Three Wine Marketing Case Studies That Prove Social Media ROI

Recently, a social media marketing program that we worked on with Rodney Strong Vineyards was a finalist for a Shorty Award.  The Shorty Awards are the social media world’s equivalent to the Oscars, representing the best programs around the globe.  Brands, digital agencies and celebrities from Europe, Asia, North America and Australia all compete to be named as the best in their category.

We were thrilled to be selected by our marketing peers as a Shorty Awards Finalist in the Wine, Beer, and Spirits category.  But, there were several other great wine programs that deserve recognition. 

Unfortunately, we were outgunned by Labrador puppies.  Anytime you’re up against puppies or babies, oh and a multi-million dollar budget, things may not go in your favor.    

The winning social media campaign in the wine, beer and spirits category was ‘Friends are Waiting’ from Budweiser’s social responsibility team.  I challenge you to watch one of their commercials and not reach for the tissue box.  It is moving, powerfully written and supremely executed.  It is everything a great social media marketing campaign should be. 

But one important thing ties both the winning campaign and the nominated wine programs in this article together.  It’s the great use of customer insights that allows these programs to shine.  No matter if you have a relatively large budget like Budweiser or a smaller budget, everyone can afford to understand their customer better to create powerful communications that resonate.

La Crema, Rodney Strong Vineyards and Dead Bolt, all demonstrate a deep understanding of their customers.  Many brands, wine and otherwise, have no idea about what’s important to their customers, their customer’s purchase decision ecosystem and how social media helps support the customer during their path to purchase.    

These three examples from wineries show that if you know what’s important to your wine consumer, have solid execution, social media can deliver spectacular results. 


Sonoma California winery La Crema created Virtual Vintner™, an interactive digital experience that continues to engage consumers in a "choose your own adventure”-style, gamified digital winemaking process. 

I like this program because it taps into the dream of many Americans who fantasize about quitting their 9-5 job, moving to California wine country and becoming a winemaker.  At the same time it illuminates the complexities of blending wine in a rewarding environment,  engineered for social sharing. 

The social media program digitally immersed participants in the winemaking, allowing them to choose every aspect of how that wine would be made from varietal, all the way to naming the wine.  It is the first ever crowd-sourced wine that will be released in the Fall of 2015.

This program, all done by the winery’s internal marketing team, has also been named as a finalist for the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award.  They are the only winery represented so we’re hoping the review board recognizes the complexities of wine marketing, as well as the genius of this program, and rewards the La Crema team with the Silver Anvil. 

Another reason why I admire this effort so much is because the winery’s marketing team heavily relied on customer insights to further bond the brand to its fans.  You can learn more about their research into the millennial wine drinker here:  Shorty Awards - Beer, Wine, Spirits

The program blew their original success metrics out of the water by registering nearly 23,000 Virtual Vintners, securing media that matters including Urban Daddy, Associated Press, Paste and more, 300,000 (!) social media engagements and they added 15,000 subscribers to their email database.  In a big win for social media ROI, in the 12 weeks after the program launch, La Crema sold 7,780 more cases of wine off-premise, representing 12% growth from the previous year (source: IRI scan data), and ecommerce wine sales were up 52% over the previous year and 63% over the previous period. 


Rodney Strong Vineyards celebrated the "Rodney Strong Silver Anniversary and James Beard Foundation's Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner" with simultaneous events in four cities with 20 participating chefs from the United States and Europe. To celebrate their anniversary of family ownership, Rodney Strong created an event that was broadcast live to each participating venue and online, and then teamed up with Angelsmith to create an integrated earned media program across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and through influential blogs. A live video was broadcast on screen at each event and through a microsite developed specifically for the 25th Anniversary, www.rsv25.com, where millions of consumers followed every chop, pour and flaming entree on social media.

Twitter and Instagram were on fire with the event hashtag, #RSV25 propelling the wine and food event into the #1 organic trending item, without any paid promotion. At the peak of the event there was a social post every 6.7 seconds.

Social media participants were the lucky recipients of recipes, photos, video and play-by-play commentary from blogger hosts and guests at nine house parties across the country and live social media reporters in each event location.

I like this one, because a) we worked on it :), but more importantly, Robert Larsen, the communications director at Rodney Strong Vineyards, used consumer analysis to successfully tie its luxury wine tier to affluent lifestyles and reach consumers outside of traditional wine channels. 

To kickstart the groundswell of support, a series of in real life (IRL) social events were created leading up to the Celebrity Chef Tour dinner to further strengthen relationships with influencers, bloggers and media.

Together, Angelsmith and Rodney Strong vetted and selected nine lifestyle bloggers to host viewing parties in their homes on the same night and at the same time as the Celebrity Chef Tour dinners. Additionally, another 30 wine bloggers were sent samples of the wine that would be served at the Celebrity Chef dinner to review in advance of the main event. 

To serve as both the viewing place for the live video, as well as a central location for all of the event information including acting as a social hub, Angelsmith developed www.rsv25.com with a custom social feed and video player. We knew that with thousands of people turning into the live feed, we would need to make sure the social media feed only reflected what was brand appropriate. Angelsmith created an approval function on the back-end of the social media feed that gave our live event team real-time approval capabilities.

To get the chefs and restaurants excited and engaged with the event, we made it easy for them to participate socially by breaking all of the wine, food, chef and other event information down into Tweet-length posts and pre-created social assets that they could simply copy, paste and/or upload and tag.  We properly introduced all the bloggers to each other and helped create a community where they supported each other’s blog and social posts.   The program would not have been as successful without the camaraderie between the influencers.

Onsite at each of the four celebrity chef events, we incentivized guests to post to their personal social media accounts by reminding them that their tweet or photo would be on the big screen and on the RSV25 website. The celebrity hosts encouraged people to participate socially, and they were handed silver cards with the hashtag, #RSV25 printed on them. However, not every attendee who posted remembered to use the hashtag, but because VinTank geofenced each location, Angelsmith’s social media command team was able to engage with those consumers on behalf of the brand. This technology assist helped generate a significant amount of retweets and engagement.

Each event had a live social media reporter who was creating original content, both stills and video through out the evening.

You can view the stellar results of this program by clicking on the highlighted text for an in-depth step-by-step social media marketing case study


Dead Bolt, a new red wine blend produced by Pernod Ricard tasked its digital marketing agency EDGE with launching this label to millennial wine drinkers.   The team took the traditional associations of food and romance and gave the social media program an updated twist to better align with millennial sensibilities.

Their campaign BREAK INTO IT, effectively created an influencer program, pairing the wine with indie rock artists across the country.  The sampling of influencers created a halo effect that would compel fans to try the new wine brand.   The team developed the Music Cellar series, an intimate event featuring a local rock artist that included interviews and live performances, all against the backdrop of Dead Bolt wine.    

They were able to reach out beyond the traditional trappings of wine marketing and connect with millennial wine drinkers on their own turf in an environment where they are comfortable.  I believe this is a key piece of this program’s success.  They effectively reduced the barriers to trial and authentically integrated it into millennials lives.

The results are impressive.  In less than a year, Dead Bolt is the fastest growing red wine in the history of Pernod Ricard USA, earning a top 5 spot in a 200 + category of red blends.


The massive return on investment from these social media programs was only possible because each wine marketing team did the necessary research to fully understand their customers needs, expectations, and where to find them.  The customer insights drove social strategies that elevated the wine buyer and made their needs the driving force behind the programs that results in big wins for La Crema, Rodney Strong Wine Estates and Dead Bolt.

Customer statistics and analytics from social media, your website analytics, surveys and your email database can tell you where your customer shops, what they wear, their purchase decision ecosystem, what keeps them up at night, where they get their wine recommendations and more insights that will help you craft programs to seamlessly intercept and influence your winery’s fans and followers in authentic ways.

If you need help getting to know your customers so you can take your social media to the next level, let’s connect.  If you have an example of using consumer insights to create meaningful social media connections, please share in the comments.