Turning Australian Shiraz into French Champagne

As the EU pushes to protect its most famous — and delicious — exports, it got our brand champions talking about the potential fallout for organisations whose brand equity is closely attached to its product. It also made us think … what Australian exports carry strong brand equity overseas?

But first, what is brand equity? And why does it matter in the context of what appears to be a largely political conversation?

By definition, brand equity is the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of the brand name of a particular product or service, rather than the product or service itself.

It matters because brand equity brings with it greater profits, premium prices and a significant competitive advantage, the sum of which has been measured since 1988 when Interbrand pioneered its brand valuation methodology, now recognised as the global benchmark evaluation tool.

A strong brand with strong brand equity has been proven to influence customer choice, create loyalty and lower the cost of growing the brand in new directions.

In the context of the export debate, we would argue (and EU officials would agree) that brand equity can extend beyond the brand name to the product or service, and in some cases expand to an entire product category.

Not to make you thirsty, but champagne is the perfect example.

Champagne carries with it a certain prestige. Unless you move in circles with the rich and famous or party with pop stars, it is something savoured for special occasions. Landed a new job? Crack the champagne. Just married? Break out the bubbly. Made it to your 50-year anniversary? Pull out those crystal champagne flutes you probably have not used in 50 years.

Champagne is associated with joy, happiness and a sophisticated palette. It says just as much about the individual as the brand that produces the bottle. And the brands behind the bubbles are benefiting — the brand equity attached to champagne is then extended to our favourite drops.

So can we say the same about any of our own all-Australian exports?

For the sake of comparing apples with apples, let’s stick to the alcoholic beverage category. There is no doubt Australia produces a fantastic drop, but do any of our wines carry the same brand equity as champagne?

Let’s look at Sauvignon Blanc. It is certainly the most popular in the Australian market, but does an Australian Sauvignon Blanc carry the same brand equity as one from our New Zealand neighbours? An informal poll of the Rowland office indicates that a Sav Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand is perceived to deliver the goods over a homegrown option — regardless of the brand behind it.

Australian Shiraz is probably the closest product we have to a French champagne, in terms of brand equity. While an Australian Shiraz is not usually something to bust out during a celebration, it is renowned to be among the world’s best as it is packed with flavour, full-bodied and great value. Very ‘on-brand’ as far as an Australian product goes.

So while we might not be in a position to compete with French champagne, we can understand why the EU is getting a bit precious about its most recognised exports. The associated brand equity is priceless, but worth fighting for. We’ll drink to that!