He's produced one of the fastest growing brands in the wine business, the Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi label. Second-quarter wine shipments for 1996 were up 30% from the same quarter the previous year.
The formula: Mr. Johnson, 45, eschewed the traditional approach of marketing to what he calls "the same group over and over"-the usual industry channels such as trade advertising to hotels, restaurants and high-profile wine writers.
"Wine advertising hasn't been consumer focused," says Mr. Johnson, adding that only E.&J. Gallo Winery undertook mass-market branding to change consumer perceptions of its brand.
Mr. Johnson launched the winery's first national print campaign, a $2 million effort in magazines such as Architectural Digest, The New Yorker, and Smithsonian, from the winery's shop Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco, which used sophisticated images such as sheet music surrounding an antique wine bottle.
The remainder of his annual $10 million budget is spent on direct marketing and PR, and includes innovations on the Internet, such as an ad that pops up on the Epicurious Web site whenever certain foods are searched.