François Chartier, President
Advertising Agency: SID LEE
|Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):||October 3, 2013 to July 15, 2014|
|Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: ||September 2014|
|Base Period as a Benchmark: ||none (launch)|
Context: the product story
Throughout the history of winemaking, producers have come up with the proper pairings once the wine was created. François Chartier took it upon himself to change this process. Using the knowledge he’d acquired during his 25 years as a sommelier and while writing “Taste Buds and Molecules”, an award-winning book that deciphers the science and art of aromatic similarity, he created the world’s first “pairing-centric” range of wines. As he best puts it: “Using my knowledge of wine and food pairings and my own aromatic science, I was able to elaborate those wines as a function of the proper food pairings beforehand, and not as a result of it. To achieve this, I selected, assembled, aged and bottled wines that shared the same aromatic profiles as an array of foods, thus creating and simplifying perfect wine and food pairings for everyone.”
During the conception phase, Chartier collaborated with several well-established producers and a world-renowned Bordeaux oenologist, Pascal Chatonnet. Four wines were finalized and brought to market in 2013, with another two entering the market in 2014. To ensure a successful launch, François Chartier partnered with advertising agency Sid Lee to rethink the way wines are presented to consumers, and come up with a disruptive marketing strategy.
The Marketing Context
The launch window is a vital time period for the promotion of a wine, and even more so for a range of wines. In the Quebec market, competition is fierce as consumers have access to a wide range of products: there are over 11,500 alcoholic beverages currently offered in SAQ stores (the government-owned stores responsible for the trade of most alcoholic beverages within the province of Quebec). To carve out a spot in such a saturated market, we knew that we not only needed to appeal to the end consumer, but also needed to pique the interest of the SAQ and its staff.
In such a crowded market space, launches are particularly difficult. Often times, new wines are brought to market without ever causing a stir. And so, to pique the curiosity of both groups, especially amongst end consumers, we needed to be bold in our approach. Instead of solely focusing on the typical wine jargon (vintage, producer, or region), we opted for atypical messaging hierarchy, one that first seeks to promote the wine’s pairing potential (its ability to create the “perfect meal” when matched with the right dish/food ingredients) and then communicate the usual information (i.e. grape variety).
In terms of communication mediums, we opted for both “in-store” and “out-of-store” vehicles to generate interest before and during the store visit. Perhaps the most important medium was the label, the element that often serves to convince people of their choice when they shop for wine.
Our business objective consisted in selling 72,000 bottles within the first year.
- Annual Media Budget
Not applicable: our budget was limited and we could only invest in the essential aspects: packaging and point-of-store signage. To create awareness, we had to focus our energy on using our “owned media”.
Province of Québec
Segmentation - understanding who to target and why
Our research enabled us to identify seven groups based on different criteria – including their knowledge of wine. Out of the seven groups, we realized that certain segments shouldn’t be targeted. Research showed that two segments (passionates and connoisseurs) didn’t harbor much interest for “innovative products”, that is, wines that didn’t abide by industry conventions and seek to impress by their choice of producer, vintage or region. So instead of focusing on these two groups, we looked into the other segments. The five other segments, which include 90% of the SAQ clientele, appeared to be a more natural fit. Unlike the connoisseurs and passionates, the other segments (discoverers, socialites, hipsters, occasionals and regulars) generally lacked knowledge and expressed difficulty in their ability to identify their preferred grape varieties or regions. When it came to wine, they weren’t looking for a “sophisticated wine”, but were rather more concerned with finding a bottle that would fit their evening’s purpose.
Targeting the right consumer, with the right insight
There exists a certain stigma around wine; people, even those who hold little knowledge, feel pressure to choose a good bottle. Unlike connoisseurs and passionates, our target market had a tendency to buy for social reasons. Whether it’s offered as a gift or as part of a host’s meal, wine is bought to be shared and enjoyed with others. The need to please others, combined with our target audience’s lack of wine knowledge, places a burden on their shoulders and makes wine shopping overwhelming for many.
According to a study published in the Psychological Science, “the degree to which consumers perceive themselves to be knowledgeable about a product influences the likelihood that they will buy a particular product ”. This made us realize that if we wanted to increase sales, we needed to instill confidence in our shopper (key consumer insight). To do so, we needed to simplify the world of wine for our consumer (see “Communication Strategy” section below for more information).
Finding the right message:
Instead of confusing our consumer with the usual wine gibberish, we chose to simplify the wine selection process to one easy-to-answer question, that is: what meal are you having tonight? By focusing our message on something as simple as food (i.e. the meal they intend to eat with their wine), we wanted to empower consumers in their choice and give them confidence in their decision to ultimately convince them to purchase the bottle.
Delivering our message during the right moments:
Our communication strategy was designed to address consumers at key moments along the path to purchase, namely during the awareness and initial research phase (pre-visit), as well as the intent and consideration phases (during the visit).
Generating awareness and interest pre-store visit, a three-phase approach
To create ample awareness around our new product, we created a three-phase approach:
- Phase #1, the teasing phase: Before the launch of the product, we wanted to create buzz and anticipation. To do so, we activated a strong content strategy that promoted the wines across the web, namely via François Chartier’s social platforms (Instagram, Facebook & Twitter).
- Phase #2, the launch of the first four wines: We revealed the products with a bang, arousing impressive amounts of attention from the media and successfully sparking up conversation on all fronts (within SAQ stores, at wine events, on social media of all types). More precisely, our launch tactics included:
- A smart content/social media campaign featuring “sharable” articles and videos on food recipes for people who wish to create the ideal food and wine pairing
- A PR campaign that focused on François Chartier’s existing “star power” and the product’s unique “scientific approach”
- Launch events and promotional tactics that highlighted the pairing concept:
- IGA promo – a partnership with IGA supermarkets (one of the biggest grocery retailers in the province) was established whereby consumers received a free “matching” food item at IGA when they bought a Chartier bottle.
- SAQ promotional tactic – tasting events and give-aways of small recipe booklets, during a limited period of time, encouraged consumers to discover the concept before buying the bottle.
- Phase #3, the launch of the two latest wines: To reinvigorate sales and make sure that the wines stay “top of mind”, a second product launch was planned in May 2014. The two new wines were launched with the help of a small newspaper ad campaign, which encouraged consumers to impress during the BBQ season with the ideal wine and food pairings (in other words, with Chartier wines).
The Intent & consideration phase, a focus on the label
When it comes to shopping for alcoholic beverages, most consumers, especially our target market, have a tendency to enter the “intent and consideration” phases during their store visits. Research also indicated that consumers in our target market usually preferred keeping to themselves, avoiding consulting experts for advice. According to a recent SAQ survey, clients are often uncomfortable asking staff for advice because of lack of vocabulary and knowledge to properly express themselves when it comes to wine. This led us to one main conclusion: we needed to guide the consumer once in store with signage, and most importantly, with the bottle’s label.
The label became without a doubt the cornerstone of our communication strategy, in addition to being the most important element within the “wine consumer journey”, the label has created quite a stir in the wine industry, creating what wine critics call: “a small revolution in the field of wine packaging.” (see Creative Discussion for a complete explanation).
- Packaging (labels and wine crates)
- In-store signage
- Launch events
- PR & content campaign
- Small summer 2014 newspaper campaign (for the second launch)
In order to position the new wine range as essential, we created a strong brand that relies not only on the pairing principal, but also on François Chartier’s reputation. And so, we developed a brand signature, “Creator of harmonies”, that communicates François Chartier’s expertise in the field of pairing.
The label & design branding
Aromatic sommellerie is an abstract concept, one that can seem complex to the average consumer. In order to facilitate the public’s general and specific understanding of the concept, we simplified it by illustrating the recommended ingredients for food & wine pairings directly on the front label, without compromising the aesthetics of the bottle (proof: the project won the prestigious Grafika award, celebrating graphic design in Quebec). Most wine bottles don’t mention pairings on the label, and those that do normally place this information on the back of the bottle and stay very vague in the way they describe the “food pairings and their ingredients” (i.e. chicken, fish or steak). Unlike this general tendency, our design strategy consisted in actually drawing the food ingredients on the front of the bottle and offering very precise descriptions for the absolute best food pairings (star anise, roasted chicken, etc.).
Aesthetically speaking, we chose to complement our strategy with a visual identity that alludes to science. For example, the hexagon-shaped logo references molecules, while the illustrations (food items on the bottle) we developed were inspired by imagery found in encyclopaedias and scientific magazines.
Creative Discussion concerning the Creative Tactics:
To create buzz around the product and to bring the “Chartier Experience” to a whole other level, different creative tactics were orchestrated ranging from the launch events, the PR campaign and the content campaign.
The content campaign was carefully crafted as the foundation amplifying the “Chartier experience”. It not only succeeded in prolonging the experience post-store visit, but also gave consumers a “full package solution”. More precisely, recipes of the “perfect meals” to match each bottle were created and published across the web (including all of the brand’s platforms).
In-store tasting events (i.e. SAQ) and out-of-store special events (i.e. launch events) were also created to “expand” the Chartier experience. More precisely, the ideal food matches were served to people as tapas with the wine during these events, enabling people to savour the ideal dish before even buying a bottle.
François Chartier’s reputation and scientific approach were also utilized for PR purposes. The use of a more “scientific discourse”, which wasn’t so proper for our in-store appeal, turned out to be an interesting and rather revolutionary angle when it came to PR.
We did not have the budget for a media campaign. To learn more about the mediums that were used, please refer to section III, part B: the Communication Strategy.
Enthusiasm has run high for Chartier wines throughout the year
Since the launch, all six wines have maintained a spot amongst SAQ’s best-sellers, with Chartier’s Tuscan wine selling over 24,000 bottles and landing itself a place as the 25th most popular wine in the province.
The popularity of the products was established in the very first week. Our yearly objective was surpassed within the first four months, with 20% of total sales being recorded during the very first week. We are now nine months in, and sales have yet to slow down, reaching a total of 175,303 bottles sold (results extracted on July 15, 2014), which corresponds to more than double the initial objective of 72,000 bottles for the year.
The campaign also benefited from extensive media coverage, with over 50 articles published and numerous interviews conducted over the course of the year, including one on Quebec’s most-watched talk show: Tout le monde en parle.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, the average Quebecers bought approximately 28 bottles of wine (750ml). Although this seems like a high number, it is actually bleak when one takes into account the impressive amount of wines consumers had access to. In the SAQ network alone there is over 8,000 wines to choose from, which means that the average Quebecer only tasted a maximum of 0,0035% of the total wine selection in 2013. This also means that we were dealing with a highly saturated market and needed to work extremely hard from the get-go to be noticed.
Apart for the small newspaper campaign in May, there was no media budget was allocated to boost sales during the year.
The bottles price-point, of 20$ per bottle, was deemed too high for our target market. The general public, unlike the more refined connoisseurs and passionates, usually allocates between 13 and 15$ per bottle of wine. This was definitely a cause that was bound to deter a lot of people from trying the product and ultimately has most likely affected sales.
We entered the market and as time goes on our products increasingly gained shelf space, as a result of their success.
Unusual Promotional Activity:
Price discounting was activated during key periods to reduce the high price-point and facilitate trial. Rebates ranging from 2-3$ were offered for only a few days during the holidays (i.e. Easter).
Other Potential Causes: