Authenticity & wine

Avoiding the “counterfeit brand story”

This wonderful chalkboard image sums things up beautifully - but it's been used on many blogs before mine, making it difficult to source and credit the originator. Help, please?

In a recent article for The New Zealand Herald, “Passion for Pinot,” Jo Burzynska writes, “When I hear the word ‘authentic’ applied to any product, I am immediately suspicious.”

I agree wholeheartedly, but perhaps I should explain myself a little since the tag line for my blog reads, in part, “It’s all about authenticity.”

We all know that using a word doesn’t actually “make it so,” and that goes for the word “authentic.” The same can be said for words like “handcrafted,” “groundbreaking,” “passionate,” “artisanal,” “luxury,” “reserve” and, well, I’m sure you get my drift.

Ms Burzynska ably articulates why the word has become a source of suspicion for her – and many others:
“Authenticity became a buzzword when marketing gurus identified an important new consumer group seeking something ‘genuine,’ who’d been left feeling empty and disconnected by the hyper-consumerism of the past.
“The term has since had the meaning flogged out of it and it’s been coupled with products whose claims to authenticity were highly questionable.”

Sadly, all true. Once the corporate world twigs to a hitherto unexpressed desire among consumers, you can be sure that a catchword won’t be far behind. I’m afraid “authenticity” currently fits that niche in ersatz wine marketing.

Differentiating your wine is all about the details that you own and no-one else can claim. Authenticity will be understood “as read” by consumers when they learn more about your company’s history and its approach to viticulture and/or winemaking.

That’s why I ran a series of posts some time ago about “The Power of Narrative” and the art of telling your own story (you can link to the series here in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4). Effective marketing for small producers of artisanal wines will always rely on a strong story. But there’s no room in narratives for shorthand: don’t slot in a catchword and then omit all the details that actually support the claim. That’s what big companies do, and you’re not doing yourself any favours by following suit. Ms Burzynska warns, “As for the A word, if you’ve got it, you don’t need to use it. Avoid it at all costs.”

In its defence, though, I’d argue that the A word still has one important role to play. When fans of your wine offer word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends, guess which A word they’re going to use? That can only be a good thing.

Plenty more voices in this conversation, so follow the links while they last:

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