value or goodwill that you will get should your company choose to sell all or part of the business.

Indeed two brands (Kim Crawford Wines and 42 Below Vodka) have recently been purchased at values radically higher than the physical assets they own. In both cases it was the brand the multinational company valued, not bottles or vineyards.

The brand plan will therefore follow a structure like this

Company Financials
3 year volume, price and margin target.

Customer, Company and Competitor Section
A summary of your customer niche, your company objectives and competitor review from your workings in the relevant sections above.

Brand Definition and Positioning
Your Brand Definition and where you’re positioned in the Market Model.

Major Issue 1
Strategies to resolve it. With a responsible person, due date and budget against each detailed task

  • Product tasks
  • Place tasks
  • Price tasks
  • Promotion tasks
  • People tasks

…and then repeat for each major issue.

Note I don’t bother with interesting but secondary sections such as Market Trends (I can hear some people cringe!). I’ve written these in the past and never really used them. If a market trend is relevant, perhaps bottling design, then build that into your 5Ps analysis – if it can’t be included in a relevant section then it’s probably peripheral to brand success.

Another quick and easy way of writing a brand plan is to use the headings Product, Price, People, Place and Perception to analyse where you’re going wrong and how you’ll address this. It would look like this:
Strategy to resolve it. With a Responsible person, due date and budget against each detailed task.

…and then repeat for Product, People, Place and Perception. I illustrate a brand plan here using the later 5P approach for the target segment Inspiring Businessman. In practice a brand often has a couple of key issues it needs to resolve.

They may revolve around lack of awareness or consideration for your brand, low prices versus high costs, expensive inventory, or poor international sales. A better approach may be to address a few key issues that your marketing or business faces.

The Marketing Calendar

A Marketing Calendar is simply a very effective time management discipline for a marketing team or person.

It’s a calendar of when activities or tasks

  • need to be agreed in detail with the CEO, owner, board (or husband or wife!)
  • are to be launched in the market place

A company should be in a cycle of starting to prepare 6 months before an activity is to be launched and start to implement 3 months before it is visible in the market place.

The calendar provides a discipline for the sales and marketing team to get tasks done. Want to make things happen – this is the way! Some frequently encountered issues are budget, bland implementation and sales vs marketing.


No doubt you have many issues you’d like to resolve. The problem is there are always too many things you want to do and not enough budget. Either you’ll invest more in your brand or you’ll concentrate on a few actions a year. With a 3 year action plan you achieve many of them – but not all, I’m afraid you’re doomed to always wanting to spend more on branding, marketing and sales than you can afford.

What to spend. Accountants will look to a percentage of revenue (4%-20%), or dollars per case. There has been some research done with US wineries to see if there was a general % and it was found to be very inconsistent. You could also look to your current sales contribution – net revenue less cost of goods sold – and share this between admin/customer services, profit to shareholder/owner manager and marketing. Both these ideas will work for a long established business.

I think the accountant-based measures above are one boundary. The other is the total budget of all your tasks in the brand plan. I suggest you cost out the plan and then balance your need for a profit vs the need to achieve long term revenue and greater margin. If you are a well funded winegrower then you may choose to spend more on marketing for three years and perhaps even accept a net loss every year. If you’re not so well funded then you’ll need to prioritize your plan and do it more slowly over a few years.


So you’ve gone through the brand process and written a great brand plan. Of course you already have a premium wine and a passionate sales and marketing team. All you have to do is implement it, right? Almost. The problem you’re now facing is not strategic (you’ve done all that work) – it’s now creative. If you write the perfect brand plan but execute the plan with blandness you’re still not going to stand out from the 100s of other brands in the market place.

What you may have been thinking of doing was getting a local graphic designer and web designer to do some fancy branding and then you’d muddle through the rest. You were going to do this because they’re local (naturally you like to work with people you know) and they’re cheaper than those big city agencies.

I know this because I’ve worked for billion dollar companies with marketing budgets tens of millions large, and then contracted to million dollar companies with budgets tens of thousands small. In the former I received some of the best marketing training a young business person could ever want. In the latter I took that training and (as an older wiser businessman) had to make it work with a tiny budget in a rural district. In doing so I’ve learned a couple of things – as follows.

Local graphic designers do some superb work – they really do (no faint praise here, they are talented creative people). The problem is they often ignore your brief and look internally to their artistic talent, often because they haven’t been exposed to the discipline of working in a commercial design or ad agency.

These agencies work with professional marketers who compare creative proposals against their carefully thought through brief – not their personal views on design and art. These agencies often have a senior creative person and account manager who are aware that creative people look to their own creativity first rather than to the client’s brief. They carefully redirect misguided concepts back to the client’s brief before the client sees them. No such thing happens when dealing directly with the designer yourself.

The way I have got round the conundrum of wanting big city professionalism at small town prices is to work with an ad agency to come up with the key creative ideas and then use local graphic designers to implement them.

The ad agency I use is happy to charge a reasonable rate for the creative idea. The idea is then passed onto a local designer to implement. The local designer still gets significant chargeable work so they remain happy. The winegrower’s budget isn’t blown and they still can remain on good terms with the designer they see at school events and in the supermarket!

Sales versus Marketing

A good marketing plan will provide the sales team leads, enthusiastic trade buyers, more effective sales calls, and more direct sales. By and large sales works hand in hand with marketing except the sales manager can turn your inventory into hard cash by negotiating a volume deal. By offering this discount it will mean a very happy trade account and, if the discount is passed on, very happy consumers.

On the other hand a marketing manager is trying to change consumers’ minds thereby boosting prices and encouraging future volume. If they see sales offering discounts repetitively then they will watch the discounted price become the actual price over time.

Discounting is a very treacherous area, I discourage its use outside of standard discounts for volume purchasing.

Illustrative Marketing Plan >>>

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  2. […] 4. Choose your niche Step 5. Create or Define your brand Step 6. Review the marketing mix or 5 Ps Step 7. Create your marketing plan Step 8. Review The steps are visually outlined in the diagram below. Step 1. Understand your […]

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