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Taken Wine to the Younger Crowd

From its premium price tag to its ability to inspire a downright nerdy obsession with vintages, regions and organized tastings, wine can be a hard sell for those 28 and younger. When twentysomethings Josh Phelps and Carlo Trinchero formed their own business, Taken Wine, in 2010, it was with the goal of changing all that by introducing their peers to the goodness of the grape.

  • Website
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Video

Though they were Millennials themselves, the pair also happened to be scions of winemaking families, and quickly realized that they could use some help appealing to young people who didn’t have sauvignon blanc flowing through their veins. San Francisco’s Volume Inc. became their bridge to the under-30s.


Not Your Father’s Wine
In 2010, Phelps and Trinchero kicked off Taken Wine with 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon with the express purpose of selling to their friends and other young people like them.

Three years later, the latter’s family business, Trinchero Family Estates, brought the company in-house. (Phelps is the son of winemaker Chris Phelps of Swanson Vineyards.) A win-win for both companies, Taken Wine gained access to many more distribution channels while the larger company at last had an opportunity to penetrate the mostly-untapped youth market.

In January 2013, Volume was approached by Trinchero Family Estates because “they were looking for someone outside the Napa region who didn’t specialize in wine brands,” explains principal and co-founder Adam Brodsley. “It was more about how to avoid the typical cliché wine approaches.” By July, the Taken Wine website was live.


Keeping it Cool ‘n Causal
One of the first clichés to go were print ads – Volume hewed to a wholly digital cross-media menu of website strategy, design and programming; social media strategy; photography and videos.

After all, Millennials are not known for enjoying a nice glass of red while perusing the latest Vanity Fair. Neither do they regale one another at candlelight dinners with tales of the Merlot they brought back from their last trip to Italy; at that age drinks are often enjoyed at bars and restaurants with friends. That casual attitude of fun and friendship became the cornerstone of Volume’s campaign for Taken Wine.

Explains Brodsley, “Visually we used tactile backgrounds and a sort of ‘scrapbook style’ to get across a warm and friendly, causal but sophisticated feel.”

Certainly there is a page that briefly describes the wine and allows you to purchase it online, but most of the website is dedicated to establishing a laid-back mood, showing the guys as typical twentysomethings, hanging out and enjoying wine with friends.

“We produced and art directed two days of still shooting and two days of video shooting in San Francisco and Napa,” says Brodsley. “It was important that we show Josh and Carlo’s personalities and the origins of the brand, as well as the ways in which they want their wines to appeal to their generation. This is reflected in the locations we chose to shoot in and the style of the photography.”


A Tale to Tell
Perhaps Volume’s greatest achievement was in the way it imposed an overarching narrative on the website that transformed what could’ve been viewed as the pitch of one more wine company into something akin to “the heroes’ journey.”

“In talking with Josh and Carlo, we were struck by their sincerity and their passion for the business, and for crafting their own place in it,” explains Brodsley. “This quickly led us to a solution that was about telling their story in their own words and in an authentic way. Several storylines developed from this – the making of the wines; Josh and Carlo’s travels selling the wines; and the enjoyment of the wines by themselves, their friends and others.”

These three “storylines” were given a Millennial-friendly personality in the form of Twitter-like hashtags: #MakingTaken, #RoadTaken and #TakenOut, respectively.


A Heady Glass of Hashtag
Indeed, social media itself became key to reaching Taken Wine’s intended audience. While the website was responsively designed with large photos and videos optimized for smartphones and desktop computers, the company’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts became the biggest way it interacted with young wine lovers. The site was designed to feature their Twitter feed and latest Instagram photos and videos front and center.

“Leveraging the popularity of social-media channels helps make it easy for Taken to quickly keep the content on the site fresh and dynamic, as well as being able to easily spread the word in the most popular channels of their audience,” says Brodsley. “Trinchero Family Estates has a marketing team that handles most of the social-media strategy, but it was Volume that brought social-media content to the forefront of the website.”

In addition to the idea of using the aforementioned hashtags to arrange the stories, Volume came up with another video feature, #TakenTastings, which “gave them a way to quickly video people enjoying Taken Wines and to get the resulting testimonials out to the world.”

All in all, the delicate dance between the website and their social-media channels went pretty smoothly, he says. “Customizing some of the API feeds from Twitter and Instagram so they’d populate where we wanted them to on the website was a bit tricky. We also originally started using Vine videos, which were not ideal because they were so short. Just before launch, Instagram started their video service, which allowed for longer clips to be shot, so we had a bit of a scramble to make this upgrade at the last minute.”

Response to the site itself was gratifying. In the first six months there were more than 4,000 users, 72.8% of whom were unique. To date there have been nearly 20,000 page views.

Though Taken Wine came to Volume in part because the agency itself was not deeply entrenched in the wine world, Brodsley admits “we gained some expertise by imbibing often while working on this project. After all, could we really do the job if we didn’t sample the product?”


Author: Aaron Berman

A former writer and editor for USA Today, Aaron Berman is also the editor of PaperSpecs, and covered the newspaper industry for the Newspaper Association of America’s monthly magazine, Presstime.

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