Tradition with a future
THE PERFECT APERITIF
Poster — the poster should include a website at which people could learn more. In the case of a single producer, this could be their home site. But sherry has a marketing issue as a product — it is extremely unfashionable despite being some of the most complex and interesting wine available at the price point.
Amazingly enough, the domain http://www.sherry.com is unoccupied. The Consejo Regulador should address this omission. If it existed, it would be a good candidate to use on a poster. A web address on a poster needs to be unambiguous and impossible to forget and sherry.com fulfils those criteria.
The major problem for sherry is that it has a brand image which repels younger consumers. This is being exacerbated by health concerns about alcohol consumption. The proportion of fortified wines sold as a percentage of all wines sold has declined from 4% to 2.5% over approximately the last decade.
Sherry is seen as a very old fashioned drinking which would be consumed by one’s grandparents. However, it has a devoted following among critics and high-involvement consumers who see it as providing a very high complexity/price ratio. That makes it a cheap way of enjoying complex flavours and aromas.
The marketing strategy must focus on younger consumers, but must also rely on the heritage of the product. Sherry has an appealing history with the romance of the Solera system and that gives much to work with. The slogan “Tradition with a future” aims to use the historical foundation but also emphasise that sherry will be something to enjoy for many years to come.
There are many different types of sherry which brings two benefits. There is the opportunity for consumers to become “sherry explorers” — trying the various types to see if they prefer dryer styles like fino which have been biologically aged or sweeter styles such as pale cream. There is also the probability that almost everyone could find a style of sherry that they like because of the huge variation between the styles.
The tightly controlled nature of sherry, which may only be produced in a small triangle near Jerez in Spain, is also something that can be used in marketing. Ideally any promotion needs to tie in to the tourism operation into the region.
The essential Spanish identity of the product can also feed into the previous “sherry explorer” idea. It is clear that the styles of sherry which are familiar from the cupboard of the UK grandmother will be likely to be pale cream sweet styles. There is nothing wrong with that and indeed the Bristol blue glass of the iconic Harvey’s brand can only be described as a marketing success. However, this style of sherry is not even half of the story. The campaign must emphasise that most of the sherry consumed in Spain is unlike that which has passed through Bristol. There is an entire world to explore.
The romance of palo cortado should not be forgotten. This fortified wine is probably the best product to be created by accident in the world of wine. Short form video content showing the “broken stick” being chalked on can be produced. Overall, much activity in the bodega is highly visual and can be employed with typically Spanish imagery.
Product — the product for the overall campaign is sherry in general, but it would be valuable to approach producers both major and minor to see what financial and other contributions may be available. Once marketing livery has been established with the generic sherry campaign, it can be further exploited by individual sherry brands — with the overall campaign retaining a central point of control to ensure consistency of appearance and messaging.
The “sherry explorer” theme can be emphasised here with the aim of producers setting out their different flagship products under the generic sherry brand. All styles of sherry — fino, amontillado, manzanilla, oloroso, palo cortado, traditional cream types, PX — lack brand identity. The wider public should first be enabled to know that these are all indeed types of sherry and then told the differences between them.
Two angles which have been successfully used in other spirits are a) use in cocktails and b) use in chilled long-drink formats. Both of these are eminently feasible with sherry. Promotional materials detailing the ingredients and procedures to make sherry cocktails could be prepared and one element of the campaign could show sherry being used as a cooling long drink when mixed with e.g. soda.
Price — price is a major advantage for sherry since it simply costs much less than wines of comparable quality and complexity. This is almost an advantage of being unfashionable which can be employed by successful marketing. The strategy could be to try to leverage off “gateway brands.” This does not mean the traditional cream styles — the houses all have entry-level product which could be an entry point for new consumers and is very reasonably priced. Giving the impression that sherry is cheap should nevertheless be avoided — the range includes vintage product of very high quality.
People — the main target group is young consumers. Market research could be undertaken to examine whether any existing consumers can be persuaded to trade up. It appears unlikely that the archetypical grandmother who has been drinking Bristol Cream for a lifetime is suddenly going to branch out into aggressively dry aged fino. However, there may be an opportunity to reach some high- involvement consumers who have hitherto focussed on non-fortified wines.
Place — since the target group is younger — in the marketing demographic “Millennial Treaters” — it is inevitable that social media must play a prominent role. The poster above could feature on bus stop billboards initially, but must be tested for efficiency of spend against social media. The initial aim of the campaign is to drive traffic to sherry.com so it is essential that there is a great deal of engaging and valuable content there. Driving such traffic can best be done by employing short-form video content in the line of Instagram stories or posts from online infl uencers. Both will be expensive if effective. The poster shown above could be used in timelines with “see link in bio” used as a tag to point consumers to the web page.
Consider approaching US-based hispanic celebrities to market the product in Spanish to the worldwide Spanish speaking community. This would be a largely untouched group which might be amenable to a heritage-based line.
Promotion — price promotions could be offered which tie in with the campaign. Since the aim of the campaign is to drive web traffi c, one approach might be to offer vouchers on the website. These could be redeemed for discounts on a BOGOF or other basis for people buying sherry.
The redemption could take place in person, but there is no particular reason why it has to be. Online sales are an increasingly important part of every market and will continue to play a significant role. The website could feature separate areas highlighting the products offered by major producers and allowing a central method of buying the product. Major producers will themselves already have a solid web presence and may insist on traffic being directed back to them. This is not a serious problem. It still means that something central and online can be offered to minor producers who will benefit from a clear and well- known online location offering distribution to end customers. Major producers who have an efficient and reliable web operation can be cross-levered by link swaps between their websites and sherry.com. Major producers who it transpires are somewhat behind the curve in terms of online presence can either be gently encouraged by the available comparators or upgrade via the central platform.
It will be valuable if the same promotions can be available across a wide selection of producers on the same discount basis, but this may be difficult to negotiate.
Given the essentially Spanish and indeed regional Spanish nature of the product, it will be useful to promote travel to the region. This can also form the basis of useful promotional spend. The website can run competitions, perhaps on the basis of sherry quizzes or just on the basis of luck, where the prizes will be trips to Jerez including tours of bodegas. Alternatively, rare bottles can be offered as prizes.
There is significant buy-in to the product from major critics such as Jancis Robinson. This is helpful, but it means that it is not easy to say how it can be further improved. Obviously the launch of a central website would be a significant event in the wine world and so should generate coverage which is likely to be positive. Steps could be taken to encourage the creation and nature of such coverage in the right direction.