Rising From the Ashes: Q4 Marketing Recommendations

This year we’ve weathered a pandemic, riots, double-digit unemployment, a contentious election year, a labor shortage, and now the most expansive fire in California history. If what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, then we should be Ironman by now. It’s enough to make you crawl into your cellar and lock the door.

But, we need to pay the bills, harvest the fruit, and sell our wine. With the context and focus of our marketplace changing weekly, what can we do to be culturally sensitive, and faithful to our brands, but continue to market our products?

Here, we’ve assembled our suggestions for addressing your marketing approach this fall.

Realign your goals, but keep setting them.

Remember back in December when you set your 2020 sales goals? That seems like a long time ago. Many of us started careening off course in March and just let it ride, hoping that we’d adjust when things returned to “normal.” By now, we’ve realized this is “the new” normal, and more importantly, enough time has passed to have directional learnings. It’s been six months since COVID first affected our businesses, and hopefully, you’ve been testing and trying new things to compensate for the lower-than-normal tasting room and on-premise sales. Now is the time to take those preliminary learnings and project them forward for Q4.

This Q4 is going to be 2020’s grand finale. In the US, we face a challenging harvest, a very likely resurgence of COVID, school closures, and a presidential election that will compete for attention and drive up costs across every airwave, email, and social media channel. Make sure you take these societal forces into account and lower projections from last year. If we expect consumers to respond similarly this holiday season as they have in the past when not faced with these challenges, we are setting our expectations up for failure.

Critically Review Your Marketing Campaigns

The keyword in 2020 is “pivot,” so be continually auditing what you have currently planned, especially any pre-scheduled content.


  • If you’re B2B, are there key product launches that aren’t critical that you can push into 2021 when your targets have more bandwidth to consider a purchase?
  • If you’re marketing a wine, think about what buying periods may have shifted. How could consumption patterns change with consumers buying almost exclusively online?
  • When might the election possibly drown out your planned programs? For example, if you have a club shipment in early November, what might you need to do to work around the media frenzy?
  • Are there any new opportunities? Consumers aren’t likely to travel as much this holiday season. Virtual celebrations may create an increased need for sending gifts remotely. How can you position yourself with gift sets or gift cards or virtual holiday ideas to help your customers with this need?


  • Tip #1: Make it about them. Remember, we’re all going through this, and things are tough all over. Resist the urge to message your sob story and keep your message firmly about how your brand/wine/product helps the customer. Keep it positive to avoid a perception that you’re capitalizing on any misfortunes and talk about benefits. Even if you don’t directly help people, your brand can still provide value. How can you inspire, educate, or entertain somebody?
  • Tip #2: Make it emotional. We feel before we think, and in times of stress, we look for familiar and trusted brands. The brands that allow themselves to be vulnerable will connect with customers, keep club members, and find their wines under the tree.
  • Tip #3: Sell nationally, but be sensitive on a local level. If the south has a hurricane or there are fires in California, or there is an ice storm, or COVID flare-up in New England, be sensitive to what your customers are facing in their local environment.

I was surprised at this very tone-deaf and insensitive marketing text I received from Ceasar’s last weekend — right as most in Northern California were battling fires. 


  • Perhaps the most significant change this year is imagery. To be culturally sensitive after the last six months, make sure you don’t show people in crowds or touching at social gatherings. We’re starting to see more and more ads and pictures of people with masks. And, if you are showing people, show a diverse group of races, genders, and ages. The #committingtochange movement will be in full force this fall so don’t be left behind.

Glad to see everyone – including makeup and fashion – including BIPOC models and products in their fall campaigns.

Don’t Give Up

It is tempting to forgo marketing right now, not wanting to take the risk of upsetting anyone. Abstinence is not necessary and, in many cases, a mistake. People still have needs. They still care about your brand and your products, so keep people informed. (This rule applies to any economic downturn or crisis, but it’s particularly important to remember in this climate of fear.) As long as you keep the focus of your messaging on helping people, your marketing doesn’t have to stop. And even if we’re living through a grim cultural moment, you don’t have to respond with grim messaging. If your communication is positive and not overly dramatic or capitalizing on the chaos, it will be well-received and appreciated. Remember: The more you show your human side, the more we can all feel connected—and we’re all looking for that right now.

A really nice example from Kinsman Eades on the appropriate tone and message for these times.

True, the stakes of wine marketing are not life or death. But feeling productive and feeling like we add value to the world is very meaningful. Many of us may feel unmoored by what’s going on, but some connection and resemblance of normal activities can help.

We hope everyone is safe and healthy.

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