An industry-wide branding initiative for Michigan wine is in the works after the Michigan Wine Collaborative recently earned a $125,000 specialty crop block grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We decided that we needed to have a brand, an identity, that rivals other reputable regions and to fight the stigma of ‘Michigan just makes sweet white wine, and that’s it,’” says Brian Lillie, the Collaborative’s Marketing and Communications Committee chair, who spearheaded the grant application process.
The goal of the grant and the branding initiative is to sustain and boost Michigan grape sales. The way to do that? Promote Michigan wine itself.
“Encouraging the public to support Michigan wine through bottle sales will … have a trickle-down effect that supports our farmer[s],” Lillie says, “because the higher demand for Michigan wine, the higher demand for Michigan grapes.”
For the next year and a half, the Collaborative will be evaluating grape sales in the state as a baseline against which to measure sales after the launch of the brand.
“If we do things right, then we will counteract the effects that these small businesses had based on COVID,” Lillie says. “Many of these small businesses have been largely impacted — whether it’s the farmer, whether it’s the tasting room, whether it’s the manufacturer — in several ways.”
In the meantime, the Collaborative will partner with a marketing agency to create the brand. The actual elements of the brand and the methods for promoting it have yet to be determined, but the idea is to create a strong and unified image for Michigan wine and to educate consumers on its quality.
So, before the Collaborative can launch any sort of marketing campaign, it will have to nail down the identity of the Michigan wine industry.
“When you have over 170 different wineries in the state, everybody has their own opinion of who we are,” Lillie says. “We need to find a commonality between all of them to tell the world who the Michigan wine industry is.”
The Collaborative will be announcing its partnership with an agency soon. Keep an eye on the group’s website and social media for announcements.