The Big Fish Little Pond Theory of Wine Marketing
The one theory of marketing that I've always understood and that I've seen work consistently well when applied well in the wine business is the theory of the Big Fish In The Little Pond. I think the reason the BFLP theory of wine marketing works so well is because its so elegantly simple. It works like this:
Find a small product category (Alicante Bouschet, for example), where fewer competitors are willing to play, Produce a great example of the product (Ballentine Vineyards' Chenin Blanc, for example) and institute a very targeted placement strategy that makes your example of the product the obvious go-to wine among those looking for something unique and different.
While the advantage of the BFLP strategy is that the player has less competition than those in larger working in larger product categories, the disadvantage is that there are far fewer buyers for the product. The key, then, to this marketing strategy is being highly successful at identifying buyers for your high quality, though obscure, product.
What's very interesting to this PR Guy is the identification of small product categories. There are actually few pure wine categories that are now uncrowded. Alicante Bouschet is a good example. So is Chenin Blanc. But you'd be hard pressed to find other purely varietal categories that are relatively small ponds.
That's why the small wine pond these days happens to be not only varietal, but geographical too. Among the interesting small wine ponds that exist you have:
-Napa Valley Sangiovese
-Russian River Valley Petite Sirah
-Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer
-California Port-Style Wines
Other types of small wine ponds exist, but the further away one gets from the commonly understood varietal product paradigm and the semi-understood geographic/varietal paradigm, the smaller the pond becomes. From a perception standpoint, you often end up with a puddle instead of a pond.
Being the big footprint in a small puddle isn't necessarily a bad thing either. However to successfully maneuver this approach to product marketing you find yourself at the mercy of the cognoscenti that understand the puddle and are willing to educate others about the contours and contents of the puddle.
Among the wine puddles that can accommodate a major producer footprint are:
-Old Vine Zinfandel
-Small production, single vineyard varietals
-Non-French "Nouveau" wines
As a publicist, I want winery clients that are big fish in a small pond or big footprints in a puddle. I look for these kinds of clients because publicists tell stories and it turns out that the BFLPs always have more interesting stories to tell.