With much to do and little time, the wine industry creates an ideal environment for the ‘Jack of all trades’ to shine. While many claim to embody this archetype, few have truly mastered the art of wearing as many hats as possible within a day’s work. Kieron Lomax falls into the latter category. Wearing his passion for wine and the Barossa Valley on his sleeve, Kieron exudes creativity with a subtle punk rock flair as Direct Sales and Marketing Manager at Greenock Creek Wines. Sales and Marketing in his case directly translating to: pretty much everything but making the wine.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t his time studying politics and language that led him to working with wine, but his side hustle designing posters for underground bands in Adelaide (including his own). This quickly escalated into making menus for top restaurants, and eventually creating some of First Drop Wine’s most ambitious and innovative packaging designs. Ever heard of Shiraz in a milk bottle? Kieron did that. On top of branding and design his knowledge on all aspects of industry is vast, from export and DtC through to the cellar door and events. So let’s dive in to find out more about Kieron, and have a peek into the world of wine through his eyes.
The Story So Far
What first got you interested in the wine industry, and how did you end up as the Direct Sales and Marketing Manager at the renowned Greenock Creek Wines?
I took a rather convoluted route to my current position! Although I studied politics and language at university, with a view to the diplomatic corp, an ongoing interest (and a lot of freelance work) in Graphic Design led me to sales roles in the manufacturing, print and signage industries. A chance name-drop from a restaurant client to a couple of ultra-progressive and design obsessed winery owners led, eventually, to a full time gig as in-house designer and marketer for the legendary First Drop Wines in Nuriootpa. After 6 years of pure and unadulterated design madness in cahoots with FD winemaker Matt Gant (retro milk bottles, waterjet metal labels, 1980s limousines and much more) a role with the iconic Greenock Creek presented itself.
The chance to work with a brand that enshrines the modern history of Barossa, and was the template for a style and approach that defined the region for nearly a decade is not something to be taken lightly!
“I like taking photos of vines, buildings and people doing things to grapes. This one of Mick & Alex cleaning out the basket press earlier this year is a recent favorite.” – Kieron
Talk to us a bit about your graphic design experience, how important is the role of design in the wine industry?
After many years of creating band posters for my own bands and underground Adelaide venues, I started taking my freelance work seriously when working with a book binder, creating menu covers for brilliant Adelaide venues like Sosta and for the ultra creative Merivale group in Sydney. The opportunity to collaborate, to share ideas and to bring concepts together that confound and amaze is truly satisfying.
When it comes to the wine industry, the correlation between design, wine style, pricing and prestige has evolved over the last 15-20 years. Labels are more vibrant and engaging than ever before and we’re seeing the integration of technology which brings more scope for story-telling and entertainment for the consumer, and a way to follow our bottles around the world.
Being able to express a sense of place and origin with a small piece of adhesive paper is quite incredible. You can be divisive, inclusive and creative, just don’t be boring!!
What do you think gets consumers excited about a wine brand, and how have you seen this through working with First Drop and Greenock Creek Wines?
Although the most important thing is the wine itself, and no great label will ever compensate for an awful wine, branding and image has always been key to engagement. One of my favourite labels (aside from Greenock Creek and those I’ve made myself) is that of Wendouree. The graphic has been through the wringer and they print on the cheapest possible stock (not to mention saving more $ by leaving off the back label!) but that design creates a sense of anticipation, desire and need like nothing else.
Which wineries (from anywhere) do you think are killing it when it comes to engaging with consumers beyond the cellar door- what are they doing?
Looking at people doing a great job of being visual, engaged, active and energetic, it’s hard to go past Brendan and the team at Unico Zelo. They’ve created an online and offline community which is complete with TV station, nightclub, every beverage option under the sun and a packaging aesthetic that screams currency and vibrancy.
From a quieter “if you know, you know” perspective, Brendon and Kirstyn Keys (BK Wines) are creating a community built on the traditional pillars of skateboarding, great art, travel and music. It’s a welcoming and familiar vibe that draws people in and rewards with clever winemaking and a sense of fun.
When we asked Kieron asked if he had a winery dog… “This is Pablo with the legendary Katie Spain, he’s an 11 month old Chihuahua and speaks fluent Spanish. Although he would join me at the winery when he was very small, he’s too fast and ill-behaved these days!”
What do you think wineries should be doing to connect with the market?
This feels obvious, but it’s really just about communication and community. As a product, wine is a great way of life and aligns beautifully with arts, creativity, philosophy and camaraderie. Sharing your wares with the world, then seeking out those who it resonates with and getting to know them is good for everyone. Be a friend and comrade to your “market” and take the time to talk to them.
In what ways do you feel it is challenging for brands to engage the market?
With everyone having the same access to technology, and so many zero cost channels to build engagement across, it’s generally a skills and confidence deficit that causes most barriers. The task of creating new content and engaging material on a regular basis is very, very hard and needs consistency. The fact that everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to equipment shows that the main point of difference is creativity and time.
Why do you think the Barossa wine community places so much value on a wines “provenance”, and why is it important to be able to communicate this effectively?
As a general rule, wines are based on the reputation of the place from which they come, and the people who have made them. Considering Barossa can show direct lineage to some of the oldest, continuously producing plantings in the world, often farmed by the direct descendants of those who planted them nearly two centuries ago, is a point of difference from every legendary wine region in the world. The sheer length of experience and expertise developed over this time puts Barossa ahead of the wider winemaking industry in many ways. Although there are many exceptions, Barossa is not necessarily seen as an innovator of variety, style or experimentation, but is respected for consistency, quality and reliability. Showing provenance for Barossa wines shows the importance of the history and experience developed over such a long time.
What impact does the supply chain have on a brand from the perspective of your role, and what impact would complete visibility over distribution have on the industry as a whole?
Being a very small business, I get to manage both sales and marketing in a very true sense and enjoy a great relationship with our customers across the world, so supply chain, provenance and tracking are all a really important part of making the customer experience as clear and effective as possible. Having an opportunity to watch the movement of wines on a bottle-by-bottle, customer-by-customer basis with a platform like Cellr is a remarkable opportunity
“This pic was taken [of me] by the legendary Dragan Radocaj at a recent Grenache tasting, a big afternoon with a lot of great Barossa wines. I was definitely suffering some sort of palate fatigue at this point and probably needed short lie down…” – Kieron
How do you approach brand messaging, and ensure it is consistent across distribution and retail? Is this challenging?
Maintaining consistency of brand across multiple channels is incredibly challenging and can be hugely frustrating. Greenock Creek is a brand surrounded by myth and legend which often results in some flights of fancy and apocryphal stories around vineyards and wines. I’ve found that the truth, in most cases, is much stranger and far more interesting than fiction so keeping trade and media in the realm of reality and focused on why Greenock Creek has stayed the course is much like herding cats. We’re not a brand that is particularly vocal about who we are and what we do, so having channels to tell the stories in a consistent and efficient fashion is essential.
Finish this sentence: Life is like a…
… case of wine, because patience and dedication will always be rewarded (too cheesy?)