United States: Marketing a High-Powered Winery

Winemaking is a timeless craft—or so you might think. If you do, one visit to a Jackson Family Wines facility powered by Tesla batteries and you'll soon realize that wineries are certainly keeping up with the times.

One of the country's largest family-owned wineries, Jackson Family Wines has been innovating in all kinds of ways as it carries on the family's winemaking legacy (including production of the popular Kendall-Jackson brand). It has shown both foresight and ingenuity in adapting to climate change, which has begun to affect the California landscape on which the company grows its grapes. In some cases, it has implemented low-tech solutions that farmers of yore would recognize: using owls and falcons instead of pesticides to control increasing numbers of pests, and making greater use of moisture-retaining compost.

In tandem with such measures, Jackson Family Wines is also leaping forward boldly—using drones with moisture-detection systems, for instance, to monitor its vineyards. The winery is also playing a groundbreaking role in energy conservation. Since early 2015, it has served as a pilot customer of Tesla's highly advanced battery systems. The systems are installed at multiple Jackson Family Wines locations in California, helping it to store solar power and relieving its dependence on the electrical grid, especially during high-demand times when energy costs the most.

These measures have not gone unnoticed, and both the press and consumers are keen to learn about Jackson Family Wines' story as well as how they are incorporating Tesla battery systems into their day to day. This partnership has certainly produced great, organic advertising for the vineyard.

How I See It

  • Brands like Ben & Jerry's have long proven that environmentally and socially responsible business practices can be a powerful force in creating a positive relationship with customers. The conservation efforts of Jackson Family Wines, which have been covered from the New York Times to Fortune, will increase the appeal of the brand to environmentally minded customers.
  • There is great power in being first. Jackson Family Wineries is not just using energy conservation techniques that others have shown to be successful. By making use of Tesla's innovative batteries, it is leading the way, and paving a path for followers. There are certainly risks in taking such a leadership position, but there are rewards as well.
  • In certain rare cases, corporate partnerships can help shape the image of one or more of the brands involved. I believe that participating in Tesla's pilot program will have such an effect on Jackson Family Wineries, helping to identify and market it as a forward-looking company.

How the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Caroline Shaw, Jackson Family Wine's Executive Vice President and Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, to learn more about this innovative winemaker.

Jackson Family Wines is doing really impressive work on the energy efficiency front, including through participation in the Tesla battery pilot program. How does the company try to leverage that for marketing purposes, if at all?

Jackson Family Wines has been committed to advancing sustainability since the very beginning – from managing our use of energy and water to protecting natural resources, we're very focused on reducing our impact.  We have a great story to share, and we layer sustainability messaging into everything from our website copy to consumer ad, in-store displays to wine labels.  Jackson Family Wines was among the first companies in the United States to pilot the commercial Tesla technology, and it's one of the key examples whenever we have the chance to talk about our dedication to being good stewards of the earth.

What has been the greatest benefit to Jackson Family Wines of your participation in the Tesla program?

The biggest benefit is the real impact we're making on our energy use. We're using Tesla onsite stationary energy storage batteries to reduce our use of electricity during peak times, and help stabilize the local electric grid during times of high demand.  From a purely marketing perspective, of course Tesla is a high-impact brand and we have been able to leverage our partnership in press outreach.

The fact that the company is family-owned seems to be a big part of its identity. Is it a challenge to maintain that identity when the company has had such success and growth over time?

Jess Jackson, our founder, was such an icon, and his legacy continues today – Barbara Banke, co-founder and Jess' wife, leads our company as Proprietor and Chairman, and family members are involved in every aspect of the business. Being family-owned increasingly sets us apart in this industry. We make decisions for the long term, building our company in a way that will work for generations to come. At the same time, it enable us to be nimble. We continually look for ways to reinforce that family-owned position with our consumers and our industry trade partners.

As a company that sells an alcoholic beverage, you face certain marketing and promotional restrictions that others do not. What do you find to be the most effective marketing tactic to reach your customers?

Of course the best way for us to reach our customers is to have them enjoy the winery experience first-hand by visiting one of our estates. Walking the vineyards, meeting the winemakers and tasting through the broad range of wines offered only in our tasting rooms is the best way to connect. After that, we need to take the winery to them through our digital platforms.

The Kendall-Jackson chardonnay is an incredibly popular wine. What is your favorite type of wine produced by Jackson Family Wines?

Vintners Reserve Chardonnay by Kendall-Jackson.  There is a reason it's been the number one selling Chardonnay in America for over 25 years!

What is the most interesting object in your office?

My Yoda statue.  (From Star Wars).  With my kids artwork a close second.

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