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I like to talk about wine, but I’d rather drink it

Unlike many younger Baby Boomers who were introduced to wine with Carlo Rossi Burgundy or Paisano red in the late 70s and early 80s, just prior to the wine cooler movement, I was a bit too young for that era and instead weaned myself on Gallo varietal wines that were a part of their premiumization movement in the 90s; Hello Anapamu Pinot Noir, how I used to love thee.  My wine introduction via Gallo notwithstanding, it seems my generational timing is bad in more ways than one. 

Gen. X being a sandwich generation in between Boomers and Gen. Y means that not only did I miss Carlo Rossi the first time, but I’m missing it a second time as Gallo, the Carlo Rossi parent company, continues to try to rekindle the jug wine with a younger audience – a segment I am sadly no longer a member of despite the repeated playing of Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” in my mind.

Overall, it’s a bummer when you can’t even be a party to nostalgia.


In 2006, I wrote about Carlo Rossi’s attempt at hitting the urban hipster scene when they rolled out their do-it-yourself campaign called, “Jug Simple.” The campaign tried to instill some fun by promoting the re-use of the empty 4-liter wine jugs into something functional like a desk lamp or a loud speaker housing.  By all accounts, the campaign executed by Seattle agency Cole & Weber was a rousing success and won a Gold Effie award (the advertising equivalent of an Emmy) for boosting mindshare, sales and market share.

Now, Gallo is back again, in a continuing quest to appear more vital, with a revamped web site and a new promotion that launched on October 1st looking for the leader of the, “Carlo Rossi Posse.”

The premise is simple:  Carlo Rossi was a simple, homespun, down to earth man who was a leader.  Using an almost too clever headline for their press release –“Carlo Rossi is ‘4 Liters’—Not Followers,” they are running a promotional giveaway of $10K to the person that best exemplifies the Rossi spirit.  The prize money is intended to outfit a den or a living room for the winner to entertain friends.


From the press release:

Carlo Rossi was a simple, practical man who loved drinking good, honest wine with friends. He was also famous for saying, “I like to talk about wine, but I’d rather drink it!” In keeping with the long-standing tradition of paying tribute to the man behind it all, the Carlo Rossi Posse Contest will recognize an individual who embodies Carlo’s spirit. And what better way to celebrate his laid-back philosophy than by having the chance to create the ultimate entertaining spot for you and your friends to enjoy?

I reached out to the public relations folks that represent Gallo to get a couple of questions answered, but the PR team isn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the brand, which is mighty peculiar, and Gallo didn’t respond by the time I posted this (in fact I don’t expect them to respond at all given that I asked questions about strategy and they only seem to do unidirectional communication).  Given that, I’m not sure if Cole & Weber is doing this campaign, but credit to whoever does their advertising because they’re going about the “Carlo Rossi Posse” work without a hint of pandering irony, which marks too much advertising these days.

It also seems the Gallo folks are heading off the quality issue at the pass, as well.  Entered into a number of wine competitions over the last year, the wines have showed serviceably with a number of bronze and silver medals.  Not too bad when you consider the price point.

As a student of wine marketing and advertising, what I like about this campaign is the attempt at being relevant through nostalgia.  Since the campaign targets 21 – 29 years olds, nobody in that age bracket actually remembers or was alive for the original airing of the Carlo Rossi commercials in the late 70s and early 80s, so dusting these old chestnuts off and making them available on the web site seems like a good idea, particularly because namesake Charles Rossi is an affable, likable sort in the vintage commercials – kind of like your Uncle who used to tell dirty jokes at Thanksgiving, but completely get away it, something we can all identify with.

Similar to what Canadian Club is doing with their advertising (playing on lifestyle and the fact that Gen. Y is very family-oriented) the notion of propping up and mythologizing Rossi seems like an idea that should resonate.

Still the campaign isn’t without problems.  There are far too many promotions going on online and their usefulness is diminishing.  If I were unemployed I could fill my days entering contests.  The $10K prize money seems like a pittance after taxes—barely affording a nice big screen TV and leather couch let alone the “ultimate entertainment spot.” And, perhaps, most egregiously, the Rossi commercials aren’t on YouTube, just the web site. And, the web site is a stand-alone, not integrating with the Facebook fan page.  Yet, something endears me to this campaign.  I like advertising and marketing and I like to see the wine industry do different things that break out of the, “look at my quality” and the aspirational “wine lifestyle” schlock that passes itself off as effective.

Regardless of what you think about jug wine, the quality thereof, and Gallo, the fact that they try new and different things, targeted at different audiences, is a step above and beyond 98% of the rest of the industry and that alone should be commended.


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (7) |


On 10/09, Dylan wrote:

It reminds me of the approach taken by Old Spice—the way they returned to their roots with the branding and reinvigorated it with the concept of “Swagger.” My dad connected with the new commercials nostalgically, while I just enjoyed them for the first time.

On 10/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

while you were researching this, did you ask them what they meant by “good, honest wine”
What the heck does that mean anyway?  How about just “good” wine? - Which it is not.
However, thanks for a fun and interesting piece.

On 10/12, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

carlo doesn’t like to talk so much about his wines because they aren’t 100% wine. and if they wanted to be innovative, they should attach a bag of aspirin to the neck of every jug. carlo consumers would appreciate the convenience.

On 10/12, ChrisO wrote:


Nice post! I remember my grandmother kept a big jug of the Carlo Rossi in the fridge and would have a nip every day at 4pm.  Kind of makes her one of the original Rossi Posse! Perhaps if I won the contest (even though I will not enter) I could use the winnings to buy a time machine, travel back in time and redo her living room and still have enough money to get my Rossi drink on!

What a big social media FAIL on their part not be be where their target market lives (youtube, facebook, twitter).

Look forward to your next post!



On 10/12, grapemaster wrote:

attached is my ’ i’m so carlo rossi’ picture. forgive the blurriness, i was shaking and cold under that bridge. and i’m not promoting Amana, that’s just the box i’m living in.

On 10/15, ConstanceC wrote:

I have to admit this post made me chuckle (yes I said chuckle.) I suppose I may be a bit too young to be nostalgic of Carlo (as my nostalgia is from about three years ago when I was 20…)but this article was very entertaining. As an educated wine marketer and wine ambassador of the Y Generation, I’m not sure that Carlo’s target market of 21-29 is realistic. Perhaps those still in college, who haven’t taken a wine class, were never exposed to wine at home and are buying solely on quantity will be thrilled by being a member of the “Carlo Posse,” enticing. However, I believe once millennials become young professionals and actually start going out to real bars (where beers are more than $1 all night, every night)they start to discover “Value wine” does not mean cheap wine that doesn’t really matter what it tastes like… instead, millennials are now looking for “Value wine” and buying based on taste AND price… Carlo just can’t compete..

On 09/28, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Hola, Carlo I just w 2 say gracias, 4 make buen wine.


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