Everyday Wine Drinkers Are Not Brand Loyal

Because I’m a big fan of Oregon pinot noir and would like to take on some wine industry clients this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about brand preference in this decidedly non-brand centric environment.
Here’s a quick survey I administered this moring on Twitter (the responses address the question of brand loyalty when it comes to wine):
As a brand manager at a winery, I dont’ want to hear that. I want wine drinkers to know my brand name and have it “register” at retail. But that’s not how it happens. Not in wine.
As a wine consumer, I tend to buy bottles by the region, not the brand. So, even I am only loyal to a region. What can wine producers do to change this? How can a single producer stand out in a crowded field?
It’s a great question. A few years ago, Hugh MacLeod certainly tried everything in the book to answer it. Others are working to answer the riddle still.
One answer for the enthusiast crowd is without a doubt tasting events. Darby and I went to one recently that really stands out in our minds. The fact that it does, makes us advocates for Sokol Blossser. We already knew about their sustainable production practices–you can see their solar panels from the road! But after we happened upon a wine club event, bought our way in and tasted their new releases, we felt like part of the family. Isn’t that what drinking wine is about?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Charlottesville has definitely figured out that tastings are where people learn about your wine. There are so many different places to choose from for free tastings, and a lot of times some of the winemakers are there to educate you more on the wine.
    I’m only loyal to a brand when I’m going to a party and don’t want to show up with a random choice that I thought might be worth trying. I just stick to a brand I know for party’s…otherwise I love picking out new wines at the store.

  2. Tasting events also give a winery the chance to meet face to face with their customers and tell them the story behind each wine. When you’re at the store, the only information you can get about the wine is what’s printed on the label (and the price, which often ends up being the decision point), and often, the label is not enough to really get a sense for what the winery is all about. However, when you’re speaking with someone that works at the winery everyday and has a true passion for that wine, their passion comes out through their stories, and you start to feel passion for that wine as well. The end result: Brand loyalty.

  3. Part of the fun of drinking wine is to taste something new – there are so many choices out there and every wine is slightly different. It is unreasonable to expect someone to drink the same wine all of the time. If I find something I like, I will buy a few more bottles to enjoy it later. We try new wines based upon reccomendations from local wine bars – they know more than the average consumer and have a strong influence on trial. Then it is a matter of personal taste.

  4. David, when you said, “I want wine drinkers to know my brand name and have it “register” at retail. But that’s not how it happens. Not in wine.”
    I am not sure I agree with the statement. Wine drinkers are like other consumers. For example, If you created a graph of the relationship with customer satisfaction on the x-axis and loyalty on the y-axis, you may have different five segments of customers:
    1. Antagonist: dissatisfied and tell others
    2. Mercenaries: switch based on price — little value created
    3. Loyalist: Loyal but don’t tell anyone
    4. Viral Loyalists: loyal and do tell others
    5. Advocates: loyal and champion your wine on blogs, twitter, every where they go
    The key is to identify these different segments of consumers that drink your wine and engage them in a two way conversation to understand their needs, preferences, attitudes and purchase behavior.
    Sallie Burnett