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  • Writer's pictureKelly Liang

Three game-changing marketing tools every wine professional must know

The secret that marketers won’t tell you: 90% of marketing terminology is BS.

BS aka Business Speak or Marketing Speak

Marketing lingo includes words like CRO, CRM, CMS, USP, SEO and omnichannel. Confusing, right?

That’s why major brands employ armies of marketers and invest millions. LVMH reportedly has over 300 marketing staff. It's not uncommon for mid-sized wine merchants to have a dozen marketers.

Most wine communicators work independently or in small teams without those resources. But by focusing on the vital 10% that turbocharges growth, you can make any brand succeed.

Let's apply these three fundamental marketing tools to my D3 Everyday newsletter to explain its unexpected success. Within the first 100 days, it gained over 700 subscribers and had a 71% open rate. To put these numbers in context, there are only around 400 students around the world sitting the WSET Diploma D3 exam at any given time. A typical email newsletter is lucky to reach a 30-40% open rate.

The three concepts we will explore are not rocket science. But to harness their power to the fullest extent requires disciplined execution and frequent fine tuning. Applying them fosters the audience-centric, value-based mindset critical for lasting success.

Principle I - Put Audience First

With the proliferation of generative artificial intelligence across all industries, content has never been cheaper and more readily available.

Providing general information on an appellation is now just a few prompts away. With the right data and prompt engineering, you can create tasting notes that adeptly imitate the styles of prominent figures like Jancis Robinson, Eric Asimov or even Donald Trump.

This calls for a moment of reflection for us as wine communicators. Merely gathering and selling information is no longer a good enough business model today as it once was for wine writers of previous generations.

To me, wine content today fulfils predominantly three functions. To inform, to entertain and to sell. None of them matter if you don't put your audience first.

Wine writing communications influencer purpose mission value USP by Kelly Liang A Thousand Glasses
Designed by Kelly Liang @ A Thousand Glasses

During the planning phase of the D3 Everyday newsletter, I asked myself: What does my audience struggle with? How can I help my fellow students?

The answer was clear. The biggest obstacle to obtaining the WSET Diploma is the D3 theory exam, an exam notoriously difficult with an all-time pass rate of just over 56%. By motivating myself to study, I could help my fellow wine professionals and enthusiasts on the same challenging journey.

I refined the newsletter’s concepts using theories of consumption values, ensuring it provided:

Kelly Liang A Thousand Glasses Theory of Consumption Values social functional epistemic emotional conditional for wine
Adapted from JN Sheth's 1991 article | Designed by Kelly Liang @ A Thousand Glasses

The key takeaway? Sustainable brands are those that offer tangible, immediate value to their target audience. The closer you align with your audience's needs and pain points, the more likely they are to invest their valuable and finite time.

Principle II – Be on Brand

Sure, self-expression and sales matter. But if you spam your audience with unfocused content that serves primarily your ego or sales targets, expect to see equally unfocused results.

Hammer home your 3-4 core brand messages consistently over time.

In a low-margin industry such as wine, we are constantly tempted to monetise prematurely despite the risks of diluting our brand equity. The pressure to be seen as active is constant and all-consuming.

That’s why you need to constantly fine tune your brand, stay on it and adapt it as you grow.

The D3 Everyday newsletter is an extension of my personal brand and what I want to be known for. My content and tone must reinforce my mission and values:

Kelly Liang A Thousand Glasses Mission and Brand Values

From the controversial inclusion of generative artificial intelligence to finding the right guest contributors that shared my brand values, my brand values guided the newsletter from ideation to implementation.

What are your brand’s core values? Do all your activities align with them? When was the last time you honestly reviewed of your gaps and inconsistencies?

Principle III – Channel Your Uniqueness

Sounds like a lot to consider? That’s why successful brands have large marketing teams to deliver their marketing strategies. As solo operators, we can’t match their scale.

Remember your source of passion and vision. Do you see that special bottle of wine, that amazing mentor or that rags-to-riches story that inspired you to take the first leap?

What inspired you is uniquely yours. Our brains have on average 60 trillion neural connections, their unique pathways formed as we grow into the one-of-a-kind, complex, fascinating human beings that we are.

If the 100 billion stars in the milky way can illuminate our dark night sky, the many galaxies equivalent of synapses within us can surely resonate with our audience.

Keller's Brand Equity Model CBBE Model by Frontify
Notice how resonance is at the top of the pyramid? | Graphy by Frontify

Remember the D3 Everyday newsletter’s gaming references? It helped readers “level up” and “dropped resources” to accomplish the “final quest” of passing the exam, while having some fun “side quests” assigned by accomplished guest contributors. As a proud lifelong gamer, video games inform my brand’s look and feel.

What cultural touch points shape your sense of aesthetic and humour? What’s something unique and unexpected about you that can energise wine communications? What makes your content uniquely yours?

This is where individual communicators excel: you have the ability and agility to channel the unique "you" into your brand. Some call it unique selling propositions, others creative freedom.

This diversity will make the wine industry a much more fun place to work in.


Readings that inspired this piece


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