Andrea Hunt makes wine more approachable

How the Marketer of the Year is applying a consumer-centric lens to a category that has, for too long, been deemed intimidating.

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This feature was first published in strategy’s Winter 2022 issue. Every day this week, we are publishing one of the five Marketers of the Year for 2021. Check back here again tomorrow to see who else made the illustrious group of MOYs, including BMO’s Catherine Roche and Canadian Tire’s Eva Salem.

Sweet or tart? Notes of citrus, black cherry or chocolate? Light or full body? Vintage or non-vintage? Foreign or domestic? What appellation? High or low alcohol? The list of questions that confront consumers when purchasing a wine goes on.

Wine can be intimidating and unapproachable to someone who’s never learned the basics of picking a good varietal, says Andrea Hunt, who also believes the category has stayed within its lane for far too long. There are more occasions to drink rosé than summers on the patio, to enjoy sparkling wine than birthdays, or red wine with a formal sit-down meal.

“For a category that’s at the forefront of people’s beverage choices, it’s increasingly getting crowded out by a spirit option, a cocktail, refreshment, non-alcoholic,” adds Hunt. The spirits category spends five times as much as wine, she says, and beer is almost double, if not triple. “So I think a big part of keeping wine relevant for new lifestyles is to make it more convenient, portable, lighter, fun. These are spaces that wine typically hasn’t been in before.”

The leadership at Arterra Wines, where Hunt is SVP and CMO, saw the writing on the wall when they enlisted her to reinvent the company’s portfolio in 2019. Arterra had been under new management for two years before Hunt arrived. One year after its purchase by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan from Constellation Brands in 2016, Arterra Wines was born and so were a new set of ambitions. “Once [Arterra] was on its own footing, the agenda was reoriented and it began to control its own destiny much more materially.”

Saintly_Core_Merch_Trio_Hero_4x5Hunt’s mandate was two-fold. First, solidify a consumer-centric strategic direction for its campaigns; and second, pursue more aggressive innovation targets. The task was not foreign to the marketer. Her time at Weston Bakeries just prior to arriving at Arterra was spent following a similar directive – reverse the perception that bread had become a stale business using breakthrough creative. Completing that mission led Hunt to be named a strategy Marketer of the Year in 2018.

She is using similar principles at her current employer as she did at Weston. Both companies have to navigate resource constraints, Hunt says. She’s navigating the challenge through a combination of science and art, using data analytics and insights capabilities that were recently brought in-house. Now, her team is starting to better pinpoint where consumers are headed.

Take wellness, for example. Almost every CPG brand is pursuing a better-for-you product strategy as more consumers reach for healthier food and drink options. Recognizing that wine has seen little development in the space, Hunt and her team created a healthier alcoholic beverage people can enjoy while still respecting their wellness goals. They called it Bask, a play on how wine drinkers can take pleasure in drinking a wine that boasts zero grams of sugar.

Nutritional information was added to the bottle (a rare move for the category), with the team looking outside of wine for design inspirational. Central Station landed on a label that doesn’t feel too clinical, she says, and that’s reminiscent of a lifestyle brand with its transparent packaging. The lighter family of wines launched in 2020 and has since spawned thousands of competitors, adds Hunt. “It established a beachhead for wellness in wine.”

Almost a year later, in June 2021, Hunt’s team worked with global weight loss and wellness brand WW to create On Point, another health-conscious wine that has only 90 calories, one gram of sugar, and two grams of carbohydrates.

Hunt applies a “how can we make this a lifestyle brand?” approach to other products in her portfolio. Saintly, for example, is a domestic wine that wasn’t seen as a contemporary option in the sparking wine and rose categories. Today its greatest hindrance is scarcity in that it consistently sells out in stores, says the marketer. For this brand, Jacknife designed an aesthetic that was much more simplistic and approachable.

“It doesn’t play to the wine’s origins and there’s a lot less information that you have to navigate,” says Hunt. “Sometimes less is more. It makes it more approachable.”

Pink Poodle OOH- Full Board_v3clipPink Poodle is another Arterra brand that’s democratizing sparkling wine by giving it mass appeal. The budget-friendly option comes with packaging that’s more playful than one would expect from a bubbly. It too was designed using basic graphics that don’t convey exclusivity and broaden use occasion beyond once or twice a year, says Hunt.

“What are consumers looking for? What are their pain points? Is what we’re doing by design or by accident?” says Hunt of the questions she routinely asks her team. “There are a lot of things that we just do habitually, and that doesn’t necessarily marry with what consumers are looking for. Other alcoholic categories have been pushing beyond, but wine has not been as ready. But that’s changing.”

Making wine approachable also means making it accessible.

Hunt says that when exploring the evolution of Jackson-Trigg’s messaging from “we’re a wine for that” to “we’re a wine for you,” she questioned whether that was really true. Is the brand, and even the category as a whole, inclusive to persons of colour, the LGBTQ+ community or people of varying physical abilities in its messaging? “Are we really a wine for you? Were we really honoring what that means? In stepping back, we did some work and adopted a platform called ‘Wine Can Change’” says Hunt.

To bring its new commitment to drive better representation in wine culture – which had become homogenous – to life, Jackson-Triggs worked with Bensimon Byrne to create “GIPHY.” The team recreated 200 of the most popular wine gifs using a diverse group of talent from a variety of underrepresented communities, including gender, sexuality, disability, and religion. They then paid to have the social content land at the top of online searches.

“It caught fire like nobody’s business,” says Hunt. “Every week there’s another 10 million impressions and millions of shares. And this was basically a free initiative with the goal to show what the wine world should like. If Jackson-Triggs – which sells more bottles of wine than there are Canadians – is a leader in the category, then we should be championing that.”

It's Friday 1Wine is a viticulture, hospitality and an export business, says Hunt. It’s also luxury and traditional branding, as well as product development. Because there are so many facets to the business, in early 2020, Hunt brought in a more diverse set of thinkers and doers to the team to build on its knowledge and offer more challenging views.

A major restructuring was implemented right before COVID hit, moving 75 people (or a third of the department) into new roles and investing heavily into building a new insights group. Now it’s on the road to building up its digital capabilities. The pandemic accelerated Arterra’s plans to improve its ecommerce offerings, she says, particularly through the Wine Rack network, of which the company owns.

“There’s been some very basic steps that have been expensive, but transformational,” Hunt adds. “It’s a journey but we do believe that the category is going to mature. If you can order anything else online, you should be able to do the same for your wine. There are machinations that make it difficult, but a frictionless consumer journey is the next frontier.”

Correction: The previous version of this article stated that Jacknife had designed the labels for Bask wine, when, in fact, Central Station was the lead design agency behind the branding. We regret the error.