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Reaching Rachel

Blossom Hill is repositioning itself to appeal to a slightly more mature market. But heritage and provenance have been deemed irrelevant to the target consumer, known as Rachel, who wants fruit, fruit and more fruit.

Its simple proposition, consumer-friendly style and female-friendly packaging have made it one of the most successful wine brands in the UK. It has a large and loyal consumer base, despite having none of the traditional wine brand cues – no scenic vineyards, famous winemaker or long family heritage. What it does have, however, is the support of one of the industry’s largest companies and all the marketing clout and big budgets this offers. Which means that when the drinks business learned the brand was trying to reposition itself in the UK, aiming to encourage consumers to trade up to its second-tier varietals, we were keen to find out how it was going to be done.

The brand we are talking about is, of course, Blossom Hill, which sells 4.7 million cases per year and recorded sales of £225m in the last financial year. Helen Wright at Percy Fox was the woman chosen for the task. With a generous budget – £1m on TV ads alone – Wright, who is now brand manager for Blossom Hill, decided that a straight advertising campaign alone wasn’t going to do it; the brand would need to be assessed in great depth if she were to achieve her objective to add value to the brand.

“Our entry-level red and white wines make up some 60% of the brand, but this is declining,” says Wright. “The consumer trend we saw was a move to varietal, which at the right price point (the entry level RRP at £3.99, the varietals at £4.99) is more profitable for us and the trade, so it made sense for us to concentrate our efforts here,” she explains.

Consumer awareness
Clearly the brand needed to retain its existing consumer base  of BC1/C2 females aged 25-34, who shop in supermarkets, off-licences and by mail order. Research shows these consumers are less likely to buy on varietal, but do buy on brand awareness and TV presence. In order to increase value, however, new consumers would also need to be found.

The new target consumer, it was decided, would also be female (though male partners would be a secondary target), slightly older at 35-55 and ABC1s. These consumers shop in supermarkets and off-licences, but also online and cross-channel. They are much more likely to buy varietal wines than the existing Blossom Hill consumer and are regular wine drinkers. From this starting point it was a case of getting into some serious consumer research.

“We are lucky at Percy Fox because we have the Diageo marketing tools at our disposal,” Wright explains. “And these
are tools that are also used for marketing spirits brands, which gives us the edge in terms of the wine category.” Diageo uses something called the Target Consumer Understanding Tool, or TCUT, in order to build a profile for the target consumer. TCUT even gives that consumer a name, “In this case she was called Rachel,” says Wright.

Rachel, the slightly older ABC1 female, has children aged between six and 18. She knows now is the time to enjoy life and get the most reward out of work, family and friends. A crucial aspect of her wine drinking is social. But wine also has a role at home, turning tasks like ironing into quality “me time”. Rachels are daunted (although not afraid) of the wine category and, outside of promotions, buy on brand and varietal. In terms of the brand, they see Blossom Hill as a popular product and as New World, which they perceive to be lighter, fresher, younger and easier to approach.

One of the most important facts that emerged from the consumer insight work was the idea that taste is the most important driver for the target group when it chooses wine. Therefore, primary fruit flavours are key and Blossom Hill must convey this through the new marketing campaign.

Shifting emphasis
The three words chosen to underpin this new drive and which were used to brief the advertising company are: carefree, colourful and convivial. Time spent looking at Diageo’s own tracking research also revealed a need for the brand to move away from emotional attributes (that it is fun, approachable, relaxed and great value), where it already scores highly, and move more towards more tangible aspects such as winemaking, taste and origin.

This shift in emphasis moves the wine into more serious territory and provides consumers with the confidence to trade up to varietals or buy into the brand at varietal level for the first time. However, it was important not to venture too far into technical wine territory, so while terms like crisp, berry and fruity all received positive feedback, comparisons with chocolate and leather did not.

Better by design
Likewise with the packaging. It was felt that the varietal levels should be repackaged in order to position them correctly. Perhaps more traditional packaging with more heritage cues could be considered?

“We looked at several new design proposals,” Wright says. “The recommendations we had from Wine Intelligence research included things like maintaining the floral theme, but keeping it to a minimum to avoid getting into shampoo and perfume territory; to make the most of the bottom label, as that is what people focus on for information and to make the move to a straight-top bottle as people perceive the flange top as lower quality.”

The wine inside the bottle was also, it was decided, in need of a tweak. So a programme of slightly modifying the style of the liquid began. “For the white wines it was clean and fresh; and for the reds, soft and supple. This meant some sourcing changes and a greater focus on forecasting to allow a swifter move to new vintages,” Wright explains.

The final piece of the jigsaw was developing the flagship TV advertising campaign to coincide with the release of the new packaging this month. “In many ways this was the most exciting element of the whole project,” Wright says. “We briefed our advertising agency, JWT, who developed four routes and took them into consumer research. What came out of that was a
clear message that consumers were not interested in an involved winemaking message nor were they concerned with provenance. So it really became all about the fruit.”

The resulting ads comprise four separate 10-second indents, two of which are to be shown during a single ad break, one at the beginning and another at the end. “It will feel as if we are sponsoring the programme even though we aren’t,” Wright explains. Each of the adverts looks at a familiar object – a lemon for the Pinot Grigio and cherries for the Merlot – but as the camera moves around, it becomes clear that they are different representations of the brand. So, for example, the lemon is the wine in an ice bucket, the cherries a bottle and a glass. The strap is: “Blossom Hill. Deliciously Fruity Wine.”

The ads will break during the final episode of Channel 4’s Desperate Housewives and will highlight the four Blossom Hill varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The campaign is set to run for six weeks initially and will, Wright hopes, “tap into what is going on in food – simple and premium”. These are unique wine adverts and, if successful, will raise some interesting questions about the relevance of the undisputed holy trinity of wine marketing: winemaking, heritage and provenance. 

© db July 2006

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