Traditionally, we’ve thought about branding as a relationship between a company and a consumer, but there are other voices at the table: category experts, professional reviewers, hardcore fans, celebrity endorsers, even other consumers. Wine is a good example of an industry in which consumers face overwhelming choice, and they are increasingly looking to these influencers to help them identify brands that will meet their needs and align with their values. They are both gatekeepers and tastemakers.
What this article points out is, for wine brands in particular, you cannot ignore the role influencers play in the ongoing conversation that is your brand. They play a vital role in building awareness, engaging consumers and giving credibility to your brand. Influence can either be purchased or earned. There’s nothing wrong with paying an Instagram celebrity to endorse your product—provided they’re genuinely aligned to your values and your customer’s interests—but the reality is that most consumers still recognize this as advertising. Earned influence can create a more lasting and genuine connection to your brand.
We recommend thinking about influencers not as a marketing tactic, but as a different segment of your consumer audience. Think about creating experiences that will engage them and their unique needs. If you want to get a wine critic to endorse your brand, invite them to the winery. Have them meet the winemaker. Connect them to the story behind your wine. Ultimately, they have a responsibility to connect their audiences to brands that are unique, high quality and relevant. Just like your customers, they’re looking to discover something that is genuine and special.
As a brand, you can’t afford to sit back and wait for a good score. You need to engage influencers as people, rather than as just another advertising channel.