The Art of Storytelling in Marketing Your Winery

Image Caption: Jerry Gibson, a Master Storyteller and the Winemaker at Overbluff Cellars, Spokane Washington

Introduction

We don’t buy wine for the bottle. We buy it for the experience. Each customer has a preferred varietal, but what’s really stopping them from going to your competitors? What is making them join your wine clubs and taste your wine?

The unique experience your winery provides.

Customer experience has always been a significant factor in entrepreneurial success. But when it comes to wineries, the story you craft has the power to make or break your revenue.

In this guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about storytelling in marketing your winery.

From understanding why storytelling matters to crafting and promoting your winery’s story for maximum impact, you’ll be on your way to reaching more prospects and maximizing the value of your existing customers in no time.

Sections

Why Storytelling Should Be a Pillar of Your Winery’s Marketing
What Should Your Winery’s Story Contain?
How to Craft Your Winery’s Story for Maximum Impact
Where to Promote Your Winery’s Story

Why Storytelling Should Be a Pillar of Your Winery’s Marketing

A significant portion of your wine’s value is in storytelling. This is pure biology; human brains are simply wired to respond better to storytelling.

Stories are remembered 22 times more than facts alone.

So if you told your (potential) customers that your winery has been operating since 1800s, that wouldn’t be as memorable as telling them that you’re following a tradition your great-great-grandfather started.

When you talk about all the makings of your winery and your brand, people can relate to the struggles and the family traditions. Chances are, they have some of their own. And when you tell a story, you become so much more than a business to your customers. You become someone they know and love.

The Role of Emotions in Storytelling and Marketing

With storytelling, your winery suddenly becomes a lot more personal to every customer.

Advertisers recognized this early; they understood that the underlying story was the key to successful commercials. Storytelling made commercials go viral. Storytelling made viewers remember the advertisements even long after they have aired. Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” commercial is an especially poignant example of using storytelling to market your business.

In this ad, viewers followed the story of Budweiser’s founder as he struggled (and succeeded) with starting a beer brewing company in America. The emotional charge was impossible to ignore. Everyone in the audience could relate to these universal struggles, now translated to the metaphor of the founder’s journey. By the time the video faded to black, viewers rejoiced with the main character. He’d succeeded, and the story told them that they could succeed, too. The implication being that they could succeed with the help of the product.

The role of emotions in marketing is a powerful one.

People don’t just buy because they need something. Realistically, your customers could just get $1 wine if they wanted something to drink. They could grab a glass of water. People buy your wine because they want to buy it. Because it arouses emotions; maybe they want to impress their colleagues, or they want to feel good as they unwind after a long day.

 When you use storytelling to market your winery, you’re helping your customers feel emotion towards your wine. It stops being a drink; it turns into a story they can experience.

That automatically heightens the perceived value of your brand. With storytelling, you won’t only attract new customers. You’ll maximize the purchase value of your existing and returning customers, as well.

The Value of Using Storytelling to Market Your Winery

The overwhelming majority of adult consumers (80%) want brands to tell stories.

However, they want brands to tell meaningful stories. Emotions drive more purchases than logic, so it is your mission to arouse those emotions with meaningful storytelling that, in time, becomes a part of your brand no customer can forget. Just consider a basic fact: 82% of people pick their wine based on the label. They aren’t explicitly looking for varietals. They’re looking for labels that are visually appealing, labels that tell a story. Ultimately, storytelling should be a pillar of your winery’s marketing strategy because it is a great way to build a brand customers recognize and value.

And if you’re ready for specifics, let’s take a look at…

What Should Your Winery’s Story Contain?

Take a second to think about your favorite stories. If you can remember some from your childhood, that’s even better. They have to be good stories to stick around for that long. And behind the charm of them, the reasons you fell in love with them in the first place, there is a well-thought-out storytelling structure.

Structure

Every story needs to follow a plot structure. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to attract and retain customers.

You can simply follow the tried and true formula:

Freytag’s Plot Structure Pyramid.

In the 19th century, a German playwright, Gustav Freytag, analyzed popular plays and realized that they all followed a similar plot structure:

source: https://thepatronsaintofsuperheroes.wordpress.com/

This plot structure doesn’t only pertain to storytelling in books. It works just as well for advertisements and movies.

Just think about Die Hard, one of the most popular movies to date.

In the beginning, we are introduced to the hero, the action starts rising, he decides to stop the villains, there’s an explosion or two, and there you have it: the hero has saved the day.

That’s a tale as old as time, and it’s still effective.

In (winery marketing) practice, Freytag’s Pyramid would look like this:

Exposition

In this part of your plot structure, your prospective customers will get to know your brand, your mission, the setting, and glean at potential twists along the way. Best stories are told with little plot hints peppered into the very beginning of the story. At this point, your customers will understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.  In your case, that’s the reason why your winery produces wine. Sometimes it can be dramatic. Other times, it may be just that your founder looked at the slopes perfect for a vineyard, and decided to share this beauty with the world (i.e. customers).

Rising action

Your hero had great plans and maybe they have been successful but oh no, something happened! All the best stories have obstacles.  The true value of your story lies in allowing your customers to relate to your obstacles, and feel victorious as you overcome them. For example, wineries have often struggled with infestations. If your winery has a long-standing tradition, you could even play with the impact wars and revolutions had on it. Now, your customers don’t own wineries. However, they know the bitter feeling of encountering an obstacle. Especially if you depict it in an emotional way.

Climax

The climax is where the stakes are at their highest. What happened that nearly made the protagonist give up? Let’s say your protagonist was struggling to keep their winery running during the Second World War. And then they received news that someone in their family was injured. That’s an incredibly powerful, climactic moment. In general, your climax has to be convincing. It has to be the single most emotional moment in the story. It makes people root for your winery, and when they root for you, they’ll buy from you.

Falling action

After the spectacular climax, action naturally starts to decrease. The worst has happened, and now your protagonist has to deal with the aftermath and carve out a new hope for the future. You and your customers embark on a journey towards the resolution of the problem.

Resolution

What saved the day and led to your winery successfully producing wine today? Maybe your founder decided that they would not give up. They put in the work, received help from family, and together, they have built the winery you run today. The key to attracting more customers to your winery with storytelling is in baring your story to them.  In a way, your winery’s essence has to be vulnerable. And if it’s honest and relatable, you will successfully draw in more customers than you’ve ever imagined. Think about it: who can truly relate to Harry Potter? None of us are wizards. However, we can relate to the in-between moments and feelings. Working hard to succeed and save the day. It’s the emotions that count.

You have to allow your customers to journey with you on your path to success.

Types of Winery Stories

You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to create an emotionally satisfying and revenue-boosting story about your winery.

Source: Wine Industry Advisor

According to Wine Industry Advisor’s study, wineries typically use the following plots:

  • Stories about farms and founding families
  • Stories about the founding and the history of the winery
  • Dramatic, exaggerated stories
  • Stories about the origins of varietals
  • Stories about the wine-making process
  • Stories about the region

For example, Felicity Carter shares an incredible story of Grange:

Source: Felicity Carter

Other possible winery stories include:

  • The Rise and the Fall – This storyline is perfect for wineries with a long tradition. If your great-great-grandfather first saw a patch of ground ripe for wine production, you should seriously consider this story. It’s also a great way to convey your tradition through narratives that emphasize how your winery grew.
  • Rags to Riches – Showing all the obstacles your winery has overcome and came out better for it.
  • Tidbits and gossip – Sometimes you don’t have or simply don’t need a heavy story that will take hours to tell, and make your customers cry. Sometimes, you just need a bit of gossip – a favorite animal around the winery, a room with a story, or simply…

Setting

Your winery is clearly the alpha and omega of your story. However, you shouldn’t just let it fade into the backdrop. The entire point of using storytelling in marketing your winery is to make it more personable.

Some of the best stories turn their settings into characters.

While your story will be conveyed through actual characters, you should opt for scenes personifying your winery.

Great examples include:

  • Portraying winery in a special light. When something bad happens, the winery can be filmed during rainy weather, cast as gloomy and dark. When the conflict is resolved, it can be lit by sunlight again.
  • Make your winery change with the times. This is especially important for wineries established on long traditions. How has it changed? Can you find old footage? Then integrate the characters, and show how they grew side by side with the winery.
  • Add details. Your winery isn’t just a winery. It’s a place that has both influenced people’s lives and has been influenced by their lives. Understand your history. Show how your winery has produced more during certain periods and less during others.

Characters

The emotional depth of your winery’s story really isn’t about your winery with its walls and vineyards. It’s about the people whose lives it touched. Just like characters in a story, your winery’s story should have characters, as well. No one really wants to see only the footage of vineyards. Your customers want to see stories. While vineyard footage can be entrancing and atmospheric, it doesn’t drive the emotional connection necessary to successfully market your winery. You have plenty of options for your characters:

Your employees

A story that follows an employee who takes pride and finds pleasure in the work they do can be a gripping winery story. If there have been any events in which your employees quite literally saved the day, put them at the forefront of your branding. Your employees are relatable. They’re real people with real struggles and goals. And casting them as the protagonists will help you emphasize the work and love that goes into producing your wine. It’s a stellar way of helping your customers relate to your business.

Your customers

You can also tell a story about your customers. Simply make up or find one customer that is representative of a lot of your customers. Then, tell a story about how your wine changed their life. This can be as minuscule as depicting them as they unwind with their family, living out some of their most precious moments around the table, with your wine in their hand. You could also show them enjoying tastings at your winery. However, go small.

Richard Price advises: “You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying in the road.

While somber, this tip is great for marketing storytelling, as well. Don’t focus on the most obvious thing – your winery. Instead, focus on the impact your winery has on the most important aspects of your customers’ lives.

You or the founders

How has your winery impacted your life (or the founders’ lives)? Have there been any notable events? You can relay your experience to tell a gripping story. Perhaps you found peace in running your winery. Perhaps it’s how you met or fell in (deeper) love with your spouse. Maybe you got to see your children grow up, running down the slopes and tangling in the vines, laughter still on their lips. The more human the moment, the more powerfully it will resonate.

Animal stories

Finally, there’s nothing like a story about the animals at your winery to delight your audience. If you have a dog that likes “helping” make wine, show it.

In general, your characters have to be likable and relatable.

Emotional Connection

Your characters are going to make your plot convincing. They’re the ones your prospects will emotionally connect with.

Some of the most resonant emotions you could integrate into your winery’s story are:

  • Mystery and intrigue
  • Suspense
  • Conflict
  • Love
  • Humor

Consider the story of Mitsuko’s Vineyard.

Their wine is delicious. However, what makes the winery so memorable is the fact that the winery was named after the founder’s late wife, Mitsuko:

When consuming the story of Mitsuko’s Vineyard, customers won’t only think of wine as a liquid that tastes good. They’ll think of it as a symbol of everything that Mitsuko’s Vineyard represents.

Primarily, a beautiful love story.

Humor is another powerful way to connect with your customers.

Slo Down Wines are a great example of leveraging humor to connect with potential customers. First, we expect to see another esteemed story about wine-making. However, Slo Down subverts expectations by introducing scenes where the founder smokes cigars and tastes wine naked.

Obviously, this is not a story for every audience.

However, it is a great example of using humor to connect with your customers.

The story you tell depends on your audience.

And in the next section, we’ll show you how to read your customers’ minds and give them the story they’ve been dying to hear.

How to Craft Your Winery’s Story for Maximum Impact

Winery marketing is the perfect opportunity to explore the art of storytelling. However, numerous winery owners and founders struggle with crafting impactful stories. To put it simply: they don’t know where to start. Fortunately, we’ve got a few great tips for maximizing the impact of your winery’s story:

What Does Your Audience Want to Hear?

Storytelling is an art. Marketing is a science. And when you’re using storytelling to market your winery, you have to make the best of both.

Start with audience research.

According to Wine Intelligence’s 2018 US Portraits report, there are 6 types of wine consumers:

  • Engaged Explorers – Younger consumers who actively seek out wine experiences. They’re the highest spenders, and they’re most prone to experimentation. They’re the ones who will be most interested in storytelling marketing, especially if it depicts the history of your winery.
  • Premium Brand Suburbans – Mid to older-aged consumers who often drink wine, but aren’t willing to experiment or spend a lot. However, they’re very knowledgeable. They’ll be most interested in stories related to the quality of your production, and your varietals.
  • Contented Treaters – Mid to older-aged consumers who don’t drink often, but look for luxury and hedonism. They’re also one of the highest spenders. When approaching them with storytelling, you’ll want to emphasize the richness of your oenological tradition. They look for additional value in wine, and having your winery tell a story is the perfect way to attract them.
  • Social Newbies – They’re the youngest, and wine isn’t fully integrated into their lifestyle yet. They aren’t very knowledgeable, and they usually look for recommendations. They’re the ones most susceptible to a variety of stories, especially if they come with social proof.
  • Senior Bargain Hunters – Oldest consumers who don’t drink wine frequently. They’re value-driven. Appeal to them with stories of your tradition or your winery’s employees.
  • Kitchen Casuals – Kitchen Casuals are infrequent wine drinkers, considered to be one of the oldest segments. They don’t have a lot of oenological knowledge. However, they could be attracted by stories of your winery’s impact on your customers.

Ideally, you’ll recognize some of your customers in these categories.

If you don’t, you can conduct your own audience research:

  • How old are your customers?
  • Where are they from?
  • What is their lifestyle like?
  • How do they buy wine? Do they buy recommended brands, have a few they know and love, or are they willing to experiment?
  • Which obstacles are they facing? What goals are they trying to accomplish?

The more you know about your customers, the easier will it be to create a story appealing to them.

And when it comes to audience research, you don’t just need to know the age of your customers.

Their age doesn’t define the kind of stories they want to hear. Their personality does.

You have to understand your customers’ motivations, fears, and hopes to craft a story they can relate to.

For example, if you’re dealing with Engaged Explorers, you could craft a story about a significant event at your winery. The more unexpected it is, the better. Was your vineyard flooded? Did an important love story take place? A significant development?

Conversely, if you’re dealing with Contented Treaters, they’ll want to see stories about enjoying your wine. Craft a story about all the positive effects and feelings of luxury your wine conveys.

If you have already have a wine club, simply add a little marketing automation to the mix and start gathering the information on your frequent customers.

Pay attention to which content they’re interested in, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting the right story for the right customers.

Define Your Brand Archetype

Brand archetypes are a neat trick marketers often use to tell stories about businesses. It’s simple: your customers don’t want to know that you sell wine. They want to know why you sell wine, and how you make an impact.

They want your winery to feel like a person.

Fortunately, brand archetypes help you personify your winery.

Brand archetypes are universally familiar characters your customers can sympathize with. They’re based on Carl Jung’s personality archetypes theory, which states that in psychology, there are universal patterns and images everyone can relate to.

When choosing your brand archetype, it’s essential to keep your customers in mind. You’ll be effectively creating a character that your customers can relate to.

There are 12 brand archetypes:

  1. The Creator – Your brand loves experimenting. For example, your winery works with different varietals, and you use innovative practices to produce wine.
  2. The Jester – Your brand brings fun into your customers’ lives. Remember our Slo Down Wines example? They definitely embody the Jester archetype.
  3. The Sage – The Sage archetype offers wisdom. For example, if your winery has a long-standing tradition, and produces award-winning wine, you might represent the Sage archetype.
  4. The Innocent – Your brand is safe and positive. For example, if you mainly serve customer segments such as Kitchen Casuals and Premium Brand Suburbans, then your brand has to convey the feeling of being reliable in terms of quality and wine experience.
  5. The Lover – You bring pleasure and luxury to your customers’ lives. For example, if you mainly serve Contented Treaters, you’ll want to create a story that emphasizes the pleasure and delight of your wine experience.
  6. The Hero – The Hero isn’t afraid of obstacles; they overcome them with ease while providing quality throughout. For example, if your winery was founded a long time ago, and you’ve consistently won rewards, you might embody the Hero archetype.
  7. The Rebel – The Rebel is thrilling. When your customers think of your winery, they think of excitement. There’s always something new happening, and they can’t wait to hear what you’ve got cooked up next. You’re not afraid of controversy, either.
  8. The Regular – This archetype is perfect for Kitchen Casuals and Suburbans. You consistently produce high-quality wine, and your experience is consistently flawless. Your customers know they can rely on you, and your story should reflect that. Primarily, by emphasizing your employees and the hard work you put in.
  9. The Magician – Your winery changes lives. You’re constantly at the forefront of innovation, and you aren’t afraid to transform the lives of your customers. Stories highlighting customer experiences with your exotic varietals are a great fit.
  10. The Explorer – Your winery is motivated by meaningful experiences; from tastings to experimentation with new varietals. Stories of exploration both in terms of the winery’s history and meaningful experiences are a perfect fit.
  11. The Ruler – Your winery is a leader. You win awards, you’re acclaimed for your supreme quality, and it’s time the world has found out why. Stories showing how you rose to the top, and your practices – which also include your employees - are a natural fit if you embody the Ruler archetype.
  12. The Caregiver – Your winery provides support to your customers. You’re there with them during their most important moments. You care about them and their lives. Stories that show the impact you have, and how your wine changes lives from your winery to your customers’ table are a great way of emphasizing your inherent emotionality.

Your winery can embody multiple archetypes.

If you’re not sure which one fits your winery, take this quick Brand Archetype quiz to find out.

It’ll help you understand what to emphasize in your story.

For example, if you’re the Rebel, you’ll want to emphasize going against the grain. If you’re the Lover, you’ll know that your customers want to see stories of drinking your wine and drinking in the symbolism of luxury it provides.

According to Wine Industry Advisor, the majority of wineries use the Explorer, and the Sage archetypes to connect with their customers.

Source: Wine Industry Advisor

Some stories and archetypes are more popular in certain price ranges:

  • High-priced wineries often use archetypes embodying openness and conscientiousness, and stories about the region the varietals come from, and founding families/people
  • Middle-priced wineries often embody the Explorer, the Creator, the Sage, and the Hero archetypes, and tell stories of their founding
  • Low-priced wineries are often the Regular, The Sage, The Explorer, or The Innocent, and their stories focus on the founding families and geography

Each archetype has an inherent story lying at the very heart of it.

When you understand the brand archetypes, you embody, and the brand archetypes your customers want you to embody, you’ll write your winery’s story in no time.

Pick the Right Medium

Ideally, your winery’s story will be an integral part of your branding. Everything you do should fit the story you created. However, you must tell that particular story somewhere.

You have two choices for telling your story: written content and video.

Written content can be gripping. However, chances are, your customers still aren’t going to spend hours reading your entire story. It takes too much time.

Video is a great alternative.

In fact, video is the natural language of stories for contemporary consumers.

90% of consumers think that video is useful in making a purchasing decision, with 64% of them claiming that video influenced their purchasing decisions.

There are innumerable benefits to telling your winery’s story with video:

  • It conveys emotion
  • Video is more engaging than any other medium
  • It’s educational; viewers are more likely to retain information than readers
  • It shows your customers your personality, and the personality of your winery
  • It helps viewers immerse themselves in your story and sympathize with your winery and your characters

It’s why wineries primarily use video to convey their stories.

For customers, it’s just like watching a movie.

The golden rules of telling your winery’s story with video:

  1. Show, don’t tell. Video gives you the power of literally showing your viewers what happened and allowing them to experience what your characters experienced. Leverage angles, colors, lighting, music, and other elements to tell a convincing story.
  2. Don’t focus on your wine. Instead, keep the focus on your story. Your story is already embedded into your end product, and vice versa. Your customer’s perception of value will increase already; you don’t have to be salesy.
  3. Tell one story. Resist the temptation to say everything with your video. You have to decide on the story your customers want to see. You can always tell more stories later on.
  4. Have you thought about your audience? Your story begins and ends with your audience. Make sure your brand archetype fits your personality and your customers’ personalities, and consequently, ensure that the story is convincing to your target audience.
  5. Keep it short. Don’t film feature-length videos. Instead, maximize the emotional charge of every plot segment. 2-minute videos are usually the most successful. However, you can experiment with length, depending on your customers’ preferences.
  6. Strong entrance. A good tip is to start off the video in the middle of the action. For example, your character could be doing something that is very resonant to the viewers.
  7. Big finish. The finale should be the ultimate cathartic point of your story. Your audience should feel validated and happy to see the protagonist resolving their difficulties.

When you’ve created your video, test it on a portion of your audience.

For example, you could send your video to email subscribers who open and engage with your videos the most often. If they react positively, it’s a good sign that you should share your story with the world.

And speaking of sharing your story…

Where to Promote Your Winery’s Story

Finally, when you’ve crafted your winery’s story and the materials you need to tell it, it’s time to promote it.

You have a few great options at your disposal:

Share It on Your Website

When you share your story on your website, it’ll be available to everyone who’s shown interest in your winery.

Your winery’s story should be a prominent part of your website. If you have other content on your homepage, you can add it to your “About Us” page. In any case, a video story is a great way to explain what your winery is about to new customers. You can also use it to drive up the perceived value of your wine in the eyes of existing customers.

Share It on Social Media

Social networks are still one of the best platforms for reaching new and existing customers alike. In fact, 87% of wineries stated that they felt an impact of social media on their sales.

You can tell your story by:

  • Following a consistent social media strategy highlighting your brand (e.g., tastings, food pairings, behind-the-scenes images, posts about awards, social proof, and more)
  • Repurposing your story video as multiple snapshots to share in bite-sized posts, teasing at the bigger story
  • Utilizing strong visuals, as your customers use social media on their phones and need engaging content to retain their attention
  • Communicating with your customers by inviting them to engage with your content and tell you more about their experiences

Everything you post on social media will automatically promote your winery, so don’t feel the pressure to just post about your wine. Behind-the-scenes snapshots and posts inquiring about your customers’ opinions are equally effective.

Jordan Winery in Sonoma is a great example of a winery living out their story on social media:

They make the most out of BTS images, food pairings, lifestyle content, and social proof on their Instagram feed.

Facebook is still incredibly effective at marketing your winery’s story.

You can combine the best of both worlds, video, and text, by sharing a post about your story, and how it came to be, accompanied by your video. You can also invite your customers to share their own content with you, especially if it’s related to your winery’s story. For example, if you’ve focused on particular settings in your winery with your story, you can invite customers to share their photos of those places.

Your founder may have fallen in love right in that very vineyard, but your customers experienced special moments of their own, as well.

Don’t forget about Snapchat.

Focus on providing entertaining content, and address your viewers as you would if they were sipping wine in your winery.

Share It via Email

Email is the perfect medium for acquainting your existing customers with your winery’s story.

Best practice tips include:

  • Addressing your customers by name (This is easy to set up in email marketing clients)
  • Personally inviting them to engage with your story
  • Ending the email with a question relevant to your story (For example, What is your favorite [our brand] wine moment? How do you enjoy your wine? What goals are you hoping to accomplish?)

When done right, you’ll be able to use your winery’s story to boost sales in-between club shipments, and motivate your customers to share your story with their friends.

After all, your winery’s story is breathtaking.

The world deserves to experience it.

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