News & Updates

The Wine Guild's latest news and events

Ladder Branding in the Wine Industry

Ladder Branding: Yalumba and Viognier

Ladder branding is central to appropriate wine marketing. Yalumba’s wine marketing of Viognier is a good illustration of successful ladder branding.  I will explore that in this article.

Yalumba is a successful winery which has occupied the Australian Viognier space. They have done this in a convincing fashion since around 1970.  There are strong sales into the UK.  The flagship super-premium member is “The Virgilius.”  This is a very serious wine. The other members of the ladder gain brand equity from it.  One criticism however might be that the ladder can seem to contain quite a lot of members.  This could be a symptom of a tendency to overexploit a successful approach to the market. 

Ladder Branding: the Members

Y Series £11Entry level — affordable
Organic Viognier£11 — £15Affordable / Stretch
Eden Valley Viognier£21Stretch
Yalumba Virgilius Viognier£30 — £35 Flagship ladder brand member
Different price levels of Yalumba Viognier wines

The entry-level member Y Series is still not cheap.  Certainly, Yalumba wish to avoid the opposite of a ladder brand benefit occurring where a super-premium member would not be credible if the entry-level product shipped at £5.

In addition, Yalumba have included a member (Organic) which could act as a bridge between the entry level Y Series and the pricier Eden Valley.

The ladder brand is co-marketed. Other products feature with it. This runs the risk of reducing the ladder branding effect.  The Botrytis Viognier is really a separate product.  Technically it is more expensive often than the Virgilius but this is a niche entry with limited supply available only in 375ml format.

Other Products

There is also a Shiraz/Viognier product range which has only two members. They are also clearly located at distinct price points. Y Series is located at entry level and Hand Picked is located at premium level.

Also, Yalumba offer an Eau de Vie named V de Vie. This product uses Viognier grapes. V de Vie is co-marketed with the ladder brand even though this is really only coincidentally made from Viognier.  There will be few varietal characteristics visible in a spirit.

The straight Viognier range does not really include these other products. However, they all go towards giving Yalumba a strong mind share of the Australian Viognier space.

The Eden Valley product is located just south of the premium slot. The name is well-chosen because it emphasises a sense of place but also there are positive associations between “Eden” and quality.

The Virgilius is available in Magnum. It is suitable for ageing. It is one of few Australian wines to be given a flagship location in the main wine displays at 67 Pall Mall, for example.  So it has clearly established its premium nature.

Main markets

Yalumba is not a listed company. It is therefore not required to provide extensive public data on revenue generation.

However, Wine Australia provide some statistics on Australian wine exports generally.  Australia’s top five export markets by value as at year ending March 2020 are:

  1. Mainland China (40 per cent of total export value)
  2. United States of America (14 per cent)
  3. United Kingdom (12 per cent)
  4. Canada (6 per cent), and
  5. Hong Kong (4 per cent)

Clearly China is of extreme importance in general. Nevertheless, there may well be an opportunity for Yalumba to move more Viognier there.  Wine Searcher lists only one stockist in China. Eden Valley costs £75.  This suggests there is effectively no supply and no information available to consumers in China.

Target consumers

The various rungs of the ladder brand are aimed at different consumers.  

Above all, the Y Series is appropriately placed at entry level. It is interesting, fresh and approachable with decent levels of complexity without excess complexity. Most importantly, there is no sticker shock.

Consumers who are new to the brand will find nothing to put them off. So they may trade up to the upscale members on an appropriate occasion.

The Y Series

Many novice wine drinkers have moved from casual to serious interest in wine as a result of noticing the unassuming yet defined qualities of Y Series.

Placing a member (Organic) just north of entry level but still reasonably priced enough to be a potential step up is intelligent marketing.  The customer is therefore more likely to step up the ladder.  This is especially likely perhaps when a consumer has had the entry level product a few times or it is unavailable.

Making this wine organic and being very clear about that feature is also wise since Millennial Treaters will be a key segment here. That’s because the term “Organic” features prominently on their wish-list for products.

The pricing overlaps with the entry level product which again is intelligent because it encourages switching.  The entry level product is sometimes available at a discount. Great care should be taken here.  One should avoid the discounting of the Organic product so as to maintain its identity as “just slightly premium in a premium range.”

Eden Valley aims at consumers celebrating a special occasion.  It is the “stretch” entry within the ladder branding. So customers who would normally stay on the lower rung might be tempted.

The Virgilius is the “aspiration” product within the ladder branding. Serious wine drinkers are the target. It is attractively priced in comparison to Meursault, for example.

Sample marketing materials

The marketing materials include an immediate link to the wine club.

Moreover, there is an effective strapline. “Thoroughly captivated by this elusive, luscious and complex white variety, a visit to Viognier’s spiritual home saw the beginnings of a journey that would define Yalumba’s white winemaking future.”

This provides a strong brand story showing the roots of the product in the past.  And the strapline also makes strong and clear statements about the qualities of the varietal. The consumer knows what to expect.  The streamline also bootstraps from Old World experience with the variety.  Consumers see that the product is made with care and experience.

In sum, we may conclude that Yalumba have very successfully employed ladder branding within their range of Viognier wines.

See also:

Tim Short