Pacific Rim’s wine portfolio  includes dry and sweet Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and a few blends, but the brand identity of “Riesling Rules” pervades all communications.

Pacific Rim’s wine portfolio includes dry and sweet Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and a few blends, but the brand identity of “Riesling Rules” pervades all communications.

In the hands of a creative marketer, 15 years of sweat and research can be boiled down to one word: BOING. That’s the tag line Shawn Bavaresco and his team created to launch Nike’s groundbreaking Shox technology ten years ago.

He took a risk condensing the Shox design developed by Nike’s engineers to one slightly goofy line, he said at the Washington Wine Industry conference in Yakima December 10. But the campaign worked because it captured the essence of the new product quickly, precisely, and uniquely. Those are the same principles he draws on today when marketing one of the most traditional products aroundwine.

After 15 years in consumer marketing, Bavaresco entered the wine industry in 2004 as the marketing director for Bonny Doon, named the Hot Brand by Impact magazine for three years in a row. Today, he is a founding director and marketing manager for Pacific Rim Winemakers, a young company that helped create the upsurge in Riesling sales in the United States. He has also served as advertising director for Nike and Levi’s US Group, and helped launch brands as diverse as Pets.com and Apple Computer’s PowerBook.

Brand identity

No matter the industry or product, Bavaresco said, the same filters apply when creating a brand identity: stand for something; keep it simple; do what you do best, do it passionately; and tell a story to create emotion for your product.

For example, Bavaresco pointed to Nike’s identifying consumer image of movement. “At Nike, the mantra was ‘if you have a body, you’re an athlete,’” he explained. Every piece of Nike’s consumer communication, from the swoosh logo to the “Just Do It” slogan, reflects the concept of movement.

“At Apple,” he continued, “we were selling a technical product in an emotional way.” All communications there centered on creativity, with campaigns featuring independent thinkers like Albert Einstein and Jim Henson. And at Levi’s, the consumer identity focused on heritage, reflected in ads that set the denim manufacturer apart from designer labels by evoking tradition.

Riesling Rules

At Pacific Rim, Bavaresco has led the brand development efforts with some notable results. The winery’s product line is built around the dry Riesling first released by Bonny Doon in 1992. Today, Pacific Rim bottles a portfolio of both sweet and dry Rieslings, along with Chenin Blanc, Gewrztraminer, and a few blends, but the brand identity of “Riesling Rules” pervades all communications.

“Riesling Rules will be our tag line forever and ever,” Bavaresco said. It’s the theme of the company’s Web site, and is included in everything from brochures to e-mail signatures. It even led to the development of a “Riesling Rules” booklet that is featured on the Web site, and was distributed to some 35,000 people who requested a copy.

That unifying concept supports other more focused campaigns, he said. For one promotion, Bavaresco created bottle-neckers reading “Save Water. Drink Riesling.” The ad offered a free shopping bag to everyone who clicked on a link on Pacific Rim’s Web site and supplied an e-mail address. When an online site cataloging free offers around the Web picked it up, the campaign went viral, and hits on Pacific Rim’s site jumped to 35,000 a day. Requests for the free shopping bags topped 85,000far exceeding the 5,000 they had printed, or the number they could afford to distribute.

Pacific Rim managed what could have been a public relations nightmare by personally apologizing to everyone who requested a shopping bag and asking for their understanding. And Bavaresco said the results were remarkable. “In a couple of weeks, our e-mail list went from about 2,500 names to more than 775,000,” he said.

The four filters he applies to communication strategies are always the same, he said, but marketing wine still demands innovation, especially when targeting millennials, the generation of consumers born between 1970 and 1990. That demographic group numbers around 60 million, more than three times the size of its predecessor, known as Gen Y, and is characterized by technical skills and global perspective. Bavaresco said traditional media like television just aren’t relevant to millennials. “You can’t market to this group. The minute you do, they smell a rat,” he said. “The best thing you can do is be sincere. When they discover you and they like what you have to say, then you’re golden.”

For example, Bavaresco created a bottle-necker designed to promote Pacific Rim’s biodynamic vineyard at Wallula. The outside featured a portrait of a sheep, and the back told the story of biodynamics. The campaign got good response, he said, and it enabled Pacific Rim to find a way to emphasize its uniqueness.

Wild west

But millenials can be a hard crowd to locate. Traditional media television, newspapers, and magazines are often ignored by this group. Instead, they network with Twitter, Facebook, text messages, and a host of online news and consumer information sources, the world of social media that Bavaresco calls “the wild west.”

“If anyone tells you they understand social media, they’re lying,” he said. “No one has all the answers, but it is valuable. This stuff we all have the budgets for.”

And in some ways, Bavaresco said, social media are particularly well suited to marketing wine. They can be used to tell a story in an intimate communication between a winemaker and a consumer.

“If you’re using social media, don’t just sit there, say something,” Bavaresco said. “Make it personal. Create the view behind the curtain. No one cares how shoes are made. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone about how their computer was made? No one cares how Levi’s stitches their jeans. But everyone you talk to cares about how wine is made.

“You’ve got to challenge people,” Bavaresco said. “You’ve got to swing for the fences. You’re not always going to hit a home run, but when you connect, it can be very powerful.”