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Annals of Marketing
Rosemount Reaches the End of the Road
Monday, 15th June, 2015  - David Farmer

As believers search the desert for Lasseter's lost gold reef so it is that marketers at Treasury Wines study crystallography for the perfect diamond shape to revive the fortunes of the Rosemount brand.

A recent marketing meeting ended with the cry 'we have found it', the diamond which will have customers grabbing bottles from the shelves of supermarkets.

I have lost count of the number of Rosemount label changes and quite frankly the belief that a redesign of the same simple shape will work wonders is getting boring.

Perhaps Treasury must face the hard reality that the diamond no longer appeals, it's dead; the time of Neville Wran and his love of Rosemount Chardonnay, the fabulous support from the Wine Spectator and the talk back of John Laws is part of another era.

Rosemount was the revival of an historic upper Hunter Valley name, though the Hunter revival was cut short as following corporate manoeuvres, Rosemount was relocated to the historic Seaview winery in McLaren Vale which was renamed. It seems without a moment's thought you can do anything you like in the Australian wine business while back in the Hunter the unloved winery became an explosives depot.

I have become confused by all of the shuffling and wonder if the diamond shape now represents another head-stone to the monumental failings of the business egos that over three decades both built and then destroyed the symbolic heart of the wine industry.

Affixed to the new label shape is a round sticker; 'our new look is here', which signals nothing to consumers. Perhaps it should read 'hear our new look' which will be the stony silence of the marketers when they examine the next sales figures.

The Rosemount winemakers are no doubt stars and get a nod with a neck label which says '300+ Awards won in 2013 across the Rosemount Estate range', though this means little in the tough world of supermarkets and weary consumers who rate the brand around the level of Jacobs Creek.

I think a lot about marketing and what it tries to do. The idea is to alter perceptions which for a new winery means creating impressions that a desirable product is made. In this way the label slowly transforms into a brand. From this time every move will alter consumer perception and it does not flow all one way.

Thus the image so carefully built can reverse and of all of the companies which have walked tall over the Australian wine scape none have destroyed more brands than Treasury and its predecessors.

Do those who spend $1 billion to buy a company like Rosemount realise from the day they take over that every move has consequences. To pay for the acquisition, departments are merged, the game of favourites is played, costs are cut, people are given new titles or old titles are taken away; whatever the moves they will alter the brand perception a bit.

Small savings of a million here and a million there may seem important but can amount to little when measured against the purchase price.

For reasons that still puzzle me the Rosemount brand was mortally wounded back in the corporate games of the early 2000s and now looks like humpty-dumpty.

After decades observing corporate moves in the wine trade I have come to the view that what may work in operating a steel mill is harder to quantify in the wine business where a delicate touch is best, as the fragility of the brands which have cost so much to build can shrivel and die in a few seasons.

It is for this reason that the new wave of rationalisation at Treasury fills me with dread and I am not sure they have thought through the impact as several of the brands move daily, ever closer to the edge.

As the ex CEO of Coca-Cola, Terry Davis remarked: 'the wine business moves to a different beat', and the evidence suggests it does. Improving a steel business means applying rational business decisions but the wine business is about subjectivity and irrationality and brands have shapes like floating clouds while wineries have memories.

Rosemount Reaches the End of the Road

Monday, 15th June, 2015

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