Three Things the Most Desirable Brands Have in Common

The brands we most desire and aspire to are powerful. We trust and believe in them and above all others decide we want to give them our money in return for what they offer. Seth Godin says it’s because they are an expression of the story we tell ourselves about our value, status and place in the world.

Of course, there are many factors that impact the success of a brand, but there are three things the most desirable ones have in common: strong values, expression and creativity. An investment in all three forms an enviable blueprint with great benefit for the customer experience and ultimately the desirability and success of any brand.

Wine is a complicated product to sell – competitive, agricultural, subjective, sometimes esoteric and highly emotive. Investing in values, expression and creativity, is simple, in concept at least. It’s not a silver bullet, but it can go a way towards debunking some of the more perplexing ideologies that exist in the craft of selling premium wine and this may be especially useful to wineries running thin on the ground when it comes to marketing resources.

Start with Values

There is an architecture to brands. How they are built relies on their construct which is largely the people involved and how they move through the world based on their experiences. As a building has a framework, brands do too. Values are that framework, and brand owners and managers acknowledge and develop them or they go unattended but they are still in play; just unconsciously.

People see brands for what they are; their purpose, quality, design and the personalities that create them; values trickle through whether we like it or not so the opportunity lies in owning them and that requires investment. It is the hard work of identifying what your brand stands for and stands against. This can take an investment of time, money and effort and it’s an ongoing process.

We might know some wine brands with good inputs and a great product but little traction, they just don’t stick like they ought to. There could be many reasons why. The availability of time and money is usually top of the list but also, is the story clear? Do we understand what they are doing and why they are doing it? How does the brand help us become the person we want to be and do those motivations trace an authentic line back to the person or people behind the brand?

Values are not aspirational words on the front of a staff agreement; they are inherent beliefs of a group translated into an offer for customers who share similar beliefs. They are unlikely to be one-size-fits-all in an organisation either but interconnection is the aim and higher-level thinking might help. For example, if gender diversity is a priority, could social equity be the value; if organic viticulture is paramount, could natural ecosystems be the hero? Note how small shifts in wording and perspective moves the dial from opinion to learning (learning is an admirable value).

Expression Expression Expression

Expression is the quality of a brand’s story; how passionately, accurately and consistently it is shared including how frequently. It’s about making known an offer but also thoughts, feelings and ideas. It’s about originality, distinctiveness and standing apart from others. It’s not just storytelling it’s expression and organisations that do it well achieve understanding, clarity and equity for their brand.

Gaja do it well. The cover of their brochure isn’t a photograph of a vineyard but theatrical lip-sticked lips! And their website ( includes no more details than a business card. Those choices are distinctive and highly individual, it tells us a bit about the people in charge and what to expect from the brand and wines. Expression doesn’t have to be loud and flamboyant, choose what is clever and true and do it with every opportunity.

There are a lot of wine brands, so it takes expression to stand out but is the industry using enough originality when it comes to marketing? If there’s too much looking over the fence, everything can start to look and sound the same. Another potential pitfall is a winery going so all-out on a story that they think a customer wants, that it ends up too far from the truth – lack of authenticity threatens expression.

Often the brands we desire most are expressions of someone we aspire to. There’s a lot of expression in wine of course; the site and so on but what about people separate to the wine; their beliefs and worldview. Are the people behind wine sharing enough of themselves currently and is there enough cohesion between them and the people who drink wine both now and in the future?

Expression might be part of the reason natural wines have the sub-category interest that they do. Was that story just a little bit different and a little bit more distinctive and relatable to some drinkers who found it easier to get stuck to, taking market share. Brand expression could deserve renewed interest in the Australian wine industry.


Creativity is valuable to all organisations and now more than ever which is well documented and supported. One of the most powerful components for marketing is emotion – an ability to empathise with people and customers, interpret their feelings and conceptualise their experience; then use all that for ideas generation, critical thinking and problem solving.

Brand Expert Richard Gillingwater says creative solutions are like interesting people, they ignite your imagination, your love of life itself, they are remembered, sought out and admired for simply being who they are – different, exciting, funny, truthful, authoritative, remarkable.

Who Gives A Crap includes one toilet paper roll in a packet of six that is wrapped individually and marked ‘emergency roll’ so you can cleverly keep a loo roll ahead of the game. The full packet comes packaged in recycled paper so there’s no way of seeing the emergency roll on the supermarket shelf. The fun, thoughtful, helpful, unnecessary inclusion is driven by the customer experience back at home.

Seymour Girls’ College include a neatly packaged hair ribbon inside their promotional goodie bags that’s Black Watch tartan like their uniform. The thoughtful, distinctive, unnecessary addition is there to ignite the emotion of joining their community, to experience for a moment the thrill of how that might feel.

These examples are creative and designed to make a customer feel emotion. Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart - Joe Chernov.

The Cross Section

When a brand is synchronising strong values, expression and creativity, there’s a harmony. It feels real and relevant and draws us in. It is not only a distinctive and quality product from a trusted business, a compelling one that stands for something we also believe in or something that piques our interest with world class design, it’s all these things and more. There is depth and purpose, substance, clarity and delight. We desire how they help us become the person we want to be. They affirm our values and place in the world.

Aesop is a good reference point and there are many ways their values, creativity and expression coalesce: the ingredients their products contain, a use of quotes on their packaging, the stores and how they look – and smell – or, their investment in cultural engagement with The Horne Prize, an essay award. These are examples but more to the point, there’s a feeling about Aesop and it is consistent and highly desired as evidenced by the brand’s now worldwide reach.

Ten reasons why premium wine brands should invest in values, creativity and expression:

  1. Your brand story is wishy washy
  2. Having multiple wine brands that lack differentiation and individual drive
  3. A belief that the values and status desired by humans is evolving
  4. You wrestle with the notion of virtue signalling
  5. Worrying that the only person who truly understands what you do and why, is you
  6. Achieving brand and business decisions more objectively and proactively – less reacting
  7. Enjoying more genuine alignment with your customers
  8. Encouraging business culture development and growth
  9. Become an aspirational brand
  10. Sell more wine without actually selling it

PDF available here