Scribe Winery: The story behind the name

Telling a story is a lot easier when there's a story to tell.

Companies that sell the same things as others have to create a perception of difference, otherwise they're doomed. That's where branding comes in.

However, discovering -- or inventing -- a brand's point of difference isn't always obvious.

But sometimes you get lucky when there's not just a difference, but a relevant one.

I was lucky enough to name a winery that offered something special: A story.

Now dear reader, if you're really on the ball you'd call me on that. There's scads of wineries that have a story to tell, right?
Our winemaker comes from generations of....
Our vineyards are kissed by abundant north slope sunshine and a soft ocean breeze.... 
Our soil is a unique blend of Egyptian clay and 400-count gravel.... 
Our property is patrolled by Shep, the graying Labrador that raised our master winemaker and taught him all he knows...
The thing is, these winery narratives all sound pretty much the same (except maybe that last one about the Labrador). That's why I was tickled to name a winery which had a story remarkably different.

My client, Andrew Mariani, told me about the property he and his partners just bought on the border of Sonoma Valley and Carneros. As we drank wine in San Francisco's Dolores Park -- a great place for a project briefing -- he regaled me with property's colorful history:
This was the place where artificial insemination of turkeys was perfected. Before that milestone, turkeys could only breed the old-fashioned way. Turkey is now available just about everywhere thanks to this innovation.

There's a house on the property that was a speakeasy during prohibition. Rumor has it, this was also at times, a brothel.

Back in the day, a plane crashed on the property.
The winery's property is the setting for stories like these, whose importance and relevance isn't just limited to a storied place. Storytelling itself is important to people who can pay $60 retail for a bottle of Cab.

Those who are able to afford expensive wine have probably accumulated enough nice things that it's their experiences which set them apart. When you already have money, stories are the valuable currency that buy bragging rights.

Armed with the insight that this winery's property had real stories to tell, and that stories are important to their future customers, I recommended the strategy that this brand should be  defined by storytelling.

As part of my strategic and creative branding work for the winery, I offered them ideas of how they could bring storytelling to life. One idea was inspired by a local (San Francisco) Japanese restaurant whose restrooms have hidden loudspeakers quietly playing an audiobook of Japanese language instruction. I suggested the winery do the same, but with audiobooks of literature as the background "music".

Once the central brand idea of storytelling was agreed-upon, the naming creative work could begin. With such a focused and salient direction, the naming itself was, frankly, pretty easy. I scoured resources -- most online -- that listed terms from the worlds of literature, writing, and storytelling.

From my master list of names, I culled several dozen for preliminary trademark screening. As I recall, about 20 made it through and those were presented to my clients.

A handful were shortlisted and two names survived their full legal screening, one of which was Scribe. After spirited discussions, Scribe was adopted as the final name.

Scribe launched with an identity and website designed by the brilliant craftsmen of Nothing: Something: New York. I'm thrilled and thankful their design work is so faithful to the brand. And my God, it is exquisite:

The Scribe website is equally textured, redolent of an old book with weathered typography and vignetted images. The story of their property and its lineage of owners is presented as major and minor "Chapters". The brand reveals a playful side when small insects, such as those which presumably inhabit their soil, skitter across the page. They serve as a reminder that the property has brought forth life, not just to a brand, but to acres and acres of fruit that will, with time and craft, become their wine.

That's the story of Scribe. May their success live happily ever after.

UPDATE: June 2010

Scribe Winery pairs well with foodies. Here are a few recent articles:

Sonoma's Wildest Party (Food & Wine)
Carneros turkey farm returns to its winery roots (San Francisco Chronicle)
Lovely Package