Friday, January 30, 2009

Customers Own the Brand Experience

What do you when a key element of your brand experience may be past its time? When the traditional is now less perfect, more complicated, more expensive and more prone to product spoilage? Oh, and requires a corkscrew?

We’re talking about the wine experience and a little question of how you top that vintage bottle of fine fermented grape.

As a vintner, you can bottle with natural cork or a metal screw top, known in the industry by its brand name, as a Stelvin cap. You even have the option to use a synthetic, plastic “cork.”

The decision is not clear cut. Used to be that screw tops wines were sold by the jug, low in cost and quality. Yet today, some of the most celebrated wineries are using Stelvins for their finest reserve offerings. Natural cork has issues as well. A nasty little tree bark disease, or poor sealing, can cause a “corked” taste, ruining your wine. Plastic is no panacea either. Consumers find some synthetic corks difficult to remove. And they may not seal as well as natural cork, either, allowing unwanted air intrusion.

It seems that some wineries can’t, or won’t, make up their minds. Could be supplies of quality cork are getting harder to find and more expensive. Could be that they haven’t fully decided that one method is truly better for the wine than another. Or it could be that they’re hedging bets.

The right answer

From a branding perspective, the right decision has nothing to do with cork or metal or plastic. The right answer for your brand comes from your customer. Because your customers own the brand experience. A couple scenarios.

If your primary customer is knowledgeable about wine and confident in their selection. If they’re unafraid to “uncork” a screw top for friends. If convenience matters. If your brand has opened up a conversation with your audience and created a relationship. Then by all means. Go Stelvin.

If your primary customer or the occasion, say a romantic dinner for two, is one where the traditional custom of removing the foil and pulling the cork is part of the experience. Then natural cork is where you ought to be. Or if your target is skilled with a corkscrew yet likes the idea of enjoying a quality wine at a slightly lower cost, then consider plastic.

That’s the lesson in all this wine talk.

Think about how your customer experiences your brand. The places. Occasions. The total experience. Think about your reputation and your customer connection. Are you blogging the advantages of Stelvin as many fine wineries have? Have you conducted and published taste tests that illustrate your favor? Is your key customer part of a close-knit group of loyals that is part of your brand conversation?

Your customer knows

Now assuming, fairly safely, that we’re not all in the wine business, what’s your version of cork vs. screw cap? Two things I can tell you for sure. Great wine is great wine regardless of what keeps it from spilling out the top of the bottle until you open it. And, your customer has the answer.

Photos: (c)2009 Paul J. Hydzik ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

No comments:

Post a Comment