Marketing 50

Two Buck Chuck

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Earlier in his career in marketing and public relations, Harvey Posert helped launched Robert Mondavi's $100 a bottle Opus One, creating a new superpremium wine segment. Now, Mr. Posert, 73, has built an even bigger franchise on the other end of the price spectrum-supervalue.

Working with Frank Franzia, who made his mark with wine in the box at Bronco Wine Co. in Celes, Calif., Mr. Posert has been the marketing hand behind the phenomenon of Two Buck Chuck. That's the well-known nickname for the $1.99 corked bottle of Charles Shaw, a brand of wine produced by Bronco and selling only at Trader Joe's. At this point, Two Buck Chuck, by some accounts, makes up 12% of all California in-state wine shipments, and numerous other retailers have developed low-priced competitors.

Mr. Posert kicked off a national media campaign once he learned that a Trader Joe's salesman in Orange County had dubbed a bottle of Charles Shaw wine "Two Buck Chuck," and Mr. Posert gave the story to the Los Angeles Times. Since then, the Memphis-born Mr. Posert, who learned the craft with Daniel Edelman of Edelman Public Relations and now runs HPPR, a wine PR consulting company in St. Helena, says the wine has become the subject of urban legend: One tale had it being sold cheaply because Southwest Airlines could no longer bring corkscrews on airplanes. Another legend had Charles Shaw as a wealthy businessman who was practically giving the wine away to teach America about viticulture. Another was a new take on an old joke about a woman selling it for near nothing to punish her ex-husband.

No matter. Mr. Posert says, "It's good for the industry because it's bringing people into wine." Not all vintners agree, however, and a recent study found that while 5% of Two Buck Chuck drinkers are new wine consumers, the rest are trading down from pricier bottles.

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