SmartCEO: Kristina on creating new markets for the brand

Today is Day 4 of our series sharing President and CEO Kristina Bouweiri’s thoughts on Brand-Driven Leadership as part of a panel at  the 2011 SmartCEO G3 conference.

In today’s installment,  Kristina answers how she has created new opportunities to apply the company’s brand experience to new audiences, in particular helping Loudoun County and Northern Virginia develop a wine tourism program:

I am definitely a wine snob, or I used to be. About 10 years ago, after 9/11, someone said well why don’t you do wine tours of Virginia and I said there’s no way I’m drinking Virginia wine. And then my mom actually had a birthday at a winery, I tried the wine and it was fantastic. So I thought maybe we could make a business out of this. I went with two friends to wine country and we had a list of nine wineries we were going to go to and we made a pact, we’re not going to drink any of the wine, this is going to be all business. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to make sure all the buses will fit in the parking lot because we have over 100 buses, we only have seven limos. I’m not worried about making the limousines busy on the weekends, they’re doing weddings and all sorts of things, but I wanted my buses to be busy on the weekends.

So I had to personally inspect each winery to make sure the bus could fit into the parking lot—and I see a lot of my customers out there by the way. So we went out on this journey to visit the nine wineries, we had appointments with the owners, we were going to be asking them for discounts, trying to make this wine tour thing work. Unfortunately, we got horribly lost. This was 10 years ago, cell phones were not working out there very well, most of the wineries were not in my GPS and we tried all the wine and we had a fantastic day.

From that experience we created the Virginia wine tours, so today in 2011 we have about 20 buses in wine country every Saturday and every Sunday. You can either go with your own group and hire a vehicle or you can jump on what we call our public wine tour. And that is, we are trying to tap into all those people in DC who don’t have cars — we’ll pick you up at the subway and take you out to wine country. You’ll go to two wineries, there’s an optional picnic lunch, and then we bring you home.

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