Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Chanel By Any Other Name, Still Chanel?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the auberge of one of the great chefs of Japan. (Turns out there are some benefits to to family vacations besides the cramped quarters of the guest room!) I could regale you with the food, but seeing as you all weren't there I'm not sure you'd be that interested. After all, I'm the type of person that if I wasn't there to eat it - I could care less. I'm a bit self centered like that, but then again what blogger isn't?

What I do think you would all interested in is the fact that I was able to get my hands on a bottle of wine by Chanel. Well, not exactly. Chanel apparently owns a winery in France, and guess what? They had the bottle at Auberge Au Mirador a restaurant run by Chef Katsumata. This is a man who's cooking (according to my significant other) will ruin Paris for you. So, to say that the wine had to be up to snuff to even be considered as an offering by the restaurant is putting it mildly.

The wine was fantastic of course as I would not expect anything less. What was actually more interesting was the fact that the wine bottle itself neglected to mention its association with Chanel. In fact, it was the waiter that informed us that Chanel owned the winery.

Turns out the Wertheimer family that backed and continues to own Chanel bought the Chateau Rauzan Segla Winery in 1994. I guess this is why I always knew Chanel "owned" a winery. I'm not surprised that I never knew which, however, because as I said the label does not exactly scream Chanel. And yet after considering all the other wines this is one we chose because of the association with Chanel! What can I say? I'm blessed with indulgent hosts who were happy to let me have it as it would increase my fashionista street cred!

It is funny how far the reach of a brand can extend. Chanel is a fashion brand and yet I found myself influencing my culinary preferences. This is almost bizarre when you take into account that the brand as we know it today has way more to do with the reinvention of Coco Chanel's iconography by Karl Lagerfeld than it does the Wertheimer family's palette.

At the end of the day it was aspiration at work. Right now thanks to my monthly student loans I can't afford a Chanel bag or even be gifted one either. What I can have, however, is a bottle of wine associated with the brand. Textbook marketing/branding 101.

If it had been plastered with the double C though I don't think I would have been as interested. After all, I am somewhat of a wine snob and am not exactly a fan of nouveau riche predilections. This bottle of wine struck a unique balance that most co-branding opportunities fail to do: entice you with the branding association but sustain interest through quality in product as well as presentation.

Granted this move by Chanel in purchasing the winery was no more high fashion in concept than Jay Z or Diddy's foray into spirits game. Yet, Chanel was able to leverage this purchase into a unique branding opportunity. It piques consumer interest to hear that the wine is associated with Chanel and when it delivers it reinforces Chanel as arbiter of taste.

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