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Wine Industry

Stags’ Leap jumps into the world of digital, augmented reality marketing

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Aug. 14, 2021 series
  • Updated

Stags’ Leap Winery believes in taking risks, and their marketing department is no different. Most recently, Chief Marketing Officer Carl Evans and his crew broke — or perhaps shattered — the mold and created an interactive “on-ramp to wine” through a multi-platform campaign.

Entitled “Take the Leap,” this artistic rendition of the Stags’ Leap universe features a QR code on each bottle in the collection, which then can be scanned to open the corresponding augmented reality associated with that wine.

“When consumers pick up a bottle, they see the deer, and it has really become a staple of our story,” said Evans. “The spirit of the stag … We want to be able to bring that to life.”

Evans thinks the stag is a perfect representation — and vice versa — of their product and brand, drawing attention to the animal’s curiosity and “willingness to step into the unknown.” Known for bold and vibrant wines indicative of the Stags’ Leap District, the Napa Valley estate and land itself also has a long history associated with the stag.

“The Wappo people often hunted in the mountains, and the legend was the stag was hard to catch, but always roaming around,” said Evans.

When the Chase family founded Stags’ Leap in 1893, they named their estate as such to reflect the Wappo legend that stags would leap and vanish right before being caught, sometimes off cliffs or ledges to avoid being hunted down.

And so, the “Take the Leap” campaign thus follows a stag through three worlds — or artistic styles — from black and white to colorful and whimsical. The first, a scratchboard style, was done by Joanna Lisowiec, the second by the duo known as Rezonate, and the third and final dives headfirst into color with the work of Nick Liefhebber.

Evans said they worked with an agency out of New York to narrow down the artists for this project, but ultimately decided on creators that clearly “felt connected to the stag.” The brief was relatively vague; the only parameters being that the work needed to center on the iconic stag and fit into the story of the winery.

“We didn't want to constrain anyone's creativity,” said Evans. “We worked to make sure that we allowed creatives to do their best work … and we’ve created something fun for our consumers, and in luxury wine, that is something that has been lacking.”

Interactive, augmented reality worlds are certainly not something that early winemakers could’ve imagined in their future, but Evans and his team are proud to put forward innovative messaging through multiple platforms. In addition to scanning the QR codes, consumers also can engage with the campaign through choose-your-own-adventure Hulu commercials, social media, and their online “Explorer Quiz.”

“We certainly feel there's a big part of the industry based on tradition, which is great, but we also want to reach new consumers, too,” said Evans. “We want to be bold, and one of our points of view is we want to make wine accessible while still leading in wine.”

Evans and Stags’ Leap Winery will be piloting a second phase of the campaign come 2022 — which means two more worlds to (virtually) explore — and are committed to “supporting the emerging art world” by bringing in more creators to help.

“We feel the more that [a campaign] involves consumers, we dig deeper into our stories and our portfolio, and that leads to brand love,” he said. “And that’s what we want.”

As augmented reality technology gets more and more advanced, the possibilities of expanding the world of virtual wine experiences remain largely untapped, but steps like these prove that may not be the case for long.

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Napans might be surprised to see the Wine Train rolling again through the valley. Here's the footage of one recent sighting.

You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and

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Napa Valley wine industry reporter

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