Marketing to the affluent – with wine

With its association to an affluent, sophisticated lifestyle, wine can make a good accompaniment when marketing to an affluent audience. However, I am not talking here about ordering expensive wine at a client dinner. Wine can be used more creatively and productively to connect to this target audience.

For example, wine proved to be a powerful marketing element for a startup magazine targeting an audience that is personally affluent and controls an enormous amount of money.

BuySide magazine is a publication for institutional investors and money managers. When it was first conceived, it had to overcome what seemed to be a big drawback. Its founder, Gordon Holmes, lived in Sonoma, California, and insisted that the magazine be based near his home, far away from both the financial and media centers in New York.

In discussions with Holmes, I discovered that Holmes insistence on basing his operations in Sonoma was not just a whim or a wish to have a short commute to work. It turns out that five generations of his family had been involved in California agriculture and he was passionate about California wine and wine-growing. I made a decision to turn BuySides remoteness from financial and media centers of action into a positive. His location in California’s wine country would become part of the magazines positioning.

The first step was to create a private label BuySide Wine. In a deal with local wineries, we were able to source a sufficient amount of BuySide Merlot and Chardonnay. A special wine bottle label was designed to reflect the unique story of this boutique wine. Next, a direct mail campaign was developed using wine as a theme and Buyside wine as a premium. The campaign was aimed at advertisers and companies that wanted to reach the magazines audience of institutional investors.

The chief element of the direct mail campaign was a brochure. The reader was immediately confronted with a stark, bold headline on the front of the brochure:

“WHERE DO YOU GO TO TALK TO INVESTORS WITH $TRILLIONS TO INVEST?”

When the brochure was opened, the inside headline provided the answer:

“TO THE WINE COUNTRY”

On the left side of the inside page, we developed a fanciful photo that conveyed the message we wanted: In the photo, Holmes was wearing a suit and holding a cellphone, sitting at a desk which had a computer on top of it, in the middle of a winery. Next to the desk was a street sign that said Wall Street. The other side of the page told the story of Buyside and how it reached this affluent, influential audience of institutional investors. The copy also directed readers to an offer in the back. As part of the offer, companies that responded to the mailing would receive a free bottle of BuySide winewhite or red.

The mailing and promotion powered the magazine to success far ahead of schedule. But wine proved to be more than a launching pad in a direct mail campaign. It became part of the magazines positioning, separating it from the competition. The wine angle proved powerful for years to come. At money management conferences, where wine was given out at BuySides booth, people would come into the conference and ask Where are the wine guys? Everyone knew what they meant.

While developing a private label wine may not be for everyone, there are other ways to use wine creatively in affluent marketing. Wine tastings, and food and wine get-togethers have been used successfully by professionals seeking to market their services to an affluent audience. But like wine itself, it takes taste and sophistication to make it work.

By Leon Altman. Leon is the founder of InvestingIN.com