How South Jersey’s wineries exemplify the value of marketing

Apr 20, 2019

We get it – you’re skeptical of marketing. It often seems fluffy, and it’s hard to truly prove its value to your bottom line.

We don’t totally disagree. A lot of marketers are definitely full of it. But don’t let that convince you marketing is worthless.

In fact, it’s pretty obvious how big a difference effective marketing can make, if you know where to look. Just look at the wineries of South Jersey.

Not long ago, buying wine from New Jersey would’ve been considered a joke. It probably still is for many people. But the wine industry here is thriving. And a stroke of marketing genius helped catalyze its success.

It was back in 2012, when the American Association of Wine Economists held a conference in Princeton. Part of the event was a blind taste testing, comparing several famous wines against others with much less pedigree.

It was actually a reenactment of another famous taste test in 1976. Back then, no one respected American wine, but when the judges preferred Napa Valley wines over several revered French vintages in the blind test, it spurred the rise of the California wine industry. That event is forever known as the Judgment of Paris.

That inspired a winemaker from Atco, in Camden County. He convinced AAWE organizers to replicate the test, except using wines from the Garden State rather than the Golden State.

The results? The panel of American, French and Belgian judges returned a statistical tie, with several NJ wines topping the French. The event is now called the Judgment of Princeton.

There’s a larger lesson here. A long list of studies have found that marketing elements like cost, labeling and simply description dramatically change how people perceive wines. Even identical wines are rated differently if priced differently, a phenomenon called the “marketing placebo effect.”

The takeaway for small business owners is simple. Marketing has a clear impact on people’s decisions. It can make an OK product seem good, and a good product seem great.

Clearly, you want your product to be great regardless. But you definitely don’t want your fine wine to be perceived as swill. That’s why, if you want to seize every opportunity, you can’t ignore the value of marketing in growing your company.