Resources » Wine Tourism Toolkit » Selling » Your brand and story

Your brand and story

So you’ve written a business plan and you understand what you want your business to be. Now you need others to know, which means selling yourself, your winery and your wine.

The first step is to define your brand to ensure it is delivering a clear, compelling proposition to your consumers. Building a strong brand is the way for you to create value for your business over and above the value of its fixed assets and stock holding.  The "multiple" of your business' value is based on the "goodwill" and goodwill comes from your brand.

Successful brands have stronger, more compelling relationships with their customers and consumers.  People fall in love with powerful brands and act as your brand champions.

So how well do you understand your brand?  It's not your label, or the way the sign looks at the front of the property or how your website is laid out. It’s about understanding the emotional connection a consumer has with you.

Once you understand your brand, you need a story to tell. Research clearly demonstrates that visitors who engage with what you do and why and how, rather than just what you make, stay longer and come back more often.

This is particularly important in the wine sector, where there can be a real “sameness” in marketing approaches – everyone talks about quality and passion and being family owned.

Many winery operators and their staff are so caught up in the technical knowledge of their wine that they lose sight of what their visitors and customers actually want – and need – to know in order to make a purchase or develop a relationship with their brand.

And even if you think you’ve got your story sorted, are you sure everyone connected with it is telling it in a consistent manner? Are the stories told at cellar door the same as those in your print collateral or repeated by your sales reps?

Elements of your brand definition

All brands start off with a set of values – words and ideas that articulate what the brand values most.  There are thousands of lists of brand values and tools you can use, the most important thing is to get the people who run the business around the table and talk about what the brand values and articulate those values in a clear set of words.

Once you know what you value, you can then ask yourself "if we value 'x' then how would we behave?" - defining your brand's personality.

It’s the personality that people see and which you then try to bring to life in your packaging, marketing materials and brand language – even how you engage with consumers and recruit people who are capable of bringing the personality to life.

For example, if you valued knowledge, honesty and integrity, what kind of personality would you have?

Once you know what you value and have articulated the personality, you then need to understand what benefits your brand provides to its consumers.

This is the important bit - benefits operate on three levels:

  1. Functional – what basic need is being addressed?  For a car, its transport, for a wine it's refreshment.
  2. Rational – what are the features?  For a car, it’s airbags, ABS, power steering and for wine it’s value, quality, accessibility.
  3. Emotional – how does the brand make me feel?  For a car it’s the fact I'm a good mum and providing the safest car for my kids, for a wine it could be about belonging or status, or a reward.

We all compete on rational benefits.  Our region, how old the vines are, the use of oak and aging.  And the problem is, that brands are built on emotions.  You need to think long and hard about the emotional benefit your brand delivers and then bring that to life in your business.

It works like this…"if we want our consumers to feel special, informed and confident from our brand, how do we act…?"

Finaally, you need to find the common thread between your values, the personality and the emotional brand benefits and sum up that thread in a word or a few ideas.  That's your brand essence and it becomes a powerful driving force for your decision making and business management.

Know what you value, understand the personality you portray, identify the emotional benefits you deliver and distil it into an essence.  That's how to understand and define your brand; then you just have to bring that to life!

Thematic interpretation

“Interpretation” is essentially story telling. To tell a great story, rather than just communicating factual information, is more likely to engage people in your place and product.

Your target audience determines the actual message conveyed, whether it be visitors to your cellar door, wine connoisseurs who you would like to introduce to your wines, or the world at large that you would like to engage with your winery and its brands.

“Thematic interpretation” has a specific purpose – to develop an accurate, meaningful and memorable “take home message”.  This is the theme. It is what you want your visitors to say after they have visited your place and had a memorable experience. And ideally you would like them to say it with as much enthusiasm as you would.

Thematic interpretation should be enjoyable, entertaining or engaging, and it must be relevant and organised.

Enjoyable, entertaining or engaging

It should generate some sort of reaction in your visitor or audience. This can be laughter, sorrow, fear or wonder, or some other form of emotional reaction. Not all interpretation is designed to be fun, or to make people laugh. Some interpretation can make you cry or despair. But if it has done any of these things then it has caused an emotional reaction, which is what you’re after. The one reaction you are trying NOT to generate, however, is the ‘whatever’ reaction.


This means that it can and should be made relevant to whoever your audience is so that it is both meaningful and personal. Try linking to something that visitors are familiar with so that they can make the connection between the familiar and the unfamiliar.


This means that it is never a random effort, but that some thought and effort has gone into its content and to the way it is structured and delivered. It should be easy to follow – with a beginning, middle and end – so there is a relatively easy way through the interpretive ‘story’ (i.e. the story a guide, trail, panel or self-guided tour will tell).

Also make it clear to your audience what to expect in terms of overall content or topic. The information needs to be accurate, logical and flow in a seamless manner.

Anyone can come up with a theme and there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ theme. It’s just that some work better than others by grabbing people’s attention and imagination. Be creative and collaborative in your approach to theme writing.

We suggest you use these two templates to help get your ideas in order and on paper – then engage colleagues and peers to get their input. And be prepared to refine and test your themes several times before settling on the best one.

Developing your theme checklist (PDF)
Writing your theme template (PDF)

And finally

Don’t try to tell your visitors everything, regardless of how enthusiastic and knowledgeable you are about your winery, cellar door or region.

The general rule is: to reach all of the people all of the time, choose four (or less) ideas.

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