Whether you are ramping up digital marketing efforts for your wine brand or embarking on a new website, settling a bit of technical debt is to be expected. Outdated systems, or the lack of a team focused on digital efforts, are all too common. What’s less apparent, however, is the amount of brand debt that exists, which could misrepresent your brand once the project is launched.

Brand debt takes many shapes: From the absence of a visual identity system, to unfocused positioning, and several core elements in between. Leaving these crucial elements to languish can quickly unravel years of brand building.

The good news? You can directly identify malnourished brand elements — and improving them has benefits in spades.

Talk to different marketing team members to get a sense of their day-to-day struggles. It’s likely their challenges and workarounds are a symptom of brand debt.

Brand debt shouldn’t delay your wine brand’s digital marketing project

Your digital marketing project should speak to what’s in the bottle as eloquently as your label does. To do that well means to resolve any core brand elements that haven’t been created, adjusted, or fine-tuned recently. 

The core elements needing your attention may include:

  • A visual identity system (encompassing different versions of your logo, colors, typefaces, both for print and for digital layout styles)
  • Content assets (a photography, videography, and written content library, along with relationships with content producers)
  • Brand voice
  • Brand story 
  • Brand mission, vision, and core values
  • Brand positioning

You may be tempted to tackle this brand work ahead of your marketing project, but that isn’t the only path. Instead, completing brand work alongside your digital project allows you to pressure test your core elements, ensuring that what you’re working on actually gets used, and used in the right context. 

Plus, you will be able to see the new brand work in action as soon as your project is launched, meaning you’ll be able to further adjust and tweak what’s not quite right, sooner.

No more brand projects relegated to a dusty binder on your shelf. No more outdated PDFs inked with missed potential. Only core brand elements that contribute to a digital marketing push that delivers.

As you begin to examine both your digital marketing project and the brand elements needing improvement, plan to allocate internal and external resources to get the job done. 

Dedicated individuals focused on the brand work will guarantee the work is done well, on time, and in a way that accurately represents your brand.

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3 steps to uncovering your wine brand’s core element deficits

Intertwining brand work into your bigger digital project isn’t daunting when you know what needs to be done. 

Luckily, identifying the elements that need some TLC are only three exercises away.

1. Send out an anonymous questionnaire to all the key stakeholders on the project.

Your goal is to learn the state of your current brand elements and see where you may be lagging behind.

In the questionnaire, ask questions like:

• What do you feel are the three most important aspects of your brand’s story? (List in order of importance).

• What visual elements of the your brand identity do you feel are the most successful? Can you single out particular elements that you believe are more effective than others? (e.g. logo, fonts, color, photography, copywriting, etc.).

• In your personal opinion, are there any elements of your current brand assets that could be improved or are lacking? Be sure to explain why.

• What type of comments have you heard from your customers, wine industry insiders, and the broader public regarding your marketing and communications? If possible, summarize a few positive and negative reactions the were particularly extreme.

The key is to provide people at different levels in the company an open space to address these questions. You may conclude that everyone is in alignment about your brand’s story or how accurately the logo represents the brand — or you may discover the opposite. And that should show you where to focus your attention.

2. Perform an audit of existing marketing materials

Next, assemble your entire marketing portfolio, including collateral, photography, and any digital elements (shown through laptops open on the table or on a conference monitor). If you have archives, include those artifacts. Then, lay everything out on a table for everyone to examine.

Assess what you currently have. What design patterns can you find with older and current material? When did elements change and what was happening to the business at the time?

Oftentimes these audits can reveal a point in time where brand elements fit together better than they do currently. Even if your wine brand doesn’t have a long history, there are still lessons to be learned about how your branding has evolved over time.

This audit may inform the path in which your brand should go. For example, you may find that returning your label closer to a previous version that feels more timeless makes sense. Then you may choose to invest in an extended, modern visual identity system that frames your brand in a more contemporary way digitally.

3. Conduct key team member interviews to reveal brand pain points 

Pain points can be potent indicators that your brand is lacking in some way. To reveal where those pain points exist, talk to different marketing team members to get a sense of their day-to-day struggles. It’s likely their challenges and workarounds are a symptom of brand debt.

Find out: What makes their job harder than it needs to be?

For example, if you interview your social media manager, you may learn they have very little to work with in terms of authentic, branded images. This may require them to produce images that inaccurately reflect your brand or are inconsistent with your story, resulting in a lack of cohesion — and ultimately poor engagement with your audience.

These three exercises are all for naught if people can’t contribute their thoughts, feelings, and ideas openly. If you have a culture where people are not empowered to speak their minds, the questionnaire, the audit, and the interviews will probably not be as successful as they could have been otherwise. In this case, consider working with an objective third party to conduct these or similar exercises.

Prioritize improving key brand elements to launch your wine brand’s marketing project on time and on budget

Once you’ve completed your brand exercises, you may realize you have more brand debt than you thought. And the reality may be you simply don’t have the bandwidth, budget, or timeline to attend to it all properly and launch your marketing project in a reasonable timeframe. 

Therefore, prioritization will be critical. You will have to make strategic choices as to what should be tackled in the course of your project. What can your team handle? What do you have the time and budget for? 

Here’s a common scenario and what prioritization within a new website project might look like. 

Throughout your questionnaire, audit, and interviews you uncover:

  • The elements of your label don’t extend well to digital
  • There is no photography that is reflective of your brand’s quality or story nuance.
  • Your brand positioning needs an overhaul

In this scenario you may choose to prioritize developing key elements of a new visual identity system (like digital friendly versions of your logo and typefaces) in lieu of a complete visual identity system overhaul. You can plan to fill out the rest of your visual identity system after the website launches as you have the time, talent, and budget.

Websites are usually empty vessels without compelling photography, so you may invest in a few days with a great photographer. 

And because you don’t have a huge archive of quality photography, you’ll need to tailor your website’s design for the amount of photography you actually have. If not, you’ll be forced to use poor images, or worse — leave pages designed to include photos bereft of visual content.

All of this would likely result in an incomplete layout, a poor investment, and little customer engagement. 

And lastly, brand positioning is fundamental to all areas of your business. Because of its scope, it often isn’t realistic to refine your positioning within the time and resource limits your web project dictates. Shelve its reexamination until after the website’s launch to give your positioning the time and attention it deserves.

When you adopt the mindset of steadfast brand improvement, each project will carry greater impact.

Paying off brand debt has long-term benefits for your wine brand

Resolving your brand’s deficiencies doesn’t need to be completed in the course of one project. On the contrary, continually examining and articulating your brand should be an ongoing, essential process for the life of your brand. 

Otherwise, how else can you expect to evolve?

When you adopt the mindset of steadfast brand improvement, each project will carry greater impact. You’ll reevaluate your brand and make sure its elements are representative of who you are. And, you’ll ascertain what’s no longer serving your brand, in addition to what new elements should be created.

Moreover, ongoing brand work will energize your teams. After all, they’re at their best when they have the tools they need to focus on their expertise.

Embrace the idea of perpetually addressing your brand debt and each marketing project will be more effective in the short term while contributing to long-lasting brand value.