Carol Reber, chief marketing and business development officer for St. Helena-based Duckhorn Wine Company, has more than two decades of experience guiding growth at Blue Chip entertainment and beverage-alcohol companies.
Coming from stints at The Walt Disney Company, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Sony Pictures and Universal Studios, Reber went into the wine business in 2006. Fitting for her nickname for her job description as “chief growth officer,” sales doubled for 585 Wine Partners before Bronco Wine Co. acquired it in early 2010.
Sales have jumped for Duckhorn by four times in the six years she’s been there. In August, TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco-based equity investor in consumer brands, acquired 40-year-old Duckhorn from Palo Alto-based venture capital group GI Partners, which bought Duckhorn in 2007.
For the past two years, Reber has been the wine industry representative to Women’s Choice Award, a group that advises the drinks industry on consumer buying standards for women.
Reber, a Duckhorn senior vice president, talked with the Business Journal about her role in the company’s big brand growth, especially for Decoy, and about pitfalls in marketing wine to women.
What have been major marketing achievements during your time at Duckhorn?
CAROL REBER: I helped conceive and launch nearly 40 new wines and Duckhorn Wine Company’s first new brand in 10-plus years. I was instrumental in growing case volume and earnings by four times over the past five years, with all brands contributing double-digit growth.
I also was part of the team that drove Decoy by Duckhorn to the No. 1 spot in the luxury $20-plus SRP (suggested retail price) category. And equally as important, Decoy has found a younger audience, for whom Decoy wines are “gateway ducks” into our ultraluxury wineries like Goldeneye, Paraduxx and Migration.
Another accomplishment was growing DTC (direct-to-consumer sales])and wine club membership by three times.
How did you give flight to the Decoy brand? Was that a one-off strategy or something that’s scalable and adaptable to other brands?
REBER: Of course, I can’t take credit for Decoy’s start. Decoy began in the 1980s as a single red blend built around whatever surpluses Mother Nature afforded us each vintage from our estate vineyards. In 2009, we decided to expand Decoy to address the pent-up demand for affordable wines by the glass and for Duckhorn-branded wines in retail.
I arrived in 2010 at the perfect time to help develop a national programming calendar to help launch Decoy in national accounts both on- and off-premise.
What are the most common pitfalls in wine marketing?
REBER: Overall, I think wine industry marketers are some of the best marketers anywhere. After all, how many other industries can command pricing that equates to $20 per ounce?
Some common pitfalls: First, overall market-based winery or wine company objectives should drive the annual sales and marketing goals. And these goals should, of course, be synced up with winemaking.
Second, wine marketers could be even more effective by having a greater understanding and deeper relationships with production and finance.
How have social media, e-commerce and other direct-to-consumer channels changed wine marketing?
REBER: These three areas have exploded for different reasons over the past five years or so. DTC and social media are both so critical for engendering the wine lovers of tomorrow.
Duckhorn Wine Co.
Category: Chief Marketing Officer
1000 Lodi Ln., St. Helena 94574