Is bad publicity better than none?

Lots of press recently about the supposedly unspectacular Penfolds Grange release for the year 2000. Some wine critics are saying it’s no better than a $15 bottle of wine.

At one level the decision to release a 2000 Grange was a mistake. The cachet of the brand comes about because of a hard-earned reputation as the best quality wine in the country.

If you’re a wine company with only one brand you don’t have a choice, you have to release the product. But Grange is a tiny part of SouthCorp, a very large company about to get even larger. Penfolds would have generated GOOD publicity by simply not releasing a 2000 Grange. Sorry; this vintage not up to scratch. We’re tipping it out. That would have been my decision – it would have re-inforced the impression that Penfolds are obsessive about quality. The whole Penfolds range would benefit. Put the price of Grange up by 15% next year if necessary.

On the other hand, they generated ten times the publicity by virtue of the critical reaction to the release. This amount of publicity (even bad publicity) reinforces the leadership position the brand enjoys. The limited issue of the 2000 vintage will be snapped up anyway and will provide amusement for the minority of people who can afford to line up the various vintages and compare them.

What they did worked out okay. It’s hard to screw up a big brand.


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