Earlier this year, the company long known as Clover Stornetta rebranded itself to Clover Sonoma, honoring the dairy’s deep Sonoma County roots. The name change was part of a comprehensive rebranding campaign that included becoming the first major U.S. dairy to sell non-GMO conventional milk. But the addition of the word “Sonoma” was specifically influenced by interviews with hundreds of consumers across California, particularly in Southern California, who reminded the company of its strongest branding attributes: quality, family heritage and California-made.
“We have time-honored heritage in Sonoma country, and so we wanted to respect that, as well as take advantage of the fact that Sonoma is so well known for artisanal craft. The craft of dairy has been a huge part of the community for hundreds of years; many dairy families are in the fourth and fifth generation. This is an iconic place of dairy,” said Kristel Corson, Clover’s director of marketing.
As the brand looks to Southern California for market expansion, it’s building off Sonoma’s mythology: It’s authentic, ecologically concerned, casual but a little luxurious, and unabashedly artisanal and craft-driven when it comes to food.
For a company like Clover Sonoma, place-ingredient branding is clearly worth something—but how much, and how far does that geographic equity go?
Not surprisingly, much of Sonoma’s brand cachet comes from the sum of its parts. The county includes more than 50 miles of Pacific coastline, three rivers, forests, lakes, beaches, hot springs, mountains and over 50 state and regional parks. There are more than 100 organic farms and over 425 wineries. Looking at the wine industry alone, Sonoma County has 17 American Viticultural Areas (designated wine-grape-growing regions in the United States distinguishable by geographic features) and more than 60 grape varieties are planted here. There’s deep roots in agriculture, and particularly in practicing methods that are good for the environment, animals and consumers. According to industry groups, building on that combined legacy works for driving tourism, for increasing local consumption and, sometimes, for drawing consumers in from external markets.
Sonoma has been a tourist attraction for well over 125 years, but it was just over 10 years ago that a countywide tourism campaign was launched. “A big change, and the reason for a lot of our recent success, came when the entire county came together to promote the region as a single entity, rather than just as our smaller constituent parts,” said Tim Zahner, Interim CEO and chief marketing officer for Sonoma County Tourism.
The hospitality community worked with the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and founded what is now Sonoma County Tourism, dedicated to increasing overnight stays in Sonoma County and promoting the entire region, from the vineyards and farms in eastern Sonoma County to the redwoods and the Russian River and out to the beaches and villages of the coast.
“By pooling our resources and representing the entire county we were able to get our message out to a larger audience and enjoy economies of scale,” Zahner further explained. The agency teamed up with Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers to share resources and launch a concerted branding effort, including the current Sonoma County brand and brandmark.
Through the collective efforts of those two wine-focused organizations, as of January 2014, “Conjunctive Labeling” is a legal requirement for all wine produced from grapes grown in Sonoma County. This means that the words “Sonoma County” must appear on the label, in addition to the specific AVA like Russian River Valley or Bennett Valley. According to the Sonoma County Vintners’ website, the intent of the labeling is to “Build brand equity for Sonoma County wines and preserve and strengthen Sonoma County’s position as a recognized world-class wine region; increases sales of wines produced from Sonoma County grapes; and increase recognition for every AVA within Sonoma County, both well-known and less familiar, and ensure that consumers understand where they are.”
Other agricultural and local business groups have also been organizing to leverage the Sonoma brand to connect with consumers.
Go Local Sonoma, a marketing cooperative that encourages consumers to buy local, was founded in 2009 and has since launched a Made Local magazine, its own electronic currency (Go Local Bucks) and a Go Local Rewards card.
But Terry Garrett, co-managing member of Go Local Sonoma, says that while the numbers demonstrate that local consumers want to buy from Sonoma businesses, that might not be the case for consumers outside of the area. “65% of consumers report that they are buying more from local businesses than they were five years ago. That’s the domestic market, and that survey says this is our home, this is our place, so we buy these items because we understand the economic multipliers,” he said. “But I don’t know and I can’t really say if that matters outside of here.”
Garrett says that for certain companies, where place is significant in some constitution of the product, a Sonomamade label carries weight—dairy or wine products, for example.
Garrett thought the name change was a good move for Clover Sonoma, positioning them well against large dairy companies by incorporating a sense of place, and the company will score big points at home. As for it furthering a trend? “I don’t think you can apply that willy-nilly to any other product,” he said.
To check out how flying the Sonoma flag works for a newly rooted Sonoma industry, I visited Sonoma County Distilling Co. Appropriately, the distillery’s fermenting tank is a repurposed dairy tank. Its top is open, allowing the unique flavors of Sonoma to penetrate the spirits: barnyards, which create a hotbed for yeast, and salt from the Pacific ocean, being two examples.
But it wasn’t just the airoir that drew Adam Spiegel, owner and head distiller, to plant his company in Rohnert Park seven years ago. There was more flexibility with permitting for open-fire distilling in the county, and as a San Francisco native who spent weekends in Sonoma, he understood that the Sonoma brand carried some panache. “When I go overseas, people love Sonoma. We wanted to develop a brand that had localism to it, and that is also authentic,” he said. “Sonoma has a blue collar history of actually being a place where things are made.”
The brand tries to embody the spirit of Sonoma in their production—a local company smokes their malted barley, organic waste goes to local farmers, the distillery is 100% wind powered and the grains they use are organic and sourced from California as much as possible.
“People know Sonoma as an artisan agricultural place. People know that there are smaller entities here, denoting quality, authenticity and attention to detail. So how can we align our messaging to reflect the best of the county?” muses Tanya Seibold, marketing and PR manager at Sonoma County Distilling Co. “We want to be a shining star of what Sonoma County can be, and we just happen to be doing it in whiskey.”
What the success of companies like Sonoma County Distilling Co. and Clover might illustrate is that leveraging the Sonoma brand in conjunction with upholding many of Sonoma’s dearest values—attention to quality, craft and responsibility—puts even more power behind a name.
Thank you to Edible Marin & Wine Country for permission to repost this article!
Did you know today is World Environment Day? Recognized globally, June 5 is a chance for all of us to show the world our love and support of the natural environment on which we depend.
This worldwide day reminds us that the most profound environmentalism is always local first and foremost. That’s why, in honor of World Environment Day, we’re providing the following list of 30 Things You Can Do to Keep Sonoma Valley Healthy.
May every day in Sonoma Valley be one for the environment!
Taking place in the heart of Northern California's Wine Country and featuring more than 90 hand-selected films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, and short films. The Festival is dedicated to promoting independent film, supporting filmmakers around the world and inspiring film lovers.
A unique 5-day event that offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners. Renowned filmmakers, industry leaders and celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, and the beloved Robin Williams have walked the festival red carpet and enjoyed its intimate ambiance. And every year this amazing festival develops a deeper connection to environmental films and filmmakers.
One of the favorite films this year was titled "Straws" because these days it's almost impossible to go to a beach, lake or waterfront and not find a plastic, discarded, straw. They float. Mid-ocean gyres are a maze of them and it's time to put an end to it. The film neatly sums up the issue and ended by suggesting biodegradable alternatives. We can make a sea of change, one plastic straw at a time.
Located in California (USA), the Sonoma County Sustainable Tourism Observatory is the latest member having successfully joined the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO). This comes in a very unique momentum as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is being celebrated worldwide.
UNWTO has welcomed the incorporation of the Sustainable Tourism Observatory of the Sonoma County, in California, to the International Network of Tourism Observatories (INSTO). The observatory is the first of its kind under the umbrella of the Coalition to Observe and Advance Sustainable Tourism (COAST), aiming to serve as an anchor for a possible network of Pacific Coast observatories, connecting key tourism destinations along the Pacific Coast of North America, stretching from San Francisco and the Channel Islands in the south to Vancouver and Victoria BC in the north.
“We highly welcome the incorporation of the Tourism Observatory of the Sonoma County as a new member of the Network and we are sure that it will help us to achieve the mission of this platform throughout 2017 and beyond,” said UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai.
The Observatory of the Sonoma County is strategically based 45 minutes North of the Golden Gate Bridge and the metropolitan areas of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Due to its proximity to major innovation hubs and its abundant variety of culinary and scenic attractions, the area attracts millions of visitors every year.
The new member will focus on areas such as the scarcity of water, the impacts of agricultural-tourism growth in a complex and sensitive environment, climate change responsiveness and resilience, the viable regeneration of essential public places such as state parks, employment and local living opportunities, among others.
The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development prominently features the need for evidence-driven development of tourism that is based on participatory, inclusive and timely monitoring exercises.
"We're honored to be included in the roster of INSTO Observatories. It is our aim to share the best practices which have been developed over the past 40+ years of conservation awareness in Sonoma County, which help drive the flourishing tourism industry here. Thanks to our premier position as a wine destination we have much to document but also much to learn," said Pamela Lanier, Founder of COAST and Chair of the Sonoma Sustainable Tourism Observatory
”We are delighted that Sonoma County Observatory has been approved by the UNWTO and will join the Blue Community Observatory in Florida in the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories. These institutions are expected to play an important role in adding to the global body of knowledge in sustainable tourism,” commented Isabel Hill, Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
About the UNWTO Network of Observatories
About the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
UNWTO Media Officer Rut Gomez Sobrino
Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60 / email@example.com
UNWTO Communications & Publications Programme
Tel: (+34) 91 567 8100 / Fax: +34 91 567 8218 / comm@UNWTO.org