Storytelling key to effective advertising15th March, 2012 by db_staff
Advertising is most effective when it creates an image or story that consumers can connect with on an emotional level, proved by Gallo with its successful late 1980s campaign. So why aren’t more wine brands following suit, asks Jonathan Cahill
In the world of marketing, the wine industry is an enigma. Much of marketing is concerned with emotions. One of the most useful definitions of a brand is that it is something consumers buy for its emotional benefits, whereas a product they buy for its functional ones.
Wine has a deep well of emotions on which to draw. Of all the products the land provides, wine is almost unique in that those who cultivate it are also intimately connected with its production. Only olive oil comes close. Most other produce is sent off to a third party with no direct connection to the land or the crop.
Wine is one of the few major industries which can still be perceived as artisan – whatever the realities might be.
As well as the importance of place inherent in terroir, there is the added element of the history, community and individuals which go to make the wine what it is – the emotional terroir.
Today brands search for heritage and provenance, as evidenced in the current BA campaign, and would give their eye teeth for the rich fund of both possessed by wine.
This fund of emotions has power, as many of our choices appear to be based on emotion rather than reason. This has been confirmed by work in neurology. Emotion has even been identified as a base for rational thought. When marketing a product, one of the essential elements is to give it a personality with which the consumer can relate.
The philosopher Martin Buber focused on relationships and divided them into two sorts: I-It with objects and I-Thou with people. These he felt were related to empathy, which was switched on by a move from the former to the latter.
To elicit empathy, Gavin Fairburn of Leeds University suggested that: “storytelling is central to most of human life. It is also the most startlingly simple and direct way l know of encouraging the development of empathy”.
This may appear academic, but it has considerable potency in the real world where stories can make a significant difference. In an experiment in the US, 100 items were bought for $128 at a garage sale. A story was written for each one and they were then sold on eBay. The total take was $3,612. Most wines have a rich heartland of stories, yet few exploit them. The best example of one which did was Ernest and Julio Gallo wine when it launched in the UK in 1989.
This was an emotional campaign achieved by individual stories. The overall impression was of two brothers dedicated to perfecting every detail in making wine that met their exacting standards – a clear articulation of the wine’s emotional terroir.
The stories which illustrated this centred on particular aspects such as the wood used for the casks, an obsession with a particular grape, or getting up early in the morning.
Although there was heavy spending on advertising, the impression created was artisan, focusing on Ernest and Julio who were cast as being intimately rooted in the wine and its production – far removed from their position as heads of the biggest wine company in the world.
This emotional framework was richly clothed in advertisements which mirrored the care and quality which had been attributed to the Gallos. They consisted of two consecutive double-page spreads – anathema in terms of media numbers – which created space for the message.
This was a similar approach to the recent award-winning 90-second advertising for Hovis bread. Rough calculations of the return for this campaign gave a figure of £75.5 million – five times the marketing investment of £15m.
Despite Gallo’s example, the wine industry never seems to have reached this level of insight since. Much of the concern of advertising appears to be with awareness.
But if this goal is achieved and the wine is noticed, then there is little personality with which the consumer can relate or feel empathy.
In the drinks industry it is not wine which has exploited its rich emotional heartland but rather a whiskey. Jack Daniel’s advertising has helped make it the second biggest whisk(e)y in the world.
The campaign’s flavour seems to mirror the approach of Gallo. It focuses on the emotional heartland provided by the people who work in the distillery at Lynchburg and whose dedication and individual quirks make up the personality of Jack Daniel’s.
As opposed to the Italian peasants of Gallo, the theme is folksy Tennessee. It is not rooted in the land, as in terroir with wine, but rather in the place and its people. The image is the polar opposite to Jack Daniels’s actual position in the market.
The way Gallo and Jack Daniel’s advertised can be described as the pixel approach – each story contributing a pixel to an overall picture of the brand. This has been successfully adopted by other advertisers such as Tesco and BMW. The latter used many stories demonstrating great attention to engineering detail in order to form the overall image of “the ultimate driving machine”.
Not only was this highly successful in advancing its share, the power of the idea paid in financial effectiveness; in 2008 BMW was best for rate of return on ad spend per car in the UK.
The expenditure between January and August 2008 worked out at £22 for each new car registered – less than 10% the national average of £233 per vehicle. That other paragon of German success – Volkswagen – spent £155 per car.
As Gallo and the other examples demonstrate, a strong idea which pulls firmly on the emotional chords, can add value to the brand and even efficiency to the budget.
There are issues – such as price promotions – which influence commercial decisions and are labelled pragmatic.
But it is surely more constructive to spend money to add value rather than remove it. The enigma is that wine provides the tools for this in abundance, yet few pick them up.