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So you think you know the South African wine consumer? Think again. Because a massive opportunity is around the corner – and you won’t find it at your nearest wine show.

The wine landscape is changing, but not in the way you think. While the traditional wine market in South Africa is contracting, the industry is now targeting an untapped market of close to eight million new consumers to drive sales volume and value.

The South African wine and brandy industry, through the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise (Wise), initiated the Local Market Project in 2015 as part of a new framework to drive sustainable growth.

“Our aim is for wine to be the liquor product of choice in South Africa and in doing so, to grow annual local sales volume from 350 million litres in 2015 to 450 million litres by 2025,” VinPro MD Rico Basson says. “I believe with the right tools, alignment and collaboration we can make this happen.”

Given the changing landscape, research was conducted by The Moss Group and Consumer Insight Agency. They identified four consumer archetypes from an initial 11 that have the greatest potential to achieve this goal: The Bouj’wa is all about status, discernment and success; the Go-getter is driven by new experiences and adventure; responsibility and value for money are important to the Striving Suburban and for the Loxion Dreamer masculinity and image are everything.

These consumers are predominantly black, at various life stages, with very specific need states and varying exposure or affinity to wine.

I drink wine because …

“You can talk about sales figures and operational strategies, but at the end of the day these are driven by your marketing plan,” Platform 5 marketing manager Carlen Wahl says. “And your marketing plan has human behaviour at its core. Without a consumer there’s no need for a product.”

Commissioned by Wise, she teamed up with Grand Studios creative strategist Brendan Mitchell to formulate a user-friendly Marketing Toolkit and Communication Manifesto for wineries that are taking up the opportunity to grow their local market footprint. These were shared during a series of practical workshops held in the respective wine-growing regions.

“The true measure of success is when you can match your wine’s approach with a consumer’s need when they say, ‘I drink wine because …’ ” Brendan says. “Ask yourself why your business, brand and product exist. Place people at the heart of your vision and you’ll see a clearer direction guiding everything you do. Think of Disney’s ‘Make people happy’ or Apple’s ‘Think different’ campaigns. Do they tell you anything about the intrinsic processes that go into making that happen? Do people actually care about that? Or do they care about what that product can do for them on an emotional or needs level?”

The bottom line is people buy into values and emotions. “In every step along the way towards creating a vision for your wine brand, think about the people who’ll be holding the glass in their hand,” Brendan says. “Are they single or do they have a family, what is their occupation, what do they do on weekends, what do they aspire to?”

The trick is to then match your vision and strengths to these consumer need states and package your story in such a way that they can relate to it.

Tell a (relatable) story

“People love other people’s stories,” Carlen says. The Communication Manifesto provides a step-by-step guide on how to tell the wine story to the new consumer groups in a way they can relate to on an emotional level.

These are aligned with the four pillars of Wines of South Africa’s (Wosa) marketing strategy in export markets, namely A Proud 350-year Heritage, Beauty in Diversity, Courageous Characters and Leaders in Sustainability. Each of these can be used as conversation starters if you know what makes your target market tick. For example, world-renowned South African fashion designer Laduma has emphasised heritage as part of his Maxhosa clothing range. The fusion of old and new traditions and skills that have brought him international acclaim is not much different to South African winemakers’ approach that sees our wines consistently winning praise locally and internationally.

“You don’t have to change who you are; just tweak the way you tell your story to each of these segments,” Carlen says.

Get in on the dialogue

“Unfortunately the wine industry has not yet utilised that many opportunities to engage with these promising consumer groups,” Brendan says.

Don’t expect the Bouj’wa, Go-getter, Striving Suburban or Loxion Dreamer to rock up at the next wine show. Rather be the unexpected, vibey wine hotspot at the next soccer event, stokvel gathering or fashion show.

Potential wine consumers are the majority of the SABC’s viewership. Local celebrities on cooking shows often spark dialogue on social media about wine-related topics. But brands are not attuned to this, so are unable to take advantage.

“Know what your target market’s celebs are saying on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook,” Brendan says. “And listen to rap, as it’s a social commentary about what’s happening in their worlds. Religion and family are a golden thread throughout. Own your destiny, take greater ownership of where your wine ends up and work collectively to make a difference in the local wine market”.

  #Wordofmouth

A few Local Market Workshop participants shared their thoughts. This is their take:

“As marketers we tend to look to Western cultures for ideas. However many European influencers are looking to Africa for inspiration. We have the opportunity to utilise this. We just need to get a better understanding of our own consumers.”

Xania van der Merwe, Wellington Wines

“We have all the research at our disposal. We are ready for the challenge. We must get out of our comfort zone and target those market segments that hold the future for wine industry growth locally. Success depends on a well-planned, practical strategy, creativity, smart budgeting, hard work and collaboration.”

Heinrich Venter, Uniwines

“Proliferation of brands is at an all-time high. Supermarkets are cutting lines. So your entry to market must be pretty specific. Your best bet is to focus on super- and ultra-premium wines. Decide what your market segment is, make sure you have access to the right quality grapes and target your markets specifically.”

David Hutton, Quoin Rock Wines

For more information on the Local Market Project, send an email to info@vinpro.co.za.

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