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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, April 21, 2014, 6:30 am

Wine Industry Conference Q&A: Matt Wood, Domaine Chandon and Newton Vineyard: Recalling history, changing preconceptions

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    Matt Wood is estate director for Domaine Chandon and Newton Vineyard. Both are owned by Paris-based LVMH, the group behind Louis Vitton, Dom Perignon and other luxury goods.

    Mr. Wood is set to be part of a panel discussion at the Business Journal‘s 14th annual Wine Industry Conference on April 22 on brand building. He plans to talk about brand development in a global economy and how to be successful with imports.

    He spoke with the Business Journal about the approach to marketing four-decade-old brands Domaine Chandon and Newton Vineyard in the modern world.

    How has Domaine Chandon’s and Newton’s approach to marketing been changing?

    Matt Wood

    MATT WOOD: “Brand DNA” is big for LVMH as a group, and that salesforce is behind us. It’s about understanding the DNA of each brand and how that works.

    Domaine Chandon is more focused on PR above the line than we were in past. We have a limited-edition bottle with a sleeve on it. It’s on its third iteration, and it has been very successful for us.

    Social and online continue to be more important, especially for the Chandon brand. It has had phenomenal growth in the number of Facebook fans. … Pinterest was driving more traffic to our website in December than Facebook by 3 to 2. That’s interesting because we only started including Pinterest in our social strategy in the middle of last year. We put up a Pinterest board then others put up Pinterest boards, and people are going to the Chandon site from those boards.

    We drive a lot of social marketing from the winery with input from corporate. Social follows guidelines of brand DNA owned by the central marketing team in Paris. Our team at Moët Hennessy in New York is very involved in social strategy and what we’re posting and what the aims are.

    We saw high levels of social engagement from fans when we focused on cocktails involving Chandon. Sparkling wines do not have to behave like still wines on social and in tasting room visitation. We don’t do cocktails with spirits, because there is too much of a playover, so they are more about herbs and fruit adds. You don’t just have to have Chandon as it comes in a glass. Tastes are changing, and Chandon’s a very versatile drink.

    Newton is a very successful brand in Japan, supported by marketing of Dom Perignon and Cateau, and still does well in Europe.

    hat takes to be successful in export, talk hisotyr of her being in Japan and Switzerland and work she did, principals in the market and developing it, importance of commercial market with LVMH sales force behind us, in Japan is supported by Dom Perignon and Cuteau (sp?) and more successful than if in market by self thoundsa miles away from

    Are consumers enjoying sparkling wine other than at year-end and on special events?

    MR. WOOD: In the U.S., sparkling wine has gone beyond the celebratory reason for being. Growth for our Prosecco, continued strength of Champagne and our brand of domestic sparkling wine and for those of our competitors suggest we had a great year and all are struggling to keep up with demand. … From my observation, people are drinking sparking wine far more often. It’s not just anecdotal; we grew at 9 percent last year after taking a 5 percent price increase and had growth the previous year.

    I’ve not seen that retailers and distributors are more willing to take price increases on sparkling wine, but they understand a strong and healthy brand, and it makes it easier for that to happen.

    What elements of brand-building have withstood time?

    MR. WOOD: Newton made its name originally on merlot, but unfiltered chard has really been a driver of the brand. … Consumers have been to the place and like the juxtaposition of English and Asian aspects of the garden.

    Chandon been very true to its DNA. We celebrate our French heritage, but we are very clear on who customer is. The theme is casual chic — above-the-line and below-the-line PR focuses on that. There’s not a lot that’s different today than the way it was 40 years ago.

    Chandon has a pretty big wine club, which you would sort of expect with 250,000 visitors at the winery and a good chunk of those very happy with the experience and want to continue experience with the winery. We make great efforts to engage with other customers by capturing information in the tasting room. When make they sparkling purchase in restaurant and a shop because when we communicate with them.

    Newton is a by-appointment winery, so we have information on the people who go there. It recruits a fairly astonishing 16 percent of the people who walk through the door for the club. It’s really double that, considering couples who visit. When I arrived two years ago, they told me the goal was a 15 percent signup rate, and last year it was 16 percent.

    This spring we went out with telemarketing effort by Wine Leverage, contacting buyers and visitors who have not joined the club. They bought in at a conversion rate that is not far off from the club, and the average order over $600.

    How do you balance timelessness and modernity?

    MR. WOOD: When we talk about the brand experience when visitors are here and taking the tour, visitors are hearing the history and investment of Moët & Chandon in the 1970s and in the language we use to talk about wines and techniques expressing our French heritage.

    When we’re talking about Chandon blanc noir in a cocktail, we’re talking about domestic sparkling wine in a way Champenoise was never thought of. We’re expressing our history but are not constrained by the way people have always done it.

    We take the history of everything we’ve learned from our founders and continue to have back-and-forth from our founders in Champagne. Dom Perignon has history but it has very modern marketing, with glow-in-the-dark labels so you can see them in nightclubs.

    How have the on-site and virtual consumer experiences been changing?

    MR. WOOD: We continue to think about the customer experience particularly at Chandon. We sit down and talk with the team in the salon how they are doing tasting and how we improve the customer experience. We get videos of senior leadership of LVMH focused on the customer experience of Louis Vitton and its other luxury brands.

    We used to stay open until 6 p.m. in the summer. The we realized we were getting more guests. But was it the right business, and we were burning out the staff after five days a week. At end of the day, the more “social” visitor comes in for a certain type of experience. We closed hour earlier and lost 12 percent of marketing and sales time but found tasting sales percentages have gone up. When we focused on tasting it was more focused on experience vs. by-the-glass was more of a social experience than education. We found we could get more revenue from fewer customers, because we spend more time with customers and the staff keeps more intensity later into season than they used to.

    Above-the-line PR and social help to tell the story and create the image of what the brand is and what it stands for.

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