You work in wine right? Ok.

Pop Quiz

Pop quiz, hotshotWhat makes your brand unique?

Seriously. Think about it.

Have your answer?


Is your answer “our wines”?

You just failed.

Is your answer a variation on “our hands-on approach/small lot fermentation/unique vineyard location/new French oak/anti-mechanical pumpovers/hand harvesting/etc.”?


Is your answer a variation on your “passion for winemaking/wine”?

Not good enough, people.

What makes my brand unique? This is the first question you’ll want to ask yourself when you are re-working or creating a brand. It’s the foundation upon which all of your marketing and pr work will sit.

Ok, so let’s take a look at these three answers.

Though the middle answer would work for the question “what makes your wines special,” it has nothing to do with your BRAND.

The last answer is entirely NOT unique, being that most people get into wine/winemaking because of their passion for it (as evidenced in the old chestnut: Q: How do you make a little money in the wine business? A: Start out with a lot).

And now for my favorite answer. When I ask winery folk (including marketing-types, btw) what makes their brand unique, the overwhelming response is “our wines.” There is a special place in Branding Hell for this answer.

It’s not that your wines aren’t unique or a part of your brand, it’s just that it’s a terrible answer. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but it’s true. It’s as if you were to ask me what makes ME unique and I answer with “my fingerprints.” TECHNICALLY I’m not wrong, but by choosing this boring and obvious answer I’m missing the opportunity to tell you:

That I almost became a Hollywood agent


That I started a guerilla film production company in NYC when I was 20


That I name my pets after action movie characters


That I once dyed a teeny part of my hair purple in high school because my parents told me I couldn’t, but then wore a baseball hat everyday until it turned back to its normal color.


Basically anything.

But no. I told you that my fingerprints make me unique, so you don’t know anything about me except that I apparently am boring and like to state the obvious. Every winery has wines, and every wine is unique. Kind of like finger prints. Your wines might be incredible – I bet they are – but hundreds or thousands of wineries claiming that they are entirely unique because of the same reason is counter-productive for all of those businesses. At the moment, I can’t think of another industry that gets away with this approach.

Think about it. Imagine that I just started a soda company and you asked me what makes me special and my answer is “My soda is really good.” Are you getting your checkbook out? I don’t think so.

When you are creating or recreating your brand, focus on what REALLY makes you unique.  There are probably lots of reasons. Now pick the most interesting (and appropriate). This will most likely take a while. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. It’s worth it.

Building a Brand is a new series on Millennier where Leah breaks down today’s process and pitfalls for brands in the wine industry.