The Buyer
One Step Beyond: Dan Cullen-Shute on how to sell wine

One Step Beyond: Dan Cullen-Shute on how to sell wine

Ahead of the third One Step Beyond free webinar on October 13 we look back at some of the highlights from the second session earlier in the summer where our panel experts from the worlds of consumer insights, technology and innovation looked at some of the lessons we can take from lockdown and see how they might now be applied in our businesses and personal lives. Here we look at the world of wine through the creative eyes of Dan Cullen-Shute, co-founder of Creature London, that claims to “make game-changing advertising that real people can’t help but care about” and why he thinks the wine industry’s. most powerful and profitable customers are the people who drink wine, but don’t think twice about it. Attract their attention, he says, and half your battle is won.

Richard Siddle
26th September 2021by Richard Siddle
posted in Insight,

One Step Beyond is a joint venture between The Buyer and Sophie Jump to give the drinks industry access to first class insights on the latest trends in consumer, technology and innovation. We run both online and in person events in partnership with: the Wine & Spirit Trade Association; Pix, the new online vertical search wine site; Freixenet Copestick, the biggest supplier of sparkling wine brands in the UK; and Stranger & Stranger, the agenda setting drinks design agency.

The third free One Step Beyond webinar takes place on October 13. Full details are available here but will include insights, analysis, interviews and debates with leading consumer and innovation experts including future trends from Tamar Kasriel, managing director Futureal; Robert Chin, chief executive, Aquilini Beverage Group (ABG) on ‘How to build your brand – Fast’; Paul Mabray, chief executive Pix: Thoughts from the frontline: Be Real’; Richard Morley, founder of First Pour: ‘Making the most of influencer marketing’; panel debate on long term brand building with Robin Copestick, managing director, Freixenet Copestick, Kevin Shaw, chief executive Stranger and Stranger and Robert Chin of ABG. To register click here.

(You can watch the full recording of the second One Step Beyond webinar held in July here)

The premise of the latest One Step Beyond webinar was to try to understand the post pandemic consumer. Which is easier said than done. Particularly as we are still very much all living with Covid-19 and the impact it has having on our personal and business lives, no matter how many restrictions are lifted by the government.

What is clear, though, things are not going to go back to the way they were at the beginning of March 2020. Yes, much of what do on a daily basis might be largely the same, but our gut instincts are very different. Do we want to be stepping into a packed lift, or a jam packed Tube train?

How we have changed as individuals is still very much open to debate, but already businesses are having to make big calls about what those changes are. None more so in advertising and brands and promotion. Just how are agencies going to work with their brand partners to create campaigns that are going to appeal and be relevant to a target consumer no-one really knows even exists any more?

It is a daily challenge faced by Dan Cullen-Shute and his team at Creature London and White Crow that look to work with brands and businesses to create stand out advertising for its ever changing mix of clients and brands.

People just don’t care

Before delving too deeply into what this new consumer might look like, Cullen-Shute was also keen to stress that wine and drinks brands are still faced with the same challenge they also have been – how do you “innovate, interact and engage” with “real people” who don’t “really care about your liquid”.

Cullen-Shute knows what he is talking about for as well as working with a wide range of FMCG brands, Creature and White Crow have also got extensive experience of working on drinks and wine projects – most recently with Accolade Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd and Inter-Rhône

(Click here for Creature’s Dan Cullen-Shute: the impenetrable wine wall the industry expects people to understand)

There are two major “truths”, he said, you have to understand completely before taking on any project involving wine.

First making wine is a craft and producers and winemakers are rightly proud of all the effort that goes into every single detail that is needed to make a bottle of wine.

The second truth is “choosing wine is a fucking nightmare”. Which is not a surprise considering how much wine there is out there to choose from. Pity the poor shopper walking down the wine aisle who is still, even after all this time, faced with “an inexplicable, dense, impenetrable, impossible to navigate wall of bottles that all look fairly similar”.

Yet that is what we expect people to do. To unravel this super complicated eco system for themselves. Which brings us to Cullen-Shut’s third and fourth truths – “real people don’t know what they’re talking about” and “wine people aren’t helping”.

What’s more wine people really like the fact that they “know about wine” and it is “a badge to be worn” with pride, he adds. All of which is fine, until it starts to seep into your marketing “and you expect a lot of people to do an awful lot of work for you”.

What is good marketing?

So what do wine brands need to do to be better at promoting themselves? Cullen-Shute said wine companies should remember a famous advertising adage that “nobody wants a drill…they want a hole in the wall”.

Which roughly translates as “stop selling product, and start thinking of its benefits” and what it can do for the person willing to buy and drink it.

The wine industry, he adds, is “obsessed with the drill” which is also an affliction that other drinks categories fall into. Which is understandable considering the amount of love and attention that goes into making it.

“The problem is real people are not looking to buy drills. They are not even looking to buy holes in the wall. They are looking to buy an experience,” he explains.

He gave an example of working on a campaign with Inter-Rhône where the brief it got was all about market data, sales trends, production levels and export figures. Nothing on consumer trends, attitudes or how “real people felt about their brand and the role that brand played in their lives”.

So it went out did some consumer analysis of its own and found that the average person who likes a drink of wine does not care about the wine in itself, but the occasion or the reason when or why they decide to drink it. Be it after a rubbish day at work, or as a get together with friends.

“Almost every response we got was couched not in the bottle, not in the liquid, not even in the drinking experience, but in the broader context of where that wine sat.”

That was the inspiration it needed to create a campaign that would help give a modern, relevant twist to what consumers often see as the “fusty” and “intimidating” image of French wine which very much encapsulates the Côtes du Rhône. But equally there was also a safety net around the idea of “you couldn’t go wrong with a Côtes du Rhône”.

It then dug deeper to understand what role wine actually plays in their lives and it lead it to a “different place” to how to approach the campaign.

(Click here for Creature’s Dan Cullen-Shute: how advertising agencies can help wine brands think & act differently)

Cullen-Shute also shared a “mean” trick it will often play on potential clients when pitching for business where it will put up a whole wall of different adverts, including theirs and their competitors, and ask them to “spot their ad” in less than five seconds. In wine they rarely can as the majority of adverts look the same with images of bottles, and vineyards all in the same green or mauve type filters.

But, crucially, “that did not at all speak to what we were seeing about the behaviours that were surrounding wine,” he adds. Which could be summed up as “winemakers are obsessed with the liquid – real people only care about the moment”.

Which once Creature realised that it helped open up its creative mind as to what you can do with a wine brand campaign.

He also urged wine companies to remember their job is not to convince the committed wine lover to buy their wines, as chances are they will find you anyway if it is good enough, but to reach out to the mass consumer who might only buy once or twice. That is where the big growth will come from. It’s the same message he gives for any brand in any major consumer goods category.

“The people who will make you the most money don’t really give a toss about what you make. They just like what it does and how it fits into your life.”

Why brands exist

(Click here for Creature’s Dan Cullen-Shute on secret to good brand advertising)

Cullen-Shute then went on to show ways in wine and drinks brands can make their “impenetrable” categories “more navigable” to consumers with a series of short cuts or what he calls “cheat codes” and “one note analysis” that cut through all the confusion. The equivalent, he said, of knowing how to say “um” in the language of the country you are in is a brilliant way of making people believe you know what you are saying and doing when on your travels.

It’s an approach it took when working with Inter-Rhône and Accolade on some of its mainstream supermarket brands like Echo Falls.

For Inter-Rhône the short cut was creating a campaign that tapped into its appeal as a way that embodies “everyday sophistication”. An idea that played up to France’s classical wine image, but also tapped into the every day lives of the people who might drink it.

Hence the tongue in cheek Tube posters that were a twist on the traditional wine poster of the 1930s with tagline such as ‘Un Superbe Rouge for Getting the Girls Round’ or ‘Un Vin Delicieux pour un Night in With Le Tellybox’.

The Cote du Rhone campaign created by Creature was a step forward in using humour rather than education to try and engage with wine drinkers

The challenge is there for every wine and drinks brand to do better and think differently. To not just accept what he called the “pact of mediocrity” that has become the norm in wine marketing in particular. “So long as nobody else does anything good then none of us can get fired,” mentality is a dangerous one to have, he said.

If you do you run the big risk of being made obsolete by those who crash into the sector and turn things on their head up and don’t accept the status quo as the answer.

“There is a huge opportunity for wine brands that are prepared to the real people that will or won’t drink them ahead of the fanaticism around the liquid. There’s a massive opportunity to do something very, very different. That is what intelligent misbehaviour is. Not the disruption that advertising used to talk about in the 1980s, it’s knowing exactly what the rules are and then being smart enough to know when the time is to break them and when the time is not to to break them.”

(Click here for Creature’s Dan Cullen-Shute challenge to break out of “pit of mediocrity” & do things differently)

In summary Cullen-Shute stressed the following:

  • You are not selling wine to wine obsessives but to real people
  • Real people will care about the room they are in than the drill holes on the wall
  • People find wine confusing intimidating and confusing – so do all you can to help them

Finally: “look at what everyone is doing – and don’t do that.”

One Step Beyond July Webinar

The other speakers and sessions included in the July One Step Beyond webinar included:

  • Katy Moses, managing director, KAM Media, the drinks and hospitality research consultancy: Understanding the post pandemic consumer and what that means for your business.
  • Interview with Steve Ingham, chief executive of leading global recruitment consultancy, Michael Page, on how businesses can get the most out of their talent, remain resilient and connected to its people and customers.
  • Paul Mabray on how he has been able to recruit a new team from scratch in months for Pix the new vertical search wine discovery site. founder of Pix, on so that you keep in touch with your customers
  • Panel debate on latest consumer and technology opportunities, with specific focus on the importance of creating quality, relevant content as part of any digital and e-commerce strategy. With Erin Smith, marketing director, Slurp Wine (part of Freixenet Copestick), Kevin Shaw, founder of Stranger & Stranger and Leslie Yake, vice president for product at Pix.

One Step Beyond October 13 Webinar

Registration for the third free One Step Beyond webinar is now open. Click here to do so. The agenda and panel for the session that runs from 4pm to 5.30pm on October 13 (GMT) is as follows:

Tamar Kasriel will be sharing her expertise as a professional futurist looking at key consumer trends

Tamar Kasriel, managing director Futureal:Scenario planning for the future of retail and consumer behaviour’

The Interview: Robert Chin, chief executive, Aquilini Beverage Group (ABG) ‘How to build your brand – Fast’

Paul Mabray, chief executive Pix: Thoughts from the frontline: Be Real

Richard Morley, founder First Pour: ‘Making the most of influencer marketing’

The Conversation: Long term brand building with Robin Copestick, managing director, Freixenet Copestick, Kevin Shaw, chief executive Stranger and Stranger and Robert Chin, chief executive, ABG.