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Fine time for wine round-up and branding

By Joanne Martin

2008 will not be remembered as a vintage year for the Australian wine industry. The volume of wine exports declined by 11% and the dollar value of these sales fell by a hefty 18%, according to the Wine Export Approval Report, issued monthly by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation.

But as long term wine industry participants well know, good years will eventually come again and you may as well do something constructive in the meantime. While this often translates into upgrading winery equipment, improving viniculture practices or spending time working the customer database, there’s another aspect of the value of a wine business which may well reward some extra attention – the business’ intellectual property, including innovation practices and branding.

Along with the outstanding results Australian winemakers, oenologists and vignerons have achieved globally, their efforts have also been supported by talented Aussie brand developers and label designers who have developed a reputation (and sometimes, notoriety) for creating catchy, memorable and unique labels. We believe now is the time wine businesses should review their innovation practices to see how they can be leveraged and also consider how best to invest in the company’s brand.

Sustainable businesses recognise the importance of a strong brand, particularly as a way to carry them through tough times. A strong brand finds more customers. It gives those customers security and comfort. It buys brand loyalty. A strong brand captures and keeps a bigger share of the market.

At the heart of it, well-branded Australian wines will be in the best position to ride out the challenges arising from the global financial crisis, exchange rate volatility, competition from other suppliers and tightening margins.

Here is F B Rice & Co’s checklist on how to strengthen your brand so it stands firm against the hundreds of consumer choices available and against threats from competitors.

1. Choose a strong brand Your brand should clearly represent the marketing message you wish to communicate with your market. But it should also be protectable by registration, allowing you to obtain exclusive rights to that trade mark.

2. Make it memorable Your trade mark needs to be a shorthand for your marketing message. It will help customers remember your product, encourage them look for it and enable them to find it amongst the myriad choices on wine store shelves.

3. Be original Riding on the coattails of other well known trade marks is a risky strategy because their owners are usually very protective about their marks. Mounting a legal defence of your actions is likely to be a very expensive and time-wasting exercise.

4. Think globally If your wine is intended for an export market, make sure right from the word go that the mark is culturally suitable in your intended markets, that it is available for you to use in those markets and that it is likely to be protectable.

5. Leverage your intellectual property assets A trade mark is a much more valuable company asset if it is registered. At a time when company balance sheets may be looking a little rocky, making sure all assets are properly valued and recorded can be very important.

6. Seek specialist help Save yourself time and potentially expensive mistakes when considering brand and labelling by having a chat with your trade mark specialist before you commit to the design process.

Australian wine labelling, particularly for product destined for the overseas markets, has a reputation for innovation and fun. Here is a quick overview of the trade marks filed with IP Australia during 2008 which gives an idea of branding trends and directions:

Clean Green Australia: Australia's position as a clean green country is reflected in filings for marks such as Sustainable Planet Eco, Earth Conscious Organics, Tread Lightly and The Organic Wine Company of Australia.

The Quirky: (and definitely memorable) are Flying Piano, Dance with the Devil, Happy Ending, Mad House, Gallows, Devil's Whiskers, The Screamer, Red Zombie.

Animals: but with a twist! Chez Galah, Dog's Body, Cow Bombie, Devil Toad, Chilli Bull, Mad-Croc, Bad Birdie, Lap Dog, Oyster and Aussie Mozzie.

Literary, puns and word play: wine[tail], Redzilla, Marilyn Merlot, Deja Blue, The Wrath of Grapes, Moulin Rooz

The coarse, the rude, the colloquial: Le Mongrel Champers, No Bull, Busted Ass, Fat Ass, Sex of Mud, Fight Club, No Dickheads, Binge, Onya, Plate Licker.

Self Identification: (perhaps winemakers are not above naming wines after themselves). Young Guns of Wine, Dr Feelgood, The Idiot, The Dreamer, Over the Hill, Little Bugger, Cranky Jack, Grey Nomad, Frugal Farmer, Vine Whisperer, Cockeyed Optimist, Hoon.

The Stylish: (using the brand to create a positive idea is a common technique) Charisma, Swish Wine, Little Gem, Dynamite, Zest, Uber, Size Really Does Matter, Wine with Altitude, D'Vine Distribution, Ivy League, Eclectic Wine.

Mood Makers: Disposal Pleasure, Cloud No 9, Willing Participant, Friends in Wine, Frisky, Good Times, Mothers Little Helper, Friends and Family, Long Lunch, Age Gets Better With Wine, Sex at Sunset, Fond Memories, A Great Life, Good Company.

Celebrities, historical personages, current cultural references: (garnering a little reflected glory). Kite Runner, Marco Polo, Ophelia, Leonardo, River Dance, Edvard Munch, Mad Max.



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