Growing up on Waiheke Island, Brooke Robinson had an early exposure to New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry.
After leaving school, Brooke enjoyed cellar door work stints at Mudbrick, Stonyridge, Te Motu and Peninsula Estate, but she wanted further skills to expand her winery role into marketing.
She was also very interested in the whole process of making wine, so EIT Hawke’s Bay’s Diploma in Wine Marketing really appealed.
“I thought with all the wineries in Hawke’s Bay, getting a cellar door job while I studied shouldn’t be too hard, so I packed up and moved down there to study.”
The then 20-year-old loved that the programme was hands on, so that students got to make their own wines.
“I think far too many sales people in the industry are not educated in wine and it lowers the standard and the perception of the industry. Wine is a specialised product to sell, and to be able to speak confidently about it is very important if we are to maintain the integrity of the product.”
Brooke says her classmates were an interesting mix. They included a few internationals as well as older students changing careers.
EIT had a nice relaxing campus, with a good friendly vibe. To support herself, she also worked at Vidal Estate’s cellar door in Hastings.
Having completed the one-year diploma at the end of 2007, Brooke found there were plenty of work opportunities for Diploma in Wine Marketing graduates.
The level of education provided by the course was a good starting point, and having a diploma instilled self confidence and gave graduates a head start on other applicants.
After finishing her studies, Brooke accepted a position wine waiting at Te Whau – a winery that prides itself on an excellent international wine list.
“I was really keen at that stage to carry on with my own personal education of international wines.”
Her next move was back to Mudbrick, managing wine sales as well as working in the cellar door, and from there to managing a Glengarry store. In April this year, she returned to Mudbrick, marketing the restaurant and the company’s wines.
Brooke finds the wine industry fun and friendly. She loves wine, but wasn’t tempted by a career in winemaking.
“I’m very much a people person, and I get a great deal of enjoyment helping others understand why wine is so special. The job is very diverse and especially working for a small winery, my role continues to grow and diversify.”
Just selling wine doesn’t cut it, as far as Brooke is concerned.
“People need to believe in the brand, especially if it’s a premium one. New Zealand wines international ly and certainly in the UK market are aiming for the higher price bracket, because we simply cannot compete in the bulk cheap wine market alongside the likes of Chile and Australia.
“We have to be able to build strength and credibility into our brands to support that premium image. As well as having a great product, we need to establish stories, to get into people’s hearts and minds and really create something they feel is worth the premium price – and that’s where the marketing comes in.”
Brooke says there are many ways of doing that, and with the marketing environment constantly changing, it’s a job that keeps her on her toes.
“It’s not just about paying to advertise. Marketing can involve all sorts of things, especially in a world where we are bombarded with ads. People are becoming numb to them, and we need to keep thinking of new creative ways to capture their attention and imagination.”
Mudbrick has been great in allowing her to develop her role, she says. Recently that has included the launch of a premium wine and sending off the company’s first export order.
“It has been great to learn on the job,” Brooke enthuses.