When crime pays…

Turning the Australian wine category around

Mercredi 31 mai 2017 par Sharon Nagel

Turning the Australian wine category around
More and more wine labels are sporting portraits but until now, they have tended to be photos of wine growers and not mug shots of real people sent to Australia as criminals. Samantha Ford Collins, global director for the ’19 Crimes’ brand by Treasury Wine Estates, explains why the company chose this unusual marketing tack and how it is helping to revive the Australian wine proposition.

When was the 19 Crimes range of wines created and what inspired its creation?

The truth is that at the time, the Australian category was in severe decline. We didn’t seem to be able to get people to try Australian wine. After the swell of Yellow Tail, Americans and for that matter Canadians thought of Australian wines as having an animal on the label and being cheap and cheerful. So we thought we had to do something. Looking at the different wineries owned by Treasury, there is one called Baileys of Glenrowan. It happens to be near the place where the famous rebel, Ned Kelly, had his last stand. The people at Treasury began thinking about what they could pull from this story, what could be interesting to the brand. They came up with the idea of focusing on the fact that Australia was originally a penal colony, which Americans and Canadians find fascinating. They were able to find real mug shots of criminals being sent to Australia. The very first wines were released in Canada in 2012, with three different wines. The launch went very well and so in 2013, they brought the brand into the US. Initially, just the red blend was released in the US. We were still sceptical though that we could turn the Australian category around in the US so we originally only brought in 3-4,000 cases and they sold out immediately. So we ordered 3-4,000 more and they sold out and basically it has been selling well since the day we brought it into the US.


What are its current sales volumes and which markets does it sell in? 

In the US at the moment, we have a red blend, a Cabernet, a Shiraz, a dark red blend which is a big thing in the US and is starting to be more popular in Europe and Canada. They are basically red blends with much more of a dark fruit focus. This June and July, we are launching a Chardonnay and a rum-barrel-aged red wine which gets a lot more smoky notes from the rum barrel. That brings the basic range to 6 and then we have a higher-level wine called The Warden which is also a red blend but with different sourcing and different grapes. The wines also sell in the UK where we just got a big listing in Asda. The brand does well in Canada, but also sells a little in Latin America. We sell a little in Singapore but have been hesitant to launch the brand in China where the authorities are quite strict about marketing wines that seem to glorify crime. In our fiscal year July 2012 to June 2013, we sold 7,000 cases. In the following year, we sold 63,000 cases, then 178,000, then 339,000 and this year we are on track to sell one million cases.


Do you have any idea of how far in volume terms you could actually take the brand?

We feel pretty bullish about it because once you get velocity into a brand in markets like the US, Canada and the UK, and you get it on the shelves, it moves very quickly. The retailers are receptive to adding new SKUs of the brand because they feel that it’s going to sell. When we look at our sales here in the US and benchmark them against brands from California in a similar category, at the same price point with a more lifestyle-looking label, several of them are selling 3-5 million cases. So in the US alone we have major room for growth and as we expand globally, we think there’s a lot of opportunity there too. The dark red blend is just about to be launched in Canada and we think it will do very well there.


What is the basic premise behind the brand? Is it about establishing Australia as a long-standing wine producer or just tongue-in-cheek fun?

I wouldn’t call it tongue-in-cheek. When you tell the story of the founding of Australia, it’s just so fascinating and the more you dive into it, the more fascinating stories there are. These people were banished there but then went on to found the thriving country we know today.  So we’re less tongue-in-cheek than rooted in fascinating truths.


How important is storytelling to the way you sell your wines?

It is unbelievably important. With all of the advertising we put out, all of the content we create, we try to keep the truth of the story really central to it. Agencies tend to want to push the make-believe, but we say that we don’t need make-believe. Let’s get back to the true story, these people have a true story to tell. The story has actually gone viral particularly in the US amongst millenials who love brands that have a story and then love to tell that story. When you show someone the bottle, there’s a little nugget of truth you can tell them. Other than having great liquid in the bottle, the storytelling aspect has been the most important aspect and key to its success.


How important is social media to promotion of the brand?

Social media is indeed very important and we are getting better at it each year. Last year was the first year we had a more considered effort in social media and this coming fiscal year starting in July we have a couple of things under our sleeve that I’m super excited about for social media. The feedback we get is tremendous. We don’t have a long history of social media so we don’t have a huge fan base but the level of engagement we have is phenomenal. Each of the corks has one of the 19 crimes printed on it but when we printed them, we never printed the 19th one so there are really only 18 crimes on corks. Social media is full of consumers asking where the 19th cork is and posting pictures of their collections of the corks. This year in the US only, we are going to do one little push of the 19th cork – if you take your picture with the cork and upload it to social media you get a chance to meet us at the state party on Alcatraz island.




What is your classic consumer profile?  

Male millenials are definitely our core consumer base and remain our target demographic but what we have seen recently in a large study is that the people buying the wine span a great deal of different age ranges. Whilst the demographics are skewed to male, they’re not heavily skewed to male. Women are engaged with the brand as well.


How do you intend to evolve your range?

In June we will be launching a Chardonnay and this will be the first bottle that we will be featuring a female criminal on.  I’m excited about that for a couple of reasons. One is because the woman has an amazing story and we were able to find her family in Australia to help us write back label copy. Also, the Chardonnay gives us access to a whole group of consumers who don’t drink big red wines, which is virtually all we have offered until now. This is a Chardonnay done in the 19 Crimes style, so we’re calling it a hard Chardonnay, meaning lots of oak – it’s going to be a big wine. We have innovated a lot over the last year or two and now want to get proper distribution on the range and see what the consumer wants from us. The wines display the kind of traits you would associate with the criminals themselves – they’re bold and strong and dark.


What other plans does Treasury have for its wines in the near future?

We have another wine that launched last year called Lindemans Gentleman’s Collection. Lindeman’s is everyone’s favourite Tuesday night wine. When Dr Henry Lindeman moved to Australia, he realised everyone was drinking spirits and rum and he wanted to civilise them and was one of the first to start making wine. Gentleman’s Collection pays homage to what Dr Lindeman did and has a similar target demographic in the sense that it’s going after the millennial male but if you look at the bottle, it’s very different. It’s going more after the emerging young gentleman.


Do you think that with these brands, Australia is getting over the period you mentioned earlier?

I don’t think we have totally got over this. We are fortunate in that 19 Crimes has seemed to transcend this – the trend hasn’t hurt us but we’re still having trouble with some of our other brands. This is specific to the US because in Canada, it does seem as if the Australian category has turned around. If you include 19 Crimes in the $10+ category it looks as if the whole category has turned around but once you pull it out, the story isn’t quite so sunny. I think it’s starting to change certainly with the critics here in the US. Even with sommeliers and in on premise, we are starting to see people come back to Australia and recognise the kind of quality you can get from a brand like Penfolds. But it’s been a slow recovery.



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