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Insights Into Marketing and the Global Wine Industry


Portrait of Renne Zhao

Director of Marketing and Communications



Key Takeaways


  • What does it take to be successful in a global marketing position? According to Renee Zhao, it’s a mixture of targeted online and on-ground research. You must be aware of everything going on with your product in each country you trade.

  • Renee Zhao is the Director of Marketing and Communications at ProWine Asia. Her job entails marketing for the wine trade by devising marketing strategies, collaborating with influencers, and expanding brand awareness for trade fairs.

  • Renee serves as a strategic planner and collaborator with industry professionals. She’s part of the only international trade fair for wines and spirits that covers the entire world market in depth. She’s responsible for holding wine trade shows all across the Asia Pacific region.

  • To be on top of her game, Renee always has to be aware of the latest trends in the wine and spirits sector and new product highlights for her customers. From topics such as sustainability, alternative wine packaging, bio dynamics, and compound annual growth rate, she has to be aware of it all.



Introduction


Renee Zhao works in the wine and spirits industry. Her modus operandi is holding trade fairs where she can connect with suppliers and buyers of wine and spirits products. She’s currently collaborating with Messe Dusseldorf in Shanghai, a German trade organizer that orchestrates global trade fairs spanning medical and healthcare, metal, lifestyle and beauty, printing, machinery, and various other sectors. In her current project, Renee’s in charge of holding wine and spirits trade fairs around Asia Pacific regions such as Japan, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, among others.


From stumbling into marketing at a job fair right out of college, to falling in love with the dynamic nature of marketing, to now working at the director level and achieving global success on a daily basis. Renee Zhao’s journey is a masterclass in marketing. If you’re gearing towards becoming a global marketer, there’s a lot you can learn from Renee’s professional journey and insights into international marketing.


What does it take to be a global marketer?


Renee is a Chinese global marketer currently living in Shanghai with her family. Her job demands her to travel a lot within the Asia Pacific region to understand each country’s market, meet up with customers and vendors, and conduct on-ground research before holding trade shows in each area depending on their unique market needs.


According to her, the secret to successful marketing is not spending millions to create grandiose marketing campaigns. Instead, it’s to do the smart thing and spend some time on the ground, interacting with your customers and understanding the unique needs of your target audience.


How to conduct research when entering a new market or region?


Renee believes a combination of smart online and on-ground research goes into bringing any product into a new market or region, including wine and spirits. When asked what kind of research goes into the wine trade in different countries and regions, Renee had a lot of insights to share that can be applied to any product being promoted globally.


Research is key for Renee. She says you must conduct online research to assess market potential before entering a new market. Also, to find out how the market operates when it comes to your product. In her case, she conducts specific research on the wine and spirits market in each country she goes to. From the names of the major suppliers to the amount of consumption and the latest trends in consumer behavior.


For example, before going on her latest trip to Singapore, she conducted a thorough trend analysis of wine and spirits in the country. She found out that the overall wine sales in Singapore reached 15.5 million liters in the past 4 years. Increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% from 2018 to 2022. She found that Sake was the highest in growth, with a CAGR of 25.4%, followed closely by sparkling wine. She also found that wine is projected to increase to 18 million liters by 2026, with a 3.1% annual increase between 2023 and 2026.


However, Renee is of the opinion that the most powerful research is always conducted on the ground. Once she gets to a country, she visits local establishments, talks to customers, and collaborates with distributors to gain insight into consumer preferences and market dynamics. Take, for instance, her latest trip to Singapore. She went to different bars and restaurants to see a list of wines and spirits they offered on their menu, the new products in the field, and the price they charge for each of these. She also interacted with regular customers to understand what kind of wines they were interested in getting more regularly.

"I think it's very important to the marketer to go to the market, go to the region and to talk to the people there. For example, of course, you need to meet with a customer, right? If you want to know more information about the market, you need to talk to the customer." - Renee Zhao

So, a combination of detailed online research and physical interaction with local customers has helped Renee develop a sure-shot way of penetrating the wine industry in new markets and countries. For Renee, to succeed in the wine trade, you must clearly understand the market dynamics and your consumer preferences. This takes a lot of extensive research, from evaluating wine and spirits volumes, market potential, and growth prospects in a specific region to pricing trends, competitor analysis, and cultural understanding of each region you are dealing with.


Importance of Understanding the Needs of Your Target Customers


Renee thinks understanding target customers' needs is crucial in marketing because it allows businesses to tailor their products, services, and marketing campaigns to meet customer preferences and provide real value. Another essential aspect is understanding consumer psychology, which is vital in marketing. It helps determine consumers' decisions, form emotional connections with brands, and respond to various marketing stimuli.


Utilizing consumer psychology insights can lead to more effective marketing campaigns. Renee iterates that a customer’s choices, personal preferences, and brand loyalty are deeply affected by the emotions a specific brand triggers in their psychology. This is why branding and product differentiation is essential. Packaging and visual appeal might seem like minor details to the untrained eye, but that’s one of the most important things when it comes to picking a product, especially something as fancy as wine. Simply put, if it looks good, people will buy it. If it tastes good, people will stick with it.


Distinguishing Marketing Trends Between Western and Asian Markets


As a global marketer, Renee has observed that most Western countries might be slower-paced when it comes to marketing. She thinks this is due to the difference in market dynamics, cultural factors, and maybe even population density. In her experience, Asian markets are more dynamic, change more rapidly, and innovate more commonly.


Over the years Renee Zhao has observed that cultural differences significantly affect marketing strategies by influencing product preferences, messaging, and consumer behaviors. Adapting marketing efforts to align with local cultures is essential for success. She highlights the significance of understanding a target market's culture by explaining how it impacts product preferences and consumer behaviors. Adapting marketing strategies to respect and align with local cultures is crucial for success.


Distinguishing Marketing Trends between Different Cultures


Renee believes local culture has a significant impact on the wine trade. It shapes not only the types of wine people gravitate towards but also the marketing strategies and the selection offered for sale. One illustrative success story is that of Penfolds, an Australian Wine Label owned by Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. In China, Penfolds is known as 奔富 (Ben Fu), meaning 'running towards wealth,' a name that resonates deeply with cultural values and has significantly contributed to its popularity. Understanding such cultural nuances enables wine businesses to curate their offerings, devise impactful marketing, and meet the tastes and anticipations of their target demographics.


The culture of a particular area significantly affects the wine trade, with specific considerations like consumer behavior, marketing strategy, and product selection. To be a successful global wine marketer, one must understand how cultural values and traditions influence consumer choices and wine preferences. One might have to adapt different marketing campaigns and strategies in different regions to align with local customs and priorities while respecting cultural sensitivities.


Matching the cultural tastes and expectations of the target market is also crucial. For example, the latest market trends suggest that Japanese people love natural wines, and their orange wine consumption is the highest in Asia Pacific countries. However, red wine is the most preferred beverage in China. So consumer preferences change with geography, and as a global marketer, you must constantly be aware of such changes.


Advice for New Businesses and Startups


Renee Zhao's valuable advice for startups entering the market with limited resources is to know your consumers, collaborate with influencers, and leverage word-of-mouth strategies. She believes these new-age approaches can help establish branding and gain traction before investing in more extensive marketing campaigns.

“I really think in this era, marketing really depends on the impact of these influencers […] they can really give you some advice or can help you to promote your brand in their territory and to reach out to the customer. You never have a chance to connect." - Renee Zhao

Startups that don’t have investor backing can benefit by collaborating with authentic influencers and bloggers with a genuine and loyal fan base. These influencers can help promote new brands, especially when operating on a limited budget. Not only will this strategy help with brand awareness, but these influencers’ social media reach can bring untouched consumers that you would otherwise have no access to.

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