Online global pandemic panic – Don’t get caught up and forget your brand

By Damien Griffante, Policy Manager – Market Access

It is commonly understood that when consumers head to their local wine stores, they will often have a brand in mind they are looking to purchase. This is because they know their favourite wine and they trust its reputation for quality, safety and value, or they may just like the pretty label, whatever it may be. Building this recognition and consumer loyalty can take a lot of effort and resources, particularly in export markets, where consumers hold differing priorities in what they value in wine brands. Getting in and establishing this is probably the most difficult part, but once you have established it you then need to ensure you continue to invest to grow and nurture that relationship. But with a lot of work and investment over time, this can all pay off with long-term consumer loyalty.

However, in the modern world where communications are so easily exchanged and technology allows us greater connectivity, all of this work can be easily undone. It does not matter how strong your brand is, your reputation in a market can be taken away with a few strokes of a keyboard from someone associated with your business. 

There is a direct link between what those associated with your business are saying in the public domain and risks to your brand, business and even the broader reputation of the sector. While it may seem trivial, it does not take much for basic comments to go viral.

This was perfectly demonstrated last week with an article published in the South China Morning Post, a major national newspaper, with an article entitled –Coronavirus: Italian prosecco maker apologises after owner asks China to pay compensation. This Italian Prosecco producer landed themselves in hot water, after penning an open letter, seeking compensation from the Chinese Government. According to the article his letter “spread quickly on Chinese social media, causing an avalanche of critical comments.” Despite the producer’s efforts to backtrack and repent for the comments made, the irreparable damage had already been done. The producer’s Chinese importers, said that they would stop sales of all products from the Italian brand and cancelled all new orders placed with the firm.

While the article was published on 1 April 2020 (April Fool’s Day), this producer will not be laughing, nor would his fellow Italian Prosecco Producers who are fighting an uphill battle to establish themselves in the Chinese market. Who knows what damage this letter has done to Italian Prosecco as a whole in the eyes of Chinese consumers?

In these challenging times, there is a lot of anger, fear and uncertainty circulating online. It is easy to get caught up in it all and forget about the company and brand you represent. However, this cautionary tale shows the risk to your markets and the potential damage which could result for your business, or even the broader sector.

The difficult trading conditions will eventually begin to normalise, and we need to ensure we have positioned ourselves in the best possible way to capitalise on the recovery of trade. We need to maintain genuine positive engagement and strong links with key markets like China, the United States, and the United Kingdom, in order to maintain consumers love for Australian wine worldwide.

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