Entering an established and conservative industry as a new kid on the block can be tough. But disruption of the status quo lies behind some of the world’s most successful businesses.
For Peter Cap of Manor Estate, a man whose love of wine and the McLaren Vale wine growing area led to the launch of his own wine brand, disruption of the status quo proved to be a recipe for success. It has taken his “newcomer” brand into the heart of New York’s smart society, and surprised wine industry insiders while winning the hearts of local consumers as an unexpected bonus.
When it comes to using disruptive tactics, Manor Estate Wines offers a formidable example of how smart strategies that break the mould, coupled with products one can believe in, can lead to remarkable success. This article looks at Manor Estate’s unusual approach and how it led one boutique winery to international fame.
Where the Old Guard Misses the Mark
In established industries, a routine way of getting things done becomes the norm. Think of banks, their way of doing business, their image, and their marketing: it’s invariably a set recipe with occasional, rather painful attempts to win over up-and-coming youngsters. But at its heart, nothing is really new. Nothing is really different. It’s business as usual.
The wine industry suffers from similar image issues. There’s little risk-taking; a reliance on the same old motifs; a fear of moving outside the box because, after all, the box is part of the package.
As relative newcomers to a wine industry in which established, mass-produced brands rule the roost, the Manor Estate found itself wondering how it could make itself noticed. It spotted the gap and proceeded to do just that.
Break Down Boundaries, Overcome Barriers
It seemed like a desperate strategy, but in truth, it was well-conceived and produced unbelievable results. Instead of following the traditional model in which brands first seek recognition at home before crossing the water to new territories, Manor Estate would skip step one, and proceed directly to step two.
Export success would be a sufficient triumph in itself, and reasoned Peter and daughter Sharleen, “if you can succeed in New York, you can succeed anywhere.” And so it was that Sharleen would leave her country upbringing behind her, pulling out all the stops to turn an unknown brand into a famous one in one of the world’s most glittering capitals.
But conventional tactics wouldn’t work. “Nobody in New York had heard of Manor Estate,” says Sharleen, “so there was no way that the brand would gain support using traditional channels. It had to be something different to the usual round of pamphlets, brochures, emails and phone calls.”
She developed a cheeky methodology that would leave industry insiders aghast and wondering why they hadn’t thought of it themselves.
Influencing Influencers: Up Close, Personal, and Impossible to Argue
Influencing the influencers meant getting to know them in person. But before Sharleen could do that, she needed in-person access. She took an unusual approach. “It started with talking to waiters,” she says. “From there, it became talking to managers. And the next step would be an introduction into the network of influencers that dictate culinary taste and style to Manhattan at large.”
Needless to say, she discovered that word-of-mouth marketing can be way more effective than any number of glitzy brochures and carefully-worded emails. “Manor Estate had a superior product. Looking for a niche that would allow it to be competitive, by-the-glass wines came under the spotlight. They weren’t very good. Manor Estate winery could offer top establishments something truly excellent instead. Now, it was a matter of making them realise it.”
Taste and Tell
Convinced that all it would take to win over New York’s most respected gourmet food restaurants and high-society wine bars would be one taste of a wine that would outstrip its competitors, Sharleen went to work.
“It’s about making a personal connection and having something great to offer,” she says. “They could have tried humouring the person who was offering them a taste of an unknown wine. There could have been ‘don’t call, we’ll call you’ responses. But instead, Manor Estate Wines delivered on their promise. The response was overwhelmingly positive.”
With the heart of the United States’s most influential city won, momentum grew – and so did support from home, with Wine Australia recognising Manor Estates’ potential and choosing it as one of the lucky few to gain access to its network of contacts. “They were amazed at the US response to Manor Estate Wines,” says Sharleen, “but the groundwork was already in place, and the US market was eager to try the wines that had risen to fame in Manhattan.”
“Hometown Brand Makes Good” Story Piques the Interest of Australian Wine Connoisseurs
Now, the story goes full circle, returning to its home in McLaren Vale. “Nobody can fail to be impressed by a relatively new brand’s success in New York and the greater USA,” says Peter. “Disrupting the status quo in which big brands have all the loyalty and there’s a set formula for success proved to be a matter of conquering the world’s most influential city.”
Over and above that, a documentary series filmed on location at Manor Estate drew attention to the brand’s true home. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about Manor Estate Wines. Everyone wanted a taste of that success and the wine that has New York asking for more. In an industry in which old wineries ruled the roost, the newcomer had created a buzz that piqued the interest of both wine experts and ordinary people who love a local success story.
“It was disruptive,” says Peter. “People are still wondering how it was done. Then they taste the wine, and understand.”
Manor estate offers wine events, a romantic wedding venue and luxury accommodation in McLaren Vale. For more information, or join their wine club, visit the Manor Estate Wines website or call their team of experts on (08) 8383 7300.