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  August 2, 2016
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Applying ‘Atmospherics’ to the Tasting Room   Number of Wineries Increasing Each Year

One one-thousand, two one-thousand.…It takes seven to 10 seconds after walking through the door to positively impact a guest’s decision to buy. Everything they see, hear, touch, smell and taste is a form of communication, creating tangible and intangible impressions of your brand. The cumulative effect of how their five senses are engaged say: “Here is what we have to offer. What do you think?”

More than 40 years ago Philip Kotler, professor of marketing at Northwestern University Graduate School of Management, coined the term “atmospherics.” In tasting rooms, where the complexities of mapping a guest’s journey through their experience can take a backseat to the romance of uncorking a bottle of wine, professor Kotler’s theory proposes that “the atmosphere of a place is more influential than the product itself.” This illustrates the WISE best practice of selling the brand first, the wine second.



Most wine-producing countries are experiencing a decline in the number of new wineries being established. The major changes are acquisitions and consolidation of existing wineries. North America is not exempt from these trends, but we have something that reflects our positive outlook: We are increasing the number of wineries by the hundreds every year! This is good news for consumers and for the economy. Here are a few numbers from Wines Vines Analytics to support the previous statements: The United States is home to 8,854 wineries, and 5,455 of them have tasting rooms (62%). Canada has 679 wineries, 508 of them with tasting rooms (75%). During the past six months we have added more than 400 new wineries! There are plenty of opportunities for all of us.


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Atmospherics is the conscious design of environments to evoke emotional responses from customers and enhance the probability of a purchase. In the competitive world of winery direct-to-consumer sales, where points of differentiation can be difficult to articulate, atmospherics represents a subtly powerful marketing tool that has implications for achieving business results. It is a planned and systematic approach to communicating brand image, enhancing post-visit awareness and increasing the likelihood of future purchases in other channels.

Now hear this
The style of music helps shape the perception of an environment. Background music can make time grind to an agonizing halt or, in contrast, set the pace for an experience that feels pleasantly everlasting. Until the creation of Muzak, one of the more well-known services that produce music playlists for retailers, thinking about music as a tool to influence the unconscious behavior of a consumer was not part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that when a store played slow music, customers spent significantly more time in the environment than when fast music was played. The right choice of music was shown to influence consumers to spend more than when there was no music at all. Another study about the effect of music on wine purchases in a UK store found that on days when stereotypically French music was played, sales of French wines far outsold German wines; on days they played German music, sales of German wine far surpassed the French wines.

What music are you playing in your visitors’ center? What does it say about your brand? Wine can be intimidating to many. Playing music helps people feel more comfortable, and comfortable people are more likely to purchase wine.

Seeing is believing…and buying
Layout of the tasting room determines how customers navigate through the space and is essential in creating an atmosphere conducive to buying. The expression “too close for comfort” really means physically too close. A crowded, messy room that is difficult to move around in will result in guests spending less time and missed opportunities to sell more wine. Attractive displays of carefully selected, brand-appropriate items can enhance the shopping experience and add interest to the stories customers share back home. Good visual merchandising, which has evolved from a decorative arts endeavor to a useful tool in communicating the brand image, is not about “making it pretty,” but about “making the sale.”

Do you have thoughtful product placements to guide guests’ attention? By being conscious of our visual space, we can provide visual interest, reinforce our brand story and promote customer engagement.

Sweet smell of success
The sense of smell is widely considered to be our most “emotional” sense. Rather than analyze the information we receive from a particular scent, we immediately get a feeling when we smell something. While tasting room visitors may respond differently to the aromatics found in their glass of wine, the impact of ambient smells in the tasting room—particularly the restrooms—do affect our guests’ perception of their experience.

The bottom line
Dedicating the time to think through an atmospherics-centered brand experience can be a challenge. Consciously designing the customer experience to engage all five senses provides a platform for telling our story, or discovering what’s missing from our existing story. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach because each story must be unique to its own brand.

Experience your tasting room as your guests do. What do you see, hear, touch, smell and taste? What is your brand symbolically saying through your atmospherics?


Source: WISE Academy,




Industry Metrics Continue Strong Growth
We never get tired of positive growth in domestic wine sales. In June the Wines & Vines/ShipCompliant database recorded growth of 10% on direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipments. The Winery Jobs Index set a record in June with an increase of 16%, while off-premise sales grew by 5%.

Maintaining and Growing
Wine Club Members

Lisa Zimmerman posted this extensive article about wine clubs. It contains lots of statistics and comments from Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan, who states “While wineries are marketing a complex agricultural product, they are also clearly offering membership to an elite group and sense of belonging to a greater community. They are...selling an opportunity to belong to a place and a connection to something authentic—normally the owner or winemaker, but it could be the winery and vineyard itself.”

UC Davis Extension has announced its fall courses in viticulture, wine appreciation and wine business. To request more information or to enroll, call (800) 752-0881, email or visit the website here.

Wine in a Can?
Wine in a can is nothing new, and it is not going away. Marketing-wise, it can make great sense: As millennials get used to drinking craft beers from a can, why not wine? Sally Buffalo of The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, Calif., wrote about Porch Pounder’s 12-ounce cans of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir here.

W&V Pack Conference
Mark your calendars for Aug. 17, 2016, when the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference is coming to Yountville, Calif. As a recipient of Wines & Vines’ Tasting Room Focus, you could get the free tickets I am giving away to the first 10 tasting room/wine club managers who email with the subject line “Tasting Room Focus.” Good luck!

State of the States
Grant Broadhurst of Tennessee Watchdog wrote this article about the state’s new liquor laws. 

Lettie Teague of The Wall Street Journal writes here about the history of New Jersey wines. There are 55 wineries in New Jersey producing a combined 363,000 cases of wine per year. Incidentally, 44 N.J. wineries have tasting rooms.


New Tasting Room Performance Tracker
VingDirect has announced a new Tasting Room Performance Tracker. The company states, “On average, wineries that have used the Tasting Room Performance Tracker have seen a 35% increase in tasting room wine sales and a 70% increase in wine club member signups...” Get details here.


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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.




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