CORPORATE CASE STUDY: Trinchero grows its stature by pouring effort into PR

Trinchero Family Estates helped grow the wine business with the creation of white zinfandel, and now fosters its own growth by focusing on wine as relevant to a broad array of lifestyles.

Trinchero Family Estates helped grow the wine business with the creation of white zinfandel, and now fosters its own growth by focusing on wine as relevant to a broad array of lifestyles.

Americans swirled, sniffed, and sipped 595 million gallons of wine in 2002, more than in any other time in this nation's wine-drinking history, according to the Wine Institute. And with about 1,800 commercial wineries in the US, a number that has tripled in the past 20 years, the wine industry is a $21.1 billion business. And with each of those wineries offering a number of brands and varietals, it's often hard for many wine drinkers, regardless of whether they have a nose for wine, to make an educated decision. Walk into any market or wine shop, and consumers are confronted with a daunting selection. All wineries face this hurdle when trying to reach wine drinkers - an obstacle Trinchero Family Estates has tried to get over by using PR. Recognizing your target audience "You must understand who drinks wine in America," explains Mary Ann Vangrin, PR director at Trinchero Family Estates, the Napa Valley winery that produces wine brands such as Sutter Home, Trinchero, Montevina, Trinity Oaks, and Reynolds. "Fifty percent of all consumers don't drink wine at all. Ever. So that cuts the market in half. And then 20% of wine drinkers drink 80% of the wine. So when you do the math, that's a pretty small target audience that we're trying to reach." So for Trinchero, and most other wineries, advertising isn't even a nice idea. It's just not a reality for most wineries. A few of them advertise on TV, and a few more use print ads in lifestyle, food, and wine publications. But more often than not, PR is the wine marketer's tool of the trade. "PR can be so much more targeted," says Vangrin. "If you use TV, who knows if you'll hit a wine drinker?" In Vangrin's three years with Trinchero, she says her PR budget has doubled. While she won't divulge her budget, she says it's under $1 million. "In the marketplace today, it's more competitive than it has ever been in the history of winemaking," she says. "There are a lot more wineries, brands, and foreign competition from countries such as Australia. So PR is the perfect vehicle to differentiate our brands from the rest of the pack." Trinchero is one of the most PR-savvy wineries around, attests Paul Franson, a freelance wine, food, and travel writer who used to run the Silicon Valley PR firm Franson, Hagerty & Associates. The winery excels at developing strategic communications and long-term campaigns, as well as day-to-day outreach. Vangrin is extremely responsive, and winery cofounders Bob and Roger Trinchero are always candid and honest, he adds. But the PR tactics vary from brand to brand. Someone who drinks Sutter Home's white zinfandel probably isn't the same person who will drink the winery's high-end brand, Trinchero. "With a high-end brand, we want to reach those high-end consumers who are very discriminating," says Vangrin. "We also look to events that those kinds of wine drinkers are attending. And we do sampling programs with Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast. We probably aren't going to send white zinfandel to those magazines for a tasting. We also look for opportunities where we can pour wine, such as the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen. "But with white zinfandel, we have events like the Build a Better Burger contest, where people can see that they can drink wine with casual foods," she adds. "We try to develop ways to show people how wine is relevant to their lives. So it's not just about wine. It's about providing them a recipe, or information on entertaining. It's about how wine can help enrich their lifestyle, whatever that lifestyle may be." That attention to the big picture, along with communicating how wine can play a bigger role, has helped Trinchero distinguish itself from competitors, and in particular made the Sutter Home brand one of the very few household names in the wine industry. Positioning beyond the wine world But it isn't just about the wine itself, and its place in the culinary and viticulture worlds. Vangrin also seeks to position the winery as a leader in other respects, from its fundraising efforts for cancer center City of Hope, to the role white zinfandel played in helping the wine industry grow. Trinchero toasted the recent 30th anniversary of white zinfandel, a wine Trinchero created, by pitching business reporters on the idea that had it not been for white zinfandel getting people to try wine in the first place, the wine industry wouldn't be the multibillion-dollar business it is today. "They've been very effective in distinguishing their winery and the Sutter Home brand," says Wine Enthusiast editor-at-large Jeff Morgan. "They've had some great outreach through media events, such as the Build a Better Burger contest. And their cookbook was also a great idea. But because they have been so successful as Sutter Home, the great challenge is letting others know that their other brands are equally viable. They have met that with varying success. "[The] Trinchero [brand] is their bid to be a full-fledged Napa Valley winery," Morgan adds. "I think they have done a reasonably good job at launching the Trinchero label. But they still can be more effective in the future at reaching the public with this message that their flagship label is separate from Sutter Home, and equal to the other great wines of Napa Valley." Brand loyalty is extremely important to a winery, as word-of-mouth is one of the most effective tools in attracting new drinkers. Trinchero maintains mailing lists to keep its customers in touch with events and information from the winery. But as Van- grin is a one-woman PR team, that can be a bit daunting, which is why she relies heavily on Trinchero's agency of record, Ketchum. Drew McGowan, a VP in Ketchum's San Francisco office, agrees that brand loyalty is vital to Trinchero. Ketchum helps inform customers about upcoming Trinchero events, while educating prospective customers about the different brands and varietals. And that is done with an attention to the big picture, whether it's showing how wine is "a part of life," says McGowan, whether you're drinking it with pizza or sharing it with friends at a dinner party. Trinchero focuses on public events and media opportunities to do that, such as getting the winery's own chef on TV programs talking about how to pair wine with everyday food, or pouring one of its higher-end brands at Emmy parties. Customers help with marketing efforts "We're making wine accessible," says McGowan. "We want to make it easy to understand. One of the strongest marketing tools we have is Trinchero's customers. If they have a great experience, they will tell their friends." And that comes from Trinchero's tireless efforts to enhance the popularity and accessibility of wine, rather than making it obtuse or snobbish, says Franson. Vangrin notes that winery CEO Bob Trinchero points out that in a Kool-Aid- and Coke-centric culture, it's not always easy getting people to think about a high-end Cabernet Sauvignon. And while many wine drinkers may turn up their nose at the pink and sweet white zinfandel, that wine has helped make Sutter Home a national brand, as well as make a lot more of those Coke drinkers wine drinkers. "We are very aggressive with PR," says Vangrin. "We are trying to bring more people to wine, and not just convert those non-wine drinkers into wine drinkers. We also want to continue engaging people who already drink wine, and expand their horizons and increase brand loyalty. We want wine to be relevant to people's lives." ----- PR contacts Director of PR Mary Ann Vangrin SVP of sales and marketing Terry Wheatley Outside agency Ketchum PR budget Under $1 million

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