Why a DTC wine company started a branded podcast

Wine Access got a taste of the podcast world by running traditional ads before creating a show of its own.
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Wine Access Unfiltered

· 4 min read

What pairs nicely with a glass of wine? A podcast, if you ask Wine Access, a DTC wine retailer that recently kicked off the second season of its branded podcast Wine Access Unfiltered.

The pod, which the company started in October 2020, features sommelier Amanda McCrossin (who has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok combined) and Master of Wine Vanessa Conlin (who also has a dream job as Wine Access’s chief wine officer) discussing all things vino with celebrity guests like John Legend.

Why would an online wine company create a podcast, you might ask. Besides the fact that seemingly every brand is doing it, it’s also a brand-awareness play, CEO Joe Fisch explained.

“E-commerce is traditionally a really low-NPS experience,” Fisch said, referring to net promoter scores, which measure customer experience with brands. He said he’s pleased with Wine Access’s score, but that podcasting and media tend to rank higher than e-commerce companies, so combining the two ideally results in not only better brand awareness for Wine Access, but a positive association, too.

“It’s just another way in which the consumer can interact with the brand, and they walk away like, ‘This is amazing. I learned something about John Legend in this podcast, and about wine, and it was Wine Access that was bringing all of us together,’” Fisch told us.

Gateway drug

Many people are familiar with the ritual of tasting wine at a restaurant before fully committing to a bottle or a glass. In a sense, Wine Access did the same with podcasting.

Before Wine Access Unfiltered, the brand found success as early as 2017 with advertising on other pods like Wine for Normal People and The Prof G Pod with Scott Galloway, according to Fisch. Positive word-of-mouth reviews from friends and customers, as well as vanity URLs, showed Fisch that host-read ads were working.

“You’ve got the anecdotal story components to it, you would have the traffic coming in directly from the URL, and then we’d also have a lot of people end up writing in to customer service saying, ‘I heard this on X, Y, and Z podcast; I’d love to do a corporate gifting program for our company,’” he said. “You would continue to hear a lot of great feedback in all these different areas.”

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Once Wine Access Unfiltered debuted, Fisch said that listeners started submitting feedback saying they wanted to drink the wines the hosts were discussing along with them. As a result, Wine Access started a new wine club tied to the podcast in September, adding to an offering that already included a separate club.

Que syrah, syrah

Podcast listenership is also on the rise: During the first month of season two, which kicked off on Sept. 29, Wine Access Unfiltered saw 77% more downloads than the average month during season one, and 33% more downloads than the best month of season one, according to Fisch. Wine Access worked with a branded-podcast agency for the first season, and now partners with sommelier and podcaster Chappy Cottrell to produce it in-house.

Wine Access did not track performance of the pod in season one as much as it did its other growth marketing channels, according to Fisch, instead applying the same mentality it does when it comes to its podcast ads.

Vanity URLs were “really effective” in showing that podcast ads were working, Fisch said, but there have also been times when Wine Access would see a boost in web traffic, not necessarily just to one specific URL associated with one podcast in particular. When Wine Access was “spending heavier” on podcast ads, “we would see that sort of lift” to the website in general, he said.

Podcast ads and Wine Access Unfiltered only account for a minor portion of the brand’s marketing budget, “probably less than 5%,” Fisch said in an email.

When it comes to its branded podcast—which is “much, much cheaper,” in addition to being an entirely owned brand asset—as long as wine-club membership and downloads are growing as they have been, “we’re really, really happy with that,” Fisch said. McCrossin, the host of the show, promotes it to her followers, as do the guests, but growth other than that has been “mostly organic,” according to Fisch.

“It was always done with the intention of: This is about brand, this is about another form of education, this is another touchpoint for our customer that they can listen to us on their drive,” he told us. “We don’t really want them reading emails while they’re driving to work.”

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