Diary of an Andrea Johnson Photo Shoot

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with Andrea Johnson of Andrea Johnson Photography on a lifestyle photo shoot for Stoller Vineyards. The winery is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon picnicking or a weekend escaping from daily life. With 3 guest homes on the property and ample space for relaxation, it's a great Willamette Valley destination. Further, the hospitality provided by the great staff is nearly unparalleled -- many in the industry forget we're in the hospitality industry first and the wine industry second!

Our goal was to show people enjoying themselves around the various areas of the property to highlight these features visually. We will use this imagery in various marketing arenas - ads, website, tasting room video and b-roll, and distribution presentations. (We have also begun a video process to create a multi-media piece but more on that later.)

To pull this off required the following:

* 2 meetings to brainstorm and edit
* 2 full days of working with her excellent models (she prefers actors as they are more relaxed and I can see why!)
* 12 wardrobe changes
* 4 trips to Farm to Fork to get picnic items
* about a case of wine used for pours and re-pours
* patience and cooperation from the winery team and good attitude about being asked to model
* ability to load Adirondack chairs on top of a golf cart and drive it without spilling wine or food
* ability to run through field in flip flops
* Spanish language knowledge

Very difficult to pick a favorite photo from the shoot but this well captures the spirit of Stoller:

Here's the behind-the-scenes look at what it took to get it (taken by my low res Blackberry camera) -- good thing she's fit and has a good attitude:

My role was a hybrid between creative director/water fetcher/housekeeping/damage control. As for the last part, we had just headed over to one of the guest homes to shoot a "perfect" picnic when a combine truck arrived. I immediately ran through brush to avoid the dust bowl beginning and politely ask the driver to back out of the shot for 10 minutes. He somewhat understood me, but thankfully, Eric speaks Spanish and was able to explain why we were interrupting his work day.

The "perfect" shot:

The drive to stop the dust:

We ended up with about 90 excellent shots. Now time to get these into the marketing materials!


Big Day for Marketing in Oregon

This morning I spoke to a crowd of about 40 participants at a wine marketing workshop hosted by Oregon Wine Board. The focus was on outlining the key elements of a business plan, drilling into the specifics of the marketing plan, and discussing best practices for getting started, implementation and creating a culture that seeks continuous improvement. I was impressed by the good comments from the crowd and thoughtful questions. If you would like a copy of the presentation, please email me.

Katherine Cole, wine writer for the Portland Oregonian, also posted a piece on marketing wine to women which quoted me. When asked about my thoughts on the subject, my mind immediately went back to a period in my marketing life where I was put in the unenviable position of promoting low-carb wine. (Not a good feeling considering that I knew it would be ridiculed by the press -- the worst is that one of these articles lives on to this day.) While this wasn't specifically aimed at only women, it is yet another example of trying to take advantage of a fad versus truly creating something meaningful for one's target audience.

It's important to keep in mind that my comments were directed toward the Oregon wine industry specifically. I do not have sales data on Bitch wines, so there is a possibility that the brand may be going gangbusters in its selected target market. In the end we're all in business so if Bitch is a creation women are buying and loving, more power to them. For Oregon, however, where the costs tend to be higher and the output lower, I do not see this as an effective way to reach women.


"If you don't ask, you don't receive"

This year I've completed a number of market research surveys for Stoller Vineyards. When the project began I surveyed the wine club and brand managers to get feedback on topics ranging from wine quality, pricing and value to brand communication and sales materials. We also studied visitor experience and perceptions. I then used this feedback to develop a SWOT analysis and the 2010 marketing strategy, which means it is considered for brand messaging in ads, media relations and social media, as well as how we develop consumer and trade programs. In other words, it is used on a daily basis.

Today I finished analyzing another survey of Stoller club members regarding events and soon I will begin a series of surveys for a new client, Chehalem. Market research is a pursuit I enjoy, but more importantly, it is very valuable to wine businesses. Don Morgan of GMA Research, a fellow speaker at the June Southern Oregon wine marketing conference, puts it best: "Positioning is what brands aspire to... market perception is reality." He also noted that the most critical market research question is whether or not your customers or clients would recommend you.

As a marketing strategist, my role is to survey market perception, build or re-build positioning (and reality) based on this feedback. Too many consultants have a tendency to come in and change everything without a true basis for their recommendations. While not every decision should be made with a survey set -- best practices do exis, this approach can be financially wasteful and ignores what the current organizational strengths. A good marketer should seek to understand before she seeks to improve.

PS - I do also practice what I preach. In a recent survey of all of my past and current clients, here's what I learned:

* 100% would recommend Trellis Wine Consulting either "very highly" (57%) or "highly"

* 86% rated my service's quality, integrity and professionalism "excellent" -- for value I received "excellent" on 57% of responses

* the two most important factors in selecting my company were its wine focus and the ability to work directly with me (versus an account executive) -- no one rated location in Portland or my references as important

I also learned more about my strengths and challenges on the open-ended questions. This feedback is very helpful to me as I continue to grow my business and plan for the future. One of the challenges of being an independent service provider is that unless I ask for feedback, I don't get it!