Should Your Brand Market itself as a Luxury Item?

Does your brewery’s brand sell luxury? Wine expert Eric Guerra — who spoke at the 2020 Sell More Beer virtual conference — believes craft beer should, and gave an example why.

“I believe that we are all in the luxury business though we may or may not feel that or sometimes our brands don’t feel luxury,” Guerra explained to the virtual group of brewery owners. He used a quote from entrepreneur Coco Chanel, ‘Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends.’

“Now think about that statement,” Guerra said. “We don’t need wine or beer. Well, yes, it is our lifeline. It’s like food to us. But it is not a necessity.

“It’s something that you get when you no longer need a necessity. It’s a luxury item.”

So that stated, why don’t craft beer brands market themselves as such. He used Russian River‘s Pliny the Elder as an example and for how sought after and what a great example of a quality product it is, it is still relatively affordable.

“There’s a Pinot Grigio from Italy — Santa Margherita … it costs very little to make a Pinot Grigio because you don’t have to deal with barrels, it doesn’t sit in our inventory for a long time. You take it, squish the grapes, put it in the tank, ferment it and you’ve put yourself out a really fantastic bottle of Pinot Grigio,” Guerra said. Yet Santa Margarita charges nearly $40 on a wine list for on-premise while in the store it can be listed for up to $30 while Pliny is much cheaper yet a quality product.

“There is a perception,” he said, “the customer perceives that this bottle of wine is just going to cost that much more. And we’ve [the craft wine industry] kind of convinced the world that wine is that luxury.”

Guerra said it’s ​a challenge for the beer craft beer industry. ​

“There ​are only two differences I could see between our two industries​,” he said.

How You Perceive Yourselves

Whether selling Barefoot at $7 or Kendall Jackson for $15, Guerra said the team always feels like they’re in a luxury business.

“I don’t care if we’re working out of a barn or if I’m working out of a Chateau,” he said. “We believe every day that we’re in the luxury business.”

Tiers of luxury

Even at $10 a bottle, luxury is marketed. Yet, wines like Screaming Eagle and Domaine de Romanee Conti sell for thousands of dollars per bottle.

“The one thing that they all have in common is the grape juice,” Guerra said. “Now, yeah, they’re made at different levels. And sometimes it costs a little bit more to make or the talent making them is a little bit different. But you can’t tell me that it’s a $15,000 difference between one bottle of grape juice and another. They’re all expertly crafted.

“You don’t see this with craft beer. You don’t see that there are these tiers of luxury that the wine industry has been able to carve out.”

Create a following

Using Harley Davidson as an example of a brand that is a luxury brand but is marketed as anything but, they have an absolute immense following.

“They know how to create a club, a membership, and a membership to the point where it is a following that they will live and die by this brand,” Guerra said. “So after seeing this, you know, Harley Davidson is one of the greatest luxury brands in our country.”

The messaging is dead on, the color schemes, the way that they use the logo on everything … from across the board … digital, to their bikes, to their merchandise, and it’s all flawless.

“There’s excellence throughout,” Guerra said. “I believe Harley Davidson — from a corporate standpoint — is as excellent as a three-star Michelin restaurant. It’s as excellent as a Ritz Carlton internally. It is as excellent as a Maserati. Look at that piece of machinery sitting there, that is one of the finest-crafted products in the world.

“And you can’t get to that level unless you have excellence throughout the entire organization.”

Photo courtesy Reserve Tastings

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