John Skinner
December 2, 2013 | It's all about the wine | John Skinner

Wine Competitions....nothing ventured nothing gained

A couple of years ago I had a very nice compliment from a gentleman who I hold in the highest esteem and proudly call a friend. Frank Giustra, titan in the international resource finance business, relentless philanthropist and a "Good Man" in the way my father would describe a man who ticked all the boxes right, had just started an Olive Oil business, named after his mother Domenica Fiore. From fruit grown on his estate in Umbria Italy Frank was introducing his first "vintages" to the Canadian market and he asked me to come and speak to he and his CEO Kim Galivan. "Would you come and explain how you developed your brand so quickly?" Frank asked. That was a good question and prior to our meeting I gave it a lot of thought. When I started Painted Rock I did it with the express intention of being the best. I don't mean that in a chest pounding way but I set it as a goal. If you believe you have the right terroir and aspire to the highest, most aggressive mandate, the only way to gauge your success is to put your wines in competitions. If you don't win, you learn. Competition is good. Maury Tawse of Tawse Winery Ontario, and a friend, won #1 Winery in Canada 3 years in a row at the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards and we were 3rd two of those years. When I had to authorize a new, complicated and expensive pruning method, I thought, I'm coming for you Maury. Knowing that I have to pull out all the stops makes the hard decisions easy. So when we first released our wines I thought, okay let's see how we stack up, let's determine what the most professional and respected competitions are regionally and nationally and let's submit our wines to them.  We did well in our first vintage winning 2 BC Lieutenant Governors Awards for Excellence amongst other things which did 2 things, it emboldened me to continue on this path and it told the market we were serious. After several years and more accolades I discovered something very interesting that I was now prepared to share with Frank, "if you really think you are producing the best, put your oil in competitions and win" I told him. "Don't buy advertising, winning competitions provides third party validation that anchors your brand and your message."

About 8 months ago I got a brief email from Frank saying "I learned from the best" with an attachment from a prominent New York newspaper "Domenica Fiore wins Best Olive Oil in the World". HA!

Putting our wines into competitions is like putting your baby in a beauty's tough but it's necessary if you pursue the market that we do. Our wines are not cheap because they are not cheap to produce. These opportunities provide the measure and context that our brand relies on. Now we send our wines internationally to Syrah du Monde and the Decanter Awards in London.....nothing ventured nothing gained.



Roslyne Buchanan's Gravatar
Roslyne Buchanan
@ Dec 4, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I truly enjoy Painted Rock wines and think John Skinner and his team are great strategists and brilliant winemakers. I totally agree that winning awards helps build awareness and credibility. Those award-winning wines showcased in the stunning new facility are killer! I just can't in good conscience fully endorse the advice: "Don't buy advertising, winning competitions provides third party validation that anchors your brand and your message." It's not just because I'm a freelance writer who still loves to see her work in print as well as online. True I'm sad to see another local print magazine dedicated to the culinary, wine, spirits and craft beer publish its last print edition. And it's not because I know the editors of such publications are bombarded with requests and releases for coverage that is not consistent with a predisposition to buy ads that'll help support those glossy beauties.

No, the real reason is I can't understand why perfectly intelligent business people don't have a better grasp on an integrated marketing mix to support their product. Clearly, I'm not saying spend your marketing budget in only one channel. Just keep your mind open.

The debate continues and rather than reproduce points made by others, here's a few links to consider: Why spend money on advertising? Tangibility Credibility Branding Target Marketing More Engaging Less Print Ads QR Codes Targeted Markets Reader Engagement Control Credibility Visual Appeal • Print advertising offers longevity that allows consumers to refer back to your ad again and again. • Focused publications allow you to choose print media to target your best prospects. • Print provides a strong visual presence. We remember more of what we see and it creates a visual “branding” • Print advertising can bridge the spaces left by other media options. • Print advertising can be another option for advertising that complements other forms of advertising.

John Skinner's Gravatar
John Skinner
@ Dec 4, 2013 at 1:18 PM
Thank you Roslyne, points well taken. My statement was intended to be less dogmatic and more about priorities. There is indeed a place for advertising and I do use it. I recently took a radio ad out to thank our community, wine lovers, restaurants and wine stores for their support. It was also announcing that we had just been named BC Winery of the Year at the 2013 InterVin Intl Wine Awards. I took an ad out in Wine Access when we were ranked #1 BC Winery. My point is they are not mutually exclusive but if you have something to announce it feels less forced and more objective. Third party media then certainly reinforces it. Cheers

Commenting has been turned off.