The wine sellers moving out of the dark

By attaching wine to a broader and more youthful culture, Cake Wines has developed a brand strategy that looks way beyond the label.

There are few crafts as steeped in tradition as wine-making. As an industry it is a mix of art, science and commerce, constantly wrestling with each as it attempts to innovate and move the craft forward.

However, most innovation within the wine category takes place around the art and science, not so much within the commercial end.

An emerging Australian business is looking to change this. Aiming to fuse great wine with creative and cultural ideas and beliefs, Cake Wines has arrived with an approach that is different to what one would expect from the wine category.

According to founder Glen Cassidy, the idea came about almost by accident.

“Cake came about one night a few years ago, after a few bottles of wine (my business partner) Mike (Smith) and I walked into a bottle shop to get some re-supplies. We looked at the shelf and saw about 300 different ‘brands’ of wine that all reminded us of something our parents would buy. We love great wine, so do our friends, so it seemed strange that we were only given the choice to purchase brands that my dad drinks. It was one of those 'aha' moments. The rest is history as they say.”

Cassidy and Smith come with a background different to most wine producers: advertising. Glen was a communications strategist at Naked Communications in Sydney, where Mike was commercial manager. The two openly want to challenge perceptions of how wine is perceived, and since launching in 2011 have sought to change the context in which the brand plays.

This has involved everything from commissioning local contemporary artists such as Beci Orpin and Kill Pixie to design labels for the brand, to donating 10 per cent of proceeds from products sold going to community radio stations such as 3RRR in Melbourne and FBI Radio in Sydney. The founders' love of art, music, design and culture has meant that the brand seeks to place wine in a broader context than just the product.

For Cassidy, this approach is common sense rather than novelty. “Taking a more customer-centric approach to building a brand/business is not a new thing. It is, to a degree, in the wine industry, though, which has been hugely surprising to us.”

This approach has culminated in a series of pop-up events previously in Sydney’s Surry Hills district, as well as at Tropfest; and presently sees the brand running a four-week pop-up event in Melbourne’s Collingwood area. The Melbourne event over three weeks has more than 20 events – from DJs to live bands, seminars, movie screenings, wine tasting, food and even yoga. These events are free but punters are required to RSVP – with some sessions already at capacity.

The role of the brand here is one of curation, not domination – and it and is a million miles removed from the rest of the category in terms of ambition and execution. It’s one that reflects the ever-changing nature of marketing and connecting with consumers.

“The pop-ups are a natural extension of everything Cake is about. It’s simple – come down, try our wines, and experience Cake in an interesting cultural setting. From music, art, talks, film, food nights ... all things that to us seem like a natural fit for enjoying great wine.”

Cassidy is buoyed by the success of the first week of the Melbourne series. “The Melbourne pop-up bar has been great and easily our most diverse. From some of Melbourne's best musicians and DJ’s to classes on ‘How to have better conversations’ to sold out film screenings.”

The success of the brand, especially across social media and 'influencer media', begs the questions of Cake’s wider ambitions. For Cassidy, he wants to keep things focused for the time being.

“We love wine, we’ve met so many people in the industry who are bursting with passion, so we love being part of that.”

Ben Shepherd is a media and technology consultant. He can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Cake Wines' pop-up bar is operating from August 8-31 at 83 Kerr Street, Fitzroy. For more info visit http://www.cakewines.com