Saturday, June 2, 2012

"In the Land of Lynfred": How Lynfred Winery promotes its brand awareness through blogging

Lynfred Winery, Roselle, Illinois

“My entire blog ‘In the Land of Lynfred’ (a word play on ‘In the Land of Lincoln’ since we are in Illinois ) is really about the lifestyle that comes with working at and being a patron of your local winery – we’re fun, a little kooky and very approachable.”
Christina Anderson-Heller, Marketing Director
Lynfred Winery
Roselle, Illinois 

A True “Mom-and-Pop” operation becomes a nationally renowned winery
             A pioneer of the Illinois wine industry, Fred Koehler made his debut batch of wine in the basement of his Roselle home in 1975.  With his ingenuity along with the creativity and encouragement of his late wife, Lynn, Fred continued to craft quality wines in their renovated basement for four more years. When the “Mom-and-Pop” operation outgrew the couple’s basement, Fred and Lynn opened up Illinois’ first official winery, Lynfred Winery. A clever play on the couple’s names, Lynfred ensured the legacy of its founders would live on for years to come.

Fred Koehler, a “business savvy” man, remained firmly rooted in his desire to run a successful winery off the beaten path. Refusing to move his operation to California, as Robert Mondavi had encouraged, Fred persuaded California vineyards to ship their grapes the 2,000 miles to his Illinois location. Mr. Koehler was also pivotal in changing Illinois state laws, allowing for more freedom to produce greater quantities of wines as well as a wider array of wine varietals. His pioneer spirit caught on throughout the magnificent state of Illinois, paving the way for the state’s current 100+ vineyards and wineries to come to fruition.
             A self-taught winemaker, Fred Koehler’s accomplishments in the wine industry catapulted his winery to acclaimed heights in 1985 when his 1983 Chardonnay earned, not one but two national honors: “Best of Class” and “Best of Show” in Reno, Nevada; and, a month later, another “Double Gold” at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago, Illinois. In 2004, having established himself, and Lynfred Winery, as a motivating force in the wine industry, Fred Koehler felt comfortable hiring a renowned Chilean-born winemaker, Andres Basso, freeing himself up to focus on the business aspect of running his winery.
Modest beginnings: How Lynfred Winery built a “first-class” winery from an historic house
            Converting their historic “Hattendorf” home’s basement into a self-sufficient winery was the first step towards what Lynfred Winery is today!  A mere four years later, the couple’s winemaking operation outgrew its modest basement locale, prompting Fred and Lynn to open up Illinois’ first official winery and tasting room in 1979. Once Lynfred Winery achieved national acclaim, the original winery also outgrew its quaint beginnings, making it necessary for Fred to expand. Loyalty once again defined Fred Koehler when the new Lynfred Winery, a 24,000-square-foot facility launched in 1990, was anchored to the original tasting room through a “vaulted barrel-aging tunnel”. Marrying the old with the new, one will find treasures, such as the beautifully stained glass and burgundy velvet walls, from the original “historic home” winery sprinkled throughout the new establishment.
Enhancing the wine lover’s experience even further, Fred Koehler eventually created four luxurious Bed & Breakfast suites on the top floor of the new Lynfred tasting room. The expansion of Lynfred’s original winery site was followed by the openings of three satellite tasting rooms: Tasting deVine in Wheaton in 1999, Tasting deVine in Naperville in 2004, and a new Lynfred Winery tasting room in Wheeling in 2008. All four locations offer Lynfred’s award-winning wines and the uniquely entertaining experience one has come to expect from the Lynfred family.
Preserving Lynfred’s quirky legacy through blogging
            As a forward-thinking establishment, it was only natural for Lynfred Winery to bring social media into their marketing campaign. While Christina Anderson-Heller, Lynfred’s marketing director, establishes a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +, it is her ability to capture and portray the essence that is Lynfred through her blog, “In the Land of Lynfred” that sets the winery apart. Christina began Lynfred’s blog on January 17, 2007, with close to 1,000 blog posts published. 
            What makes Lynfred’s “In the Land of Lynfred” blog so appealing is its eclectic variety of topics and mediums.  Christina posts an assortment of photos and videos to accompany her diverse blog topics. For Mother’s Day, the Lynfred blog appealed to the humorous side of its patrons by featuring a picture of a sign posted outside their tasting room stating, “Don’t forget to buy a bottle for Mom. Remember, you’re the reason she drinks!” In the same blog post, Christina highlights other gift ideas for Mom, such as chocolate dipped wine bottles, and a video featuring Lynfred’s “wine expert”, who, incidentally, boasts the same flare for humor when she says a good wine aerator can turn “Two-Buck Chuck” into “Four Bucks”. In another post, “Wine + Food = Fabulous”, Christina compiled photographs from Lynfred’s first “Wine Dinner Series” into a Picasa slideshow, highlighting the food, festivities and those present.
With such a variety of topics, one would think Lynfred has multiple contributors to their blog but when asked who thinks up the topics for their posts, Christina shared, “I am the person who initially designed the blog and does all the posting. At one time I thought of having multiple contributors but found that keeping a blog schedule was a bit easier when I was the only one to have to pester for information.”
Having just one person at the helm of such an eclectic vessel, I couldn’t help but ask how she comes up with the ideas all on her own, to which she divulged:
“I am one of those people who wake up for about an hour every night with wacky ideas; I can’t wait to get up every morning to do something with them. I think it really comes from liking people and wanting people to have fun with wine. Most of my silly stuff comes from drinking wine... seriously. I’m easily amused and like to make people laugh. I also believe people like to read about themselves so I ask customers to snap their picture with our wine and send me their story to share on the blog.”

Christina posts a weekly tribute, “Where in the World is Lynfred Wine?”, to the customer-generated pictures she receives via Facebook and Twitter. It’s an effective strategy that allows customers to showcase and promote Lynfred’s wines.
The more “serious” business side of “In the Land of Lynfred”
            Quirkiness and humor aside, there is a business aspect of social media to consider. When asked how blogging helps the winery, in regards to attracting new customers and fostering customer loyalty, Christina eloquently replied, “Blogging, and social media in general, helps me stay connected with old and new customers. I like to have conversations with groups of people on Facebook, personal conversations on Twitter and my blog allows me to share the winery lifestyle with current customers, wine club members and often tourists coming to the Chicagoland area.  A few years ago I posted a blog post titled, ‘The History of Cheers. I don’t mean the bar’. To this day that posting is my most viewed blog post. The post has prompted many emails from people all over the world asking about a winery in Chicago.”

            As with any social media campaign, blogs need to be properly promoted, otherwise the posts just sit idly ignored, all of their wit and wisdom lost.  This is why an integrated social media campaign is a necessity. Cross-promotion, sharing links from one social media platform to another, allows for a richer online presence.  In response to Lynfred’s promotion efforts, Christina shared, “As soon as I post a blog I post links on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages. I also have a link to my blog on all outgoing emails, on all literature (including my business cards) and a link from our website.”

As is apparent with “In the Land of Lynfred”, blogging provides a social platform to showcase the personal side to a winery, or any business for that matter. Publishing interesting and meaningful content consistently will establish your company as an industry leader and nurture relationships built on trust.

How has blogging helped develop your business’ “brand awareness”? Share in the comments section below!

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