Thinking outside the box and brand loyalty

In this day and age where most wine sales are driven by price and specials, brand loyalty is something which is pretty hard to maintain. However I recently saw 2 very simple  initiatives by small wineries which  I feel will create brand loyalty and I would like to share why I think so with you.

The first one was about 8 weeks ago on my visit to the Champagne Region. In the Grand Cru village of Oger we visited the small winery Maison Jean Milan ( I noticed an invite on a black board  in the tasting room to participate in a day of harvesting at the winery in September. When I enquired about this, I was given a simple looking pamphlet explaining the event. The pamphlets were also at the local tourist office, and had been sent around to some corporate clients in Paris and hospitality schools in France and Belgium. Every year, Maison Jean Milan hosts several  “Come live the Harvest” experience days, where consumers can book (and pay!) to join the vineyard and winery team for a day during harvest. The day starts around 9 AM with an explanation of how to pick the grapes followed by a few hours of hand picking in the vineyard with the regular vineyard workers. At 1 PM the winery puts on a elaborate lunch, and after lunch the wine making process is described, the guests visit the cellars and the winery – there they see the grapes they picked in the morning being crushed and pressed and pumped into a tank. After the winery visit there is a tasting and around 5 the people are send home with a bottle of Champagne as a momentum.

The second initiative I heard about through Facebook. Barrel Oak Winery (, a fairly new winery in Northern Virginia try to actively engage the community around them, as well as tourists, by organising unique and fun events on a regular basis. Last week’s event was called “chomp and stomp” and the invite I got said the following:  “I would highly recommend your coming out to visit. Smash grapes with your bare feet, sit around the fire pits, dance Saturday nite, eat some really great BBQ, watch the leaves turn color.”  I was pretty curious so looked up the event on their website. Basically the Chomp and Stomp event aimed to teach participants about the Barrel Oak Winery wine making process. It also was a charity event in such that it was trying to collect food for the neediest people in the area and Barrel Oak winery provided a free wine tasting to all participants who donated at least 3 cans of food

Now why am I so impressed by both these events and do I feel that they will lead to brand loyalty?

Both events are focussed on the active participation of the wineries’ potential customers in the wine making process. By engaging their potential customers in the heart of their business, these wineries created an emotional bond with their customers, resulting in a subconscious preference for their brand. Furthermore when these customers buy and drink this particular winery’s wines, it will evoke the memories and the story of how they were part of the making of this wine – and this is a story they most likely would love to share over and over again with friends and families!!

So in my opinion, both wineries managed to turn their customers into brand ambassadors for the winery, in a very subtle low cost way, and this to me is an ingenious piece of marketing!

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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