Trial by fire | From ‘failure’ to success, a case study of wine in China

By Jim Boyce | This isn’t the first and won’t be the last time I post about CHEERS given how fast the company is growing and influencing the way wine is sold in China. The following piece is by CEO Claudia Masueger on the virtues of patience and perseverance.

My favorite part is when Maseuger talks of how the trade initially mocked CHEERS. It’s true, CHEERS’ tends to offer low prices by China standards, as little as rmb28 per bottle, but its customers are nevertheless choosing wine over beer or baijiu, often upgrade to better bottles, and absorb wine knowledge due to the company’s non-stop videos. All of this is good for a market that has seen a big shift toward regular consumers since the government’s austerity campaign was launched more than three years ago.

Anyway, you can read Masueger’s comments below and more about CHEERS here, here and here.

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Claudia Masueger | Rising from the Ashes: Learning from ‘Failure’

“There is a Chinese saying that, ‘There can be no life on this planet without the life-giving of the sun, and there can be no good Feng Shui energy in any space without the bright, bold and happy energy of the Fire element.’

“I am not too sure if it was a blessing in disguise, but in 2010, the warehouse of the first wine business I set up in Beijing burned down in a huge blaze, and I was put out of business for four months.”

“I still remember the tears in my co-worker’s eyes as I tried to console him, telling him that we would definitely find a way through this. To my surprise, he told me that they were actually tears of joy, and he went on to explain that in Chinese culture, ‘Fire represents change and purification and it means immense fortune in the future.’ It was a refreshing perspective for me.”

“It was also served as the catalyst to how CHEERS Wines was born.”

“I come from a family that has been in the wine business for four generations, something I am really proud of and continue to uphold. My great-grandmother, Lina Nuesch, started in the wine trade and was the one who taught me invaluable lessons in life. This proved useful when the fire happened.”

“To be honest, I was pretty taken aback by the ‘tragedy’ and I was thinking really hard about what I needed to do next. It was then that I recalled what Lina had taught me. She always said, ‘No matter how challenging life can get, if you keep believing in yourself and in your dreams, there will always be a way out.’

“During this period of uncertainty, I held Lina’s words close to my heart and I worked really hard with my wonderful team. The warehouse fire provided an opportunity to reflect on my original idea of bringing good quality wine at affordable prices to end consumers, which hadn’t been possible with the our previous B2B business model.”

“Since most of the wine trade was focusing on B2B sales, I decided to create a simple and easy-to-replicate concept that would eliminate most of the fear and confusion for a growing group of B2C Chinese wine consumers. The concept aimed to educate consumers on the benefits of wine drinking and appreciation, while changing their perceptions of the wine business to fun, affordable and enjoyable as opposed to high-brow and elitist. This is the ethos of CHEERS Wines.”

“When we started, the entire local wine industry mocked us. It was only in late 2012 that CHEERS’ business model became an example of how to market to a B2C crowd. When the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign swung into action, the B2B wine trade was put out of business. Industry players were scrambling and had to find new ideas to concentrate on B2C.

“They say ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery,’ and, being a pioneer in the wine market, our business model was the epitome of how a business should market to consumers here in China. We made wine fun, enjoyable and educational, while ensuring consumers are at the heart of our marketing strategy. CHEERS Wines went from a ‘joke’ to being an industry leader.”

“I feel that it is really important for a brand to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to wine drinking. Beyond the traditional concept of wine appreciation, we forged ourselves a new path among the next generation of wine drinkers—the Millennials. We have grown to become a brand associated with the hip crowd, a favourite hangout where people meet, mingle and enjoy quality wine drinking. We are more than just a wine store, we are a lifestyle brand providing the best wine drinking experiences for our customers.”

“Today, my goal with CHEERS Wines is to build up to 888 stores. Some say I’m too ambitious, but I recall the time when we were laughed at in our initial stages. Remember, ‘a great anvil never fears the hammer’ (真金不怕火炼,好汉不怕考验).”

Check out sibling sites World Baijiu Day and Beijing Boyce. And get my free China wine e-newsletter by signing up below.

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