Can Fictional Characters Help You Sell Wine?

This is part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the American wine community from across the United States. Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from winery owners, vintners, marketing managers, sales directors, QCQA staff and others to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Known for its creative labels, unusual characters and unique storytelling, Chronic Cellars recently announced it was joining the ranks of wineries that are experimenting with augmented reality as a way of interacting with its customer base.

People who buy Chronic Cellars’ Purple Paradise red blend can use their phone to play an augmented reality game with the character “Purple,” a skeleton that has been brought to life by the evolving technology. 

After the customer scans a QR code with their phone from the Chronic Cellars’ website or the bottle, and then scans the label to play a dice game with the skeleton. Once the label has been scanned, the character Purple comes to life and interacts with the customer.

Vintner Magazine caught up with Patrick Cramb, Director of Marketing for Chronic Cellars and WX Brands, to learn more about the company’s newest feature, how it develops its characters, and how it’s working to connect with new audiences.

VINTNER: I’ve seen other wineries take the technology/interactive approach lately. What was the inspiration behind an interactive game with a character, and why was this particular wine chosen for the new feature?

CRAMB: The inspiration behind our gamified augmented reality is drawn from how our consumers already naturally interact with the brand. Chronic captivates its target consumer through the brand’s standout attitude and colorful, disruptive label characters. When consumers purchase a bottle of Chronic, they don’t want to keep it to themselves. They want to share our wines, characters, and story with others, creating a communal experience that is more than just talking tannins and terroir.

Our AR was created with this use occasion specifically in mind and encourages it even further through the development of a more interactive, gamified AR experience.

Our lead character Purple Paradise has all the elements to make for a dynamic and engaging AR character. Purple’s persona of a social charmer and party starter invites you right in. His name also perfectly lends itself to gamification, as Purple Paradise is a play on the phonetic pronunciation “Pair-of-dice.” Recently awarded 91 points and Editors’ Choice by Wine Enthusiast, Purple Paradise delivers a delicious, quality wine that will keep consumers coming back for more after their initial introduction to the brand. This wine has the highest consumer awareness and distribution nationally within our portfolio, allowing for the most consumers to enjoy the experience.

VINTNER: Chronic is partially known for its creative labels and the characters it developed. What was the process like for developing these characters and how were they chosen? 

CRAMB: Each character is developed in tandem with the wine itself. We imagine the character as it relates to the winemaking profile and personify standout elements of the varietal(s), wine style, color, flavor, and aroma. With the core of the character tied to the wine, we also weave in some imaginative storytelling to round out the unique persona. Then, the real magic of bringing the label character to life happens in the hands of our artist, Chris Granillo. Chris sketches the “bones” of the character, creates a lino carving out of a wood block, and then does an ink transfer to create a print of the final piece that you see on our label. Our characters are truly works of art, inspired by the character of the wine, woven with a dose of the brand’s bold and standout attitude.

VINTNER: How do they relate to the brand and what’s the target audience?

CRAMB: The skeleton crew and quirky names of Chronic’s labels are an ode to the “killer’” quality of our wines, made with character. Our wines are big, bold, and made for people looking for a little dose of adventure. Chronic is for the consumer who prefers to stand out, who seeks out brands that better reflect their values, project a unique identity, and offer something different than the traditional wines of older generations. 

VINTNER: To generate buzz about the new technology and new feature, and get people to go try it out, how are you communicating with people who may be unfamiliar with the brand? How does this differ from your approach to communicating with folks who may have bought Chronic Cellars products before.

CRAMB: We are creating awareness of our new AR experience through several channels. In-store, consumers will see an eye-catching invitation to roll the dice with Purple on marketing materials on or next to the wine. This drives excitement for our existing consumer and gives someone unfamiliar with the brand another reason to pick it up. 

On social media, we launched communication around the AR experience within the Chronic visual identity, but with a fresh take to grab attention and pique curiosity of our existing base and new audiences. We featured “living moment” scenes with bold unexpected, illustrated graphics (i.e. a skeleton hand reaching from the bottle) that are unmistakably Chronic, and also generally disruptive. Product remains center stage so that with the added layer of character narrative, the consumer can always take away that brand impression and can seek us out where they buy their wine.

Media outlets are creating buzz as well, sharing the news of the Chronic AR gamified experience as an authentic and fun experience which resonates with consumers.

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