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The matter of champagne marketing – and we are talking about real champagne now, produced in French Champagne region, according to all rules and technologies – has never been a burning issue. An expensive aristocratic drink, mostly served for special dinners and ceremonies, hardly affordable for common people, does not need all that marketing tricks. But the situation changed dramatically in late 90’s, when champagne gained unexpected popularity in rap-culture. Let’s talk about marketing policy of upper-class sparkling wines in this first part of trilogy of sparkling marketing.
Bottles with sparkling wine were spotted in video by Biggie Smalls. The rapper with his gang at a gorgeous yacht surrounded by beautiful girls are drinking champagne and throwing money down the drain, almost literally. Later Snoop Dogg sang that “everybody in this room loves Moet”. And after that Jay-Z explained his followers how to drink Cristal properly.
In one moment this French noble drink made for aristocracy turned from a symbol of respectability into the benchmark of street culture, sex and new money. “What can we do?” asked the managing director of Louis Roederer, the company that makes Cristal, when The Economist asked him in 2006 what he thought of his champagne being consumed by rappers. “We can’t forbid people from buying it.” These comments offended Jay-Z so much that he publicly boycotted Cristal.
Talking about marketing policy of upper-class sparkling wines, we should point out two categories: prestige and authenticity.
Growing markets, economical instability and significant growth of luxury production bring us to the decline of authenticity of the products in general. And simultaneously this makes authenticity a privileged luxury feature, bringing customers something “true”. This is what the most of products luck today. That is why authenticity becomes a major thing for discussion among high-quality producers, including Champagne wineries.
We should mention that authenticity is not inherent. This is perception and ability to manage it. Correctly constructed marketing policy can give a certain requested level of authenticity to this or that brand.
Many old wineries own some real-estate and other like barrels and instruments inherited for centuries. All that might be quite authentic, true and real. In our days, when numerous brand-new players emerge at the market, old wineries make focus on their heritage as well as reputation in order to differentiate.
But there is another dilemma. In order to stay successful at the growing level of competition, old wineries, who stick to authenticity strategy, have to improve product quality, distribution and marketing. As a result, clients take them for less authentic and more commercialized brands. Still there are some solutions, like public understatement of commercial matters.
For example, some wineries stop production in case the harvest hadn’t corresponded to their common standards. In this case they have no product for the year, but they safe their professional image and prove their authentically approach.
For many old houses authenticity is more than just an idea to translate into the outer world. This is a long-term and stable business philosophy. For example Château d’Yquem keep their own staff instead of hiring specialists for part-time job. Even though it could be economically reasonable. Many wineries stress the family type of their business. And this is another way of building their own authentic strategy, different from international corporations’ business models.
Sharing a unique experience of a contact with a brand – is another way to show authenticity, to make a correct emotional tuning and give long-lasting positive memories. Old castles, wine fields and gardens, as well as the salons featuring centuries-old chandeliers and paintings are overwhelming. When you talk to people who run a winery for six-seven generations, when you see the old barrels, covered with century’s dust, you you get an unforgettable passionate experience. And if you deal with marketing strategy you have to take into consideration such type of features that you could use to make your brand feel more authentical.
Quite different strategy that many Champagne wineries stick to – is prestige.
Prestige is a common feeling of respect and adornment, that that you feel towards somebody or something, based on achievements or qualities of the object. Prestige as well as authenticity is not inherent quality of a brand or a product. This is a socially constructed judgement, that might be managed, when the marketing strategy is planned.
The quality of prestige is actively exploited in luxury-marketing. This notion is one of the most frequently used at advertising campaigns aimed to attract new potential customers. At the same time it might have no connotations to other utility qualities of a product. But owning a high-level of prestige is natural for luxury market, as it is about high quality and privileged social position of target audience. Prestige brings good numbers to sparklings. Marketing researches confirm that growth of prestige brings growth of income.
Every brand can level-up its prestige using certain marketing strategies. It is quite usual approach in between luxury producers. There is even a notion, commonly used for these methods: masstige.
In XIX century champagne had become an important part of bourgeoise daylife, a benchmark of social achievements. Today, due to the great experience and long history at the market, houses of Champagne know how to use masstige strategy. Such brands as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot are adepts of this way. They use categories of pricing, rarity, extraordinarity to promote their products and stay affordable for middle-class. The thing is that category of champagne perfectly fits masstige strategy. Prices are considerably higher in comparison to other sparkling wines, but still affordable for special cases.
Masstige includes several curious marketing techniques. For example, in its positioning Veuve Clicquot consequently reflects esthetics of upper class lifestyle. And packaging is one of the major channels of communication of the brand. Orange colored box for Veuve Clicquot is known all over the world. It took the company many decades to stick associations of orange, the color of joy and exuberance, with their sparkling. They produce glass, houseware, make bottle design in collaboration with world-known artists and use branded orange everywhere. Veuve Clicquot also has strong connotations with world of art. The brand supports important international events in the fields of art and design like Design Miami and Salone del Mobile in Milan.
Lux and art
Veuve Clicquot is not the only brand of sparkling wine cooperating with prominent artists. Good example is collaboration of Dom Pérignon with American artist Jeff Koons, who designed bottles of limited collection Dom Pérignon Rosé.
Actually this brands make pretty much hype around their art collaborations. And that is quite reasonable, as it brings them new customers. Champagne used to be a part of upper class image for decades. Now art collaborations bring this sparkling drink to different field, attracting new followers, as contemporary art is more democratic and never gets old.
Another strategy aimed to enlarge a level of prestige is co-branding with other luxury companies. For example with producers of yachts, cars, watches and real-estate. It also includes partnership in prestigious clubs and organizations like Comité Colbert – French luxury association.
One more method for Houses of Champagne to deal with prestige – product placement in top-level malls of the world: Harrods in London, KaDeWe in Berlin, hotels and cruise ships. Moreover there is sponsorship for exclusive international events. One of the most prestigious events in New-York, Manhattan Polo Classic, is supported by Veuve Clicquot.
PR and ADV
Wineries of Champagne has always known how to make good Public Relations. They have always supported top-level events: art-exhibitions, concerts, racings and fashion shows. All stays the same. The new thing is that they use now Social Media to prove their status-quo.
The major difference from other markets is that Champagne Houses use their Social Media for different purposes. They have no need to sell their products there. It is mostly about image advertisement. Such brands as Perrier-Jouet, Mumm, Luc Belaire have a great number of followers on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Here they share images and videos from the events they took part in: horse and car racing, art auctions, upper class galas. Besides that they include into their news feed photos from Caribbean Islands, expensive yachts and French Alps.
As you can see, Champagne Houses have a clear understanding, how to position at the market in a modern world.
First and foremost, many of them clearly understand that it is highly important for them to preserve a balance between prestige and authenticity. Every brand finds his own way for it, creating their unforgettable style.
And finally, they use marketing tools to prove their status: stay unattainable, prestigious and rare. Stay in luxury. Yes, generally, marketing has another point – to sell. But in luxury, including champagne, marketing strategy is aimed for different thing. It is not to escalate sales. It is to create a beautiful dream and level up the brand value.
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