Double Dog Dare. The Monster. Argyle Nuthouse. Cleavage Creek. Fat Bastard. Yellow Tail.
These could be nicknames for your mother-in-law or the characters in a pirate movie, but in reality all are wine brands. The wide world of wine is a brand bazaar with literally thousands of labels looking to carve out a share of the market estimated at $25 billion in the United States each year.
According to the U.S. Wine Market Council, there are about 75 million Americans who drink wine. A 750 ml bottle of wine can cost anywhere from a few dollars (Two Buck Chuck) to more than a thousand. Most wine makers are relatively small businesses. Only the largest, long-established wineries can afford the powerful tools of national advertising that build mass market awareness and brand strength.
A few years ago, one of these big hitters, California-based Robert Mondavi, ran a campaign for it’s Woodbridge brand with a slogan that read: “All you need to know about great wine.” That the Woodbridge brand is one of the value-priced lines marketed by Mondavi makes this line all the more curious. Woodbridge is hardly “great” wine by any accepted standard. But Mondavi’s Woodbridge campaign illustrated a key understanding that many wine buyers are intimidated by the complexity of the category and just want to be sure that the wine they buy is decent stuff, especially if they are buying it as a gift. The campaign essentially said “You won’t look like a fool if you bring this to a party.” Or put a little more directly “This is wine for dummies.” One thing about the campaign, though, it didn’t really work.
And maybe this is why.
The hottest brand in the mass wine market is Yellow Tail. It has become the number one Australian brand in the U.S. in just a few years, and now accounts for about half of all Australian wine imported to this country. It was launched in 2001 and within three years was shipping 4 million cases a year. Where Mondavi got the consumer insight correct, but got the execution wrong, Yellow Tail set out to create a collection of wines that would appeal to the same lower priced mass market from a positive, but different perspective. Their current campaign slogan is “Play by Your Rules” with copy lines like, “Best served at backyard temperature.” and “Best cellared until at least tonight.” In other words, “You decide what great wine is, and nobody else.”
What Yellow Tail has done is take a good wine product but position it as something other than the traditional “great” wine at a great price. Their appeal certainly borrows heavily on the fun-loving equity of Australian culture (see Outback Steakhouse, Foster’s Lager, etc.), but also addresses the casual wine drinker on their own terms. They aren’t trying to be a value-priced version of a more famous, traditional brand, as is Woodbridge. Yellow Tail has created a brand that takes a less serious attitude and gains consumer acceptance in that way. They could be saying, “Who cares what other people think? This is good stuff, and it happens to be wine.”
In fact, Yellow Tail has been so successful that other Australian wineries are complaining that they are driving the entire market downscale. They claim it’s hard to sell higher-priced Australian wines in the U.S. when Yellow Tail is so successful. Well, crikey! I doubt that the owners at Yellow Tail much care. They now offer 22 different products, including a higher priced Reserve Collection for wine drinkers with a desire for something a little more premium. Yellow Tail is humming right along.
With the equity they’ve created around their brand, there have been many imitators already, with most likely to remain in the relative obscurity of wines that hope to sell a few thousand cases. But where many wine brands battle to offer an impression of prestige and social refinement in a bottle, Yellow Tail has succeeded by reimagining the promise and experience of wine drinking for the mass market. By building an irreverent counterpoint to traditional wine marketing, they created a brand that has soared past the competition in just a few years. Good on ya, Mate.