Monday, November 15, 2010

Hey, New York WIne - Got Milk? Cotton? Pork?

This year marks the 4oth Anniversary of the Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives campaign. This was the first commodity campaign. NPR just did a story about it, and I think it's a great learning lesson for the New York wine industry. Consider this report from NPR about the cotton campaign.

Jennifer Collins: Back in the 70s, cotton had a problem....Synthetic fibers were moving in on cotton's territory. They were easy to care for, and cotton needed to be starched and ironed. Plus, polyester had this guy making it look good.
James Brown singing: Get up, get on up. Get up, get on up.
Cotton needed to fight back. So a group of growers and importers created Cotton Incorporated. The organization took a tiny cut of every bale of the fiber bought or sold in the U.S. It hired a team of ad execs. And it launched a PR assault at a time when branding a commodity was virtually unheard of.

Mike Stevens trades cotton futures. Mike Stevens: "There were people, I can recall, people back in the early 70s were very very skeptical of paying this organization to do something."

Jennifer Collins: But they came around. As part of the multi-million dollar campaign, Cotton Inc. created a logo, it sponsored the '76 Olympics and enlisted celebrities like Barbara Walters to build its image.

In short, Cotton set the standard for building a commodity brand. One of the other famous branding efforts were Pork: The Other White Meat and Got Milk?

Or, consider the Pork campaign....

"Pork. The Other White Meat." is an advertising slogan developed by advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987 for the National Pork Board. The campaign is paid for using a checkoff fee (tax) collected from the initial sale of all pigs and pork products, including imports. The program's television ad campaign began on March 2, 1987, with a series of advertisements that pitched pork as a white meat alternative to chicken or turkey, offering entrees such as cordon bleu, kabobs and pork à l'orange. The $7 million budget contrasted to the $30 million spent primarily on network television ads for the "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" campaign from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and the $112 million spent on ads for branded chickens.

This is the kind of branding New York wine needs. However, it's not going to come from the state. And New York winery owners better come to the party as soon as possible. Because this is what is wrong with New York wine. I recently met a winery owner who complained about the "New York wine" concept. He believed in regional branding. That is fool's gold. We are stronger together than we are separately. It's the kind of isolationism that has helped keep NY wine in the closet. Tell me where regionalism has gotten us so far? We need to band together and brand together. These national branding campaigns are an excellent vehicle to help raise public awareness. All we need to do is brand in New York state.

But these campaigns were not paid for by a state or federal government. They were created when a group of farmers and producers got together and decided to pool their money, and combat competitive products or negative perceptions about their products. Gee, what does that sound like?